Off the Wall

I found this CD last month in the used bin for $4.99 at Magnolia Thunderpussy on Record Store Day (they didn’t have any of the RSD exclusives that I was searching for…nor did any record store in town).  Now Magnolia’s is one of the few surviving campus record stores from my undergraduate days at Ohio State (Used Kids and Johnny Go’s are the only others), and it was one of my favorite places to go back in the day when they were on south campus.  They used to have quite an inventory of bootleg concert videos on VHS, and I remember being excited to find Nine Inch Nails’ still un-officially released “Broken” video there (it has the “Help Me I Am In Hell” video blacked out, so it is likely a bootleg of one of the copies Trent Reznor gave out to his close friend Gibby Haynes).  Lord Bacchus had a Pearl Jam concert that he bought there, and since it was shot by a fan in the crowd, all of the faces of the bandmembers looked pretty much green, red, and blue from the stage lights…but it was still watchable.  Unfortunately, even though Magnolia’s (by the way, the name “Magnolia Thunderpussy” refers to a San Francisico bulesque performer) has managed to survive the digital download MP3 revolution of the 2000s, they couldn’t survive Campus Partners in their original south campus location.  Campus Partners was a group of evil yuppie scum that formed in the late 90s (and was no doubt a part of the International Wolverine Conspiracy) and who decided to “clean up” south campus…and by cleaning up I mean they ran out all the independently owned bars, shops, and restaurants and replaced them with a bunch of overpriced national chains (of which most have already gone out of buisness and are now vacant storefronts).  So Campus Partners pretty much ruined south campus and kicked Magnolia’s out, but they relocated to the Short North (actually, the Short North has expanded north to them) and they have a place right next to another relocated campus institution, Skully’s Music Diner.

So enough Columbus history.  Let’s talk about Michael Jackson.  I still struggle with MJ.  I don’t know what he did or didn’t do with young children on his Neverland ranch, but it’s all really creepy to me and it certainly tarnishes his image in my mind.  But it’s now been five years since his death, and people seem to be forgetting all of that stuff and refocusing on his music.  In fact, he seems more popular than ever with the kids in school, and I heard more buzz from the kids about the Michael Jackson 3D hologram on the Billboard Music Awards (I did not see it personally) than just about anything else all year (with the possible exception of Beyonce’s super secret album release).  So in the spirit of things, I will try to just focus on the music on this album, which was his first record with Quincy Jones pulling the producer strings.  And the truth is, I don’t really dig it.  There is a fine line between funk and disco, and this album crosses that line all too frequently (maybe MJ was already starting to explore his inner white guy).  And it seems like MJ hadn’t really discovered that mid-range voice that he used so well on the Thriller album (although the gutteral interjections are already in full effect here), and so he spends most of the songs in a really super high range that just kind of bugs me (especially on “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”).  But there is an amazing ballad on the second side, “She’s Out of My Life” (which apparently Quincy was going to give to Sinatra, but MJ wanted a crack at it first and nailed it), and a Stevie Wonder penned song, “I Can’t Help It”, that is the funkiest thing on the album.  Oh, and there is a Paulie song too (what is with all the Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson connections?) called “Girlfriend”, but it’s not that great.

Other lists: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” is #3, “Rock With You” is #10, “Workin’ Day and Night” is #14, “She’s Out of My Life” is #19, “Off the Wall” is #22, “Burn this Disco Out” is #27, and “Get on the Floor” is #33 on the very newly published Rolling Stone list of the Top 50 Michael Jackson songs.  See the Thriller entry for other accolades Rolling Stone has given MJ.

Ch-ch-changes: By leap-frogging Zeppelin IV and The Stranger, this album has somehow remained in the same spot as it was on the original list, despite the addition of Chronicle and the rise of Kid A.

My favorite track: “She’s Out of My Life”

Honorable mention: “I Can’t Help It”

A word from the Princess: “The beat goes on”

Quote: “Do what you want to do.  There ain’t no rules, it’s up to you.”