*Yes, the album’s 36 years old!
Yes, I am often weary of reissues of classic albums, fearing that they’re blatant money grabs.
Yes, this reissue is an absolute must-have.
1979’s Off The Wall was the first of a trilogy of Quincy Jones-helmed masterpieces that will be played long after you and I are gone. This first album put Michael Jackson’s contemporaries and fans on notice: our little Michael wasn’t singing about ABC’s and pet rats any more. Our boy had grown up.
First of all, the reissue’s packaging restores Jackson’s gloriously youthful, pre-surgery face on the cover. He was just 20 years old when the album was originally released, and the cover shot could have almost been his high school prom photo — if not for the glowing socks. For years, reissues of the album have featured only the bottom half of the image, as the eccentric star reshaped his visage.
Secondly, the album has never sounded better. I DARE you to try to play it and not move. I was dancing around the house by the middle of the second track.
Speaking of tracks, this album doesn’t disappoint. There’s very little “filler” — only the Paul McCartney cover, “Girlfriend”, dampens the vibe — but frankly, after the sonic workout of “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”, “Rock With You”, “Working Day And Night”, “Get On The Floor”, and the title track, both my feet and my heart needed a break. The album also serves up Jackson’s soul-wrenching ballad, “She’s Out Of My Life” before returning us back to the dance floor for the album’s closing scorcher, “Burn This Disco Out.”
If THAT’S not enough to make you pick this reissue up, the album is packaged with a DVD of Spike Lee’s excellent new feature-length documentary, “Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall”.
The comprehensive doc includes rare and never-before-seen interview and performance footage of an emerging King of Pop as he transitioned from pubescent heartthrob to the greatest entertainer ever.
The film makes the very strong case that I’ve resisted for years: Off The Wall may well be superior to MJ’s follow-up album, Thriller. Spike (and most music historians) may be right: Off The Wall is FIRE!
But better than Thriller? I don’t know…I’d planned to play Thriller this morning to try to compare the two albums. But since I brought Off The Wall home yesterday, it’s been stuck on a continuous loop…just like the music we enjoyed in discos gone by.
Get Off The Wall and relive Michael’s magic. And while you’re dancing around the house, remember: “When the groove is dead and gone…love survives, and we can rock forever…”
This article was written by freelancer Michael P Coleman, who holds a Bachelor of Arts with High Honors and Distinction from the University of Michigan. He still misses Michael Joseph Jackson. Follow him on Twitter.