Odessey and Oracle (1968)

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I came to Odessey and Oracle, like most people, relatively recently. It was maybe 10 years ago I first heard it – an entry in some ‘classic album’ reference guide or other piqued my interest – and I was instantly bowled over by its brilliance. It was recorded at Abbey Road in the summer of 1967, in the immediate wake of Sgt Pepper (it even used some of the Fabs’ leftover instruments from those sessions) and was released in the spring of 1968 to almost universal indifference but, to my ears, it’s every bit the equal of Pepper, and perhaps even surpasses it in terms of its sheer cohesiveness and consistency. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Beatles fan, and when Pepper is good it’s majestic, but it also has its share of fair-to-middling songs. Odessey on the other hand doesn’t really put a foot wrong; it has its lighter, breezier moments sure, but every song is so considered, inventively arranged & beautifully executed that you have to say its probably the superior record.

 

The album was recorded at what was, by all accounts, a pretty ‘make or break’ time for the band. They’d recorded a number singles prior to Odessey & achieved modest success (‘She’s Not There’ was their biggest hit to date), but felt stifled by their record company and the overbearing producers they’d been made to work with. Odessey was their one shot at a magnum opus, to prove their mettle as writers and recording artists while retaining full creative control of every aspect of the work, and boy did they take advantage of the opportunity.

 

The album covers so much musical ground. There are elements of pop, jazz, soul, classical, chamber music, choral music, and there are baroque overtones to some of the arrangements. The chorus to ‘Changes’ has an almost medieval quality. But none of this sounds out of place, which is remarkable. The band obviously had total commitment to & confidence in what they were doing, and that really comes across in the music.

 

It was this album that first introduced me to the breathy, mellifluous vocals of Colin Blunstone. If there’s a sweeter voice ever to emerge from British pop music then I’m yet to hear it. His voice has such a natural aching and yearning to it which, when allied to such beautiful melodies, makes for a truly potent brew. Listen to how he sings the intricate verse melody of ‘A Rose For Emily’; he wrings every ounce of emotion from it without recourse to vocal gymnastics. It’s a tricky melody to sing too, with some unusual intervals, but he makes it sound effortless, much like McCartney was able to do on contemporaneous Beatles songs like ‘Penny Lane’ or ‘For No One’. If you’ve not heard Blunstone’s first solo album, One Year (1971), I highly recommend tracking it down.

 

Bassist Chris White & keyboardist Rod Argent (who also divvied up the songwriting duties for the album) turn in some fine vocal performances too, the former on the haunting ‘Butcher’s Tale’, the latter on ‘I Want Her She Wants Me’. And the blend between the three vocalists is something to behold; some of the harmonies easily bear comparison with the likes of Pet Sounds or classic Bee Gees album of the period, like Odessa (released the same year). Listen to the a capella tag at the end of ‘Maybe After He’s Gone’ to hear what I mean. Rod Argent was a chorister in his youth and his experience in that discipline certainly seems to inform the vocal harmonies, which have a distinct plagal quality at times. Argent’s keyboard playing is also noteworthy; he uses some striking and unusual chord inversions, and his tasteful use of the Mellotron (the Beatles’ Mellotron, no less) adds so much colour and texture to the songs. Chris White’s melodic, McCartneyesque bass-playing underpins the whole affair beautifully.

 

As well as their musical and harmonic attributes, the songs are lyrically arresting too. The album’s opener, ‘Care of Cell 44’ takes the form of a letter to a prisoner from his/her lover, while the bleak but captivating ‘Butcher’s Tale’ is written from the point of view of a traumatised soldier serving in the First World War. These darker subjects are leavened elsewhere by the likes of the optimistic ‘This Will Be Our Year’ and the bouncy, infectious ‘Friends of Mine’.

 

You hear these songs, so filled with originality and creativity, written and recorded the best part of half a century ago, and wonder…where are their equivalents today? Has there been an album recorded by a British artist in the last 10, 20 years anywhere near this good? I’m not sure. What is for certain is Odessey and Oracle is fully deserving of its place in the pantheon of classic albums & should be in the collection of any budding songwriter or lover of melodic, affecting & inventive pop music. 

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Nile & Nard

My introduction to the work of writing/production team Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers came when, as a schoolboy in the early 90s, my classmate (and soon-to-be musical collaborator) Simon Barber enthusiastically thrust a C90 cassette into my hand in the schoolyard, one side of which was graced with a crackly vinyl transfer of CHIC’s second album, 1978’s C’est Chic. I’d recently taken up the bass guitar and, while researching some of the instrument’s greatest exponents, had come across Edwards’ name several times, so I was duly intrigued. What I hadn’t reckoned on was he and his partner being almost instantly catapulted into my personal pantheon of musical demigods.

The songs were almost uniformly catchy and funky, certainly – I’d anticipated as much – but I was also struck by the sleekness of the production and just how much space there was in the music. Then there was the unique, irresistable interplay between Edward’s bubbling basslines and Rodger’s chugging guitar, ably underpinned by Tony Thompson’s crisp drums. The vocals were by turns exultant and sensual. The overall mood of the record was joyous, even life-affirming. When I finally got a glimpse at C’est Chic’s cover, my conversion was complete; the elegance of the music was more than matched by the band’s visual style (inspired by Rodger’s admiration of Roxy Music’s striking aesthetic), and the portrait shot of Nile and Nard that adorned the inner sleeve was (and remains) the epitome of badass. I was, it’s safe to say, enraptured.

Eventually, thanks to snaffling a place on a course at a local performing arts college which (get this) paid me 100 quid a week to turn up, I was able to start building my own record collection, and began with the prompt acquisition of my own vinyl copy of C’est Chic, along with CHIC’s self-titled debut (1977) and their sublime Risqué (1979). The latter is easily their artistic peak, and worth hearing if only for the full, eight-minute-plus version of the hugely influential ‘Good Times’, arguably the apogee of the unfairly maligned disco era, featuring one the most memorable (and ripped off) basslines ever committed to record. Also worth a special mention is ‘My Feet Keep Dancing’, possibly the least musically complex track Edwards and Rodgers ever wrote but combining insistent strings, an unerring eigth-note bassline and a tapdancing(!) breakdown to dramatic, devastating effect:

From a songwriting perspective, Nile and Nard were masters of economy. Their tunes were simple, instantly memorable and often placed within a narrow melodic range (all the easier for people to sing along to), while their song structures usually adhered to a basic chorus-verse-chorus approach; they had little truck with middle-eights. They deviated little from this formula, but deviation simply wasn’t necessary when the results were of such a consistently high quality. One of the best examples of their writing style can be heard in ‘I Want Your Love’ (which opens side 2 of C’est Chic), originally written for Sister Sledge. Check out how the verses are based on just one chord, but the variation in the vocal melody holds your attention until that killer chorus kicks back in:

What’s most staggering is that, at the same time as they were crafting their CHIC masterworks, Edward and Rodgers were also heavily involved in the writing and production of a number of outside projects, chief among them being Sister Sledge’s We Are Family (1979), which boasts no less than four hit singles from its eight cuts: the title track, ‘Lost in Music’, ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ and ‘Thinking of You’. Not quite that album’s equal, but still a none-too-shabby affair is 1980’s Diana, produced by the pair for Diana Ross, which spawned further three hit singles, despite enduring a difficult birth thanks to Miss Ross’s infamously prima donna-ish tendencies (not to mention a botched remix which permanently erased a string arrangement from ‘Upside Down’). Each of their outside productions bore the unmistakeable hallmarks of the CHIC sound: the propulsive rhythm section of Edwards, Rodgers and Thompson, sultry vocals, big choruses, spacious arrangements and sweeping strings:

Though the music of The Chic Organization continues to be justly celebrated by fans and critics alike, not to mention discovered by new generations, oft overlooked is its creators’ social and political consciousness and the way in which they wove their ideologies into their work. The overarching message of the Edwards and Rodgers oeuvre is one of mutual acceptance and inclusivity, accentuating the positive and uniting as one in the face of all that’s wrong in the world. Nile & Nard didn’t just want us to move our dancing feet, they wanted to engage our brains into the bargain.

No Distance Left to Run (2010)

Sifted through my ever-growing Sky + backlog last night and decided to have a gander at the new Blur documentary, No Distance Left to Run, broadcast on BBC2 a few weeks back. In short, I was rather impressed.   The framing device for the film is last year’s reunion of the band for a short run of UK shows, commencing at the venue where they played their first gig and culminating in their triumphant appearance at Glastonbury. Interspersed with footage of the reconvened four-piece’s rehearsals, the gigs themselves and archive footage of the band in its youthful prime are candid interviews with Messrs Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree. Each talks engagingly about Blur’s origins, their faltering early years, their stellar success as figureheads of the Britpop movement and, most affectingly, their relationships with eachother.   What emerges is a touching portrait of four friends who somehow managed to survive the tumult and excess that accompanied being in one of the biggest bands of the 90s and emerge relatively intact, with a greater love and respect for eachother into the bargain.     Superbly shot and edited, No Distance Left to Run is essential viewing, and not just for Blur fans. Anyone who’s ever experienced the unique camaraderie, the pleasure and occasional pain of being in a band with their mates will find much to identify with here.  

“Do you love me like you know you ought to do?”

Like so much of Paul McCartney’s solo catalogue, it’s taken those outside of his devoted fanbase quite some time to appreciate the eccentric brilliance of his 1971 sophomore effort, Ram. Actually credited to both Paul & Linda (making it unique in the McCartney oeuvre), Ram is Macca firing on all creative cylinders; in fact, the album contains so many ideas it at times threatens to collapse under their weight. Each song bursts with memorable hooks, killer riffs and audacious vocal arrangements.
 
Recorded in New York City from January to March 1971, the album was a marked departure from McCartney’s eponymous solo debut, released a year earlier. McCartney had been a self-played, deliberately lo-fi, largely homespun affair, its author seeking domestic refuge from the escalating tensions between himself and his then bandmates. By the time the sessions for Ram rolled around, however, The Fabs were no more and, though still embroiled in litigation with Beatles manager Allen Klein and his former colleagues, McCartney was in buoyant mood and bursting with ideas far too expansive for a primitive Studer 4-track. Recording at CBS and Phil Ramone’s A&R Studios in midtown Manhattan, McCartney had, via a series of top secret auditions, assembled a muscular backing band of crack session musicians to help bring the music to life, the core of which comprised drummer Denny Seiwell (later to join Wings) and first-call guitarists Hugh McCracken and David Spinozza. No less than the New York Philharmonic would supply orchestral overdubs for ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ and ‘The Back Seat of My Car’.
 
The material is, for the most part, a typical Macca mix of guitar-fuelled rockers (‘Eat at Home’, ‘Smile Away’, ‘Too Many People’), folky acoustic ditties (‘Heart of the Country’), music-hall whimsy (‘Dear Boy’, ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey) and lush balladry (the closing ‘The Back Seat of My Car’) all dispatched with typical breezy aplomb, a testament to McCartney’s musical versatility.
 
Then there are the album’s truly uncategorisable cuts. A real oddity in the Macca canon (and arguably the album’s zenith), ‘Monkberry Moon Delight’ is possibly the barmiest thing McCartney’s ever committed to record. Built around a seesawing guitar riff, pounding piano, and a series of nonsense verses redolent of Edward Lear, it’s rollicking good fun, McCartney barking out his vocal with gleeful abandon over the band’s lolloping groove; his demented ad libs during the fade out in particular are the epitome of inspired lunacy:
 
 
Another highlight on a record chock full of them is the atmospheric, ukulele-based ‘Ram On’, McCartney softly beseeching the listener to ‘give your heart to somebody soon, right away’  over a simple but effective three-chord vamp, a dash of ambient electric piano, haunting backing vocals, and a simple rhythm track made up of kick drum, handclaps and the sound of his own foot stamping on the wooden studio floor. It’s truly original stuff, and further evidence of just how adventurous and inspired McCartney was feeling during this period. According to its author, the song’s point of origin was the back seat of a New York cab during one of his many journeys to and from the studio; the ukulele’s portability meant he could take one wherever he went in case inspiration struck:  
 
 
 
The wonderful ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ deftly fuses a number of song fragments into something approaching a mini suite. Though lyrically slight, it’s superbly arranged and performed, and as good a showcase of its author’s bounteous melodic gifts as any in his songbook, boasting more hooks in its 4 minutes and 55 seconds than most artists can manage in an entire album. McCartney’s ‘character songs’ and whimsical inclinations have often been used as a stick for his critics to beat him with, and admittedly he has occasionally lapsed into tweeness with such material, but here the balance is perfect and, again, the track is performed with such gusto it would take the hardest of hearts not to warm to it. Check out this article, which offers a welcome and all-too-rare glimpse behind the scenes at the Ram recording sessions with particular focus on ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’.
 
In promoting the album, McCartney was at pains to point out his wife’s involvement in its creation, and with good reason. How much of the songwriting she actually did might be questionable, but Linda’s vocal harmonies are inarguably a vital component in Ram’s overall sonic canvas. By her own admission not the most natural singer, she nevertheless manages to negotiate some hugely complex vocal arrangements with admirable skill. Listening to these arrangements, and Linda’s key role in their execution, one can’t help but wonder why her husband never again used her voice to quite the same extent on any of his subseqent albums. She’s unmistakeably present on those records, of course, just not employed quite as effectively. Check out her work on ‘Dear Boy’ and note the striking vocal blend she creates with Paul:
 
 
Though the three tracks highlighted thus far make for quirkier fare, Ram is not found wanting in the pure, balls-out rock department either. McCracken and Spinozza’s electric guitar work is exceptional throughout, and if my ear isn’t deceiving me, McCartney’s own distinctive licks are discernible on a number of cuts. Each turns out coruscating riffs and solos (check the outro to ‘Too Many People’) when required, but there’s also a considerable lightness of touch shown in their acoustic work on the likes of ‘Uncle Albert…’ and ‘Heart of the Country’, McCartney’s countrified paean to the virtues of rustic living. The latter also features some nifty, Chet Atkins inspired finger-picking.
 
Ram received a decidedly mixed critical reception upon its release (though unsurprisingly it sold very respectably indeed) and its lyrical content notably drew the ire of one John Ono Lennon, who perceived several songs on the record to contain a number of broadsides aimed at Yoko and himself. Paul denied this for the most part, but did admit to having the Lennons in mind when he penned the line ‘too many people preaching practices, don’t let ’em tell you what you wanna be’ from ‘Too Many People’. His aggrieved former collaborator responded with a number of barbed comments in the music press and, musically, with the infamously vituperative ‘How Do You Sleep?’ on his Imagine album, released the same year, as well as spoofing Ram’s cover photo (Paul holding a Ram by the horns) by including a picture of himself on the sleeve grabbing a pig by the ears. To say the relationship between the two was fractious at this point in time would be a major understatement.
 
The remainder of the 70s would see McCartney release a further seven long-players and a double live album, most of which contain their share of deathless gems, but none hang together quite so well, or are executed with such verve and panache as Ram. It’s vintage Macca, not to mention the very musical embodiment of arguably the strongest marriage in rock. If you’ve not yet been exposed to its sundry charms, procure a copy by fair means or foul, stick it on, crank it up, and smile away…

“I’ll probably get blamed for that!”

 
For me, a world without Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985) would be a significantly poorer place. It’s a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking from one of cinema’s most gifted sons…and it was almost never made. Scorsese had actually been gearing up to shoot The Last Temptation of Christ only to have Paramount put the film into turnaround at the eleventh hour. Infuriated at the studio’s caprice, the restless director began looking for projects to channel his creative energies into while his pet project was on the backburner. The first of these was presented to him in the form of a Joe Minion script entitled ‘A Night in SoHo’, a blackly comic ‘New York nightmare’. Though he had a few issues with Minion’s ending, Marty’s interest was sufficiently piqued.
 
Shot almost entirely on location in SoHo, downtown Manhattan on a tight schedule and a tighter budget, After Hours is nothing short of a masterpiece, and this blogger’s favourite movie by some margin. The central conceit is instantly absorbing, the performances are flawless, the production design spot on, Scorsese’s direction typically kinetic and imaginative but always driving the story, the editing nothing short of immaculate. It’s also one of the great New York movies; granted, it’s not a love letter to the city in the traditional sense but it’s the kind of movie only an NY native could make, calling to attention its less obvious, more dubious charms. You won’t find any picture postcard shots of Manhattan’s famous landmarks here, just a stylised rendering of its darker, seemier underbelly. The city itself almost becomes a character in the movie, a malevolent, omnipotent puppetmaster toying with its victim.
 
Griffin Dunne takes centre-stage as Paul Hackett, a lonely word processor who clearly yearns to escape his joyless, quotidian existence. Following a chance meeting with the odd-yet-beguiling Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a coffee shop, Hackett decides to be spontaneous and meet her later that evening at her apartment. In doing so, he unwittingly sets himself on course for the worst evening of his life as, following an unsavoury turn of events, he finds himself stranded downtown, a stranger in a strange land, his continued presence soon arousing suspicion among the locals that he’s responsible for a spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood. It’s not long before this escalating paranoia threatens to spill over into a violent lynching.
 
 
It’s doubtful that any movie character in history has been put through the wringer more than the hapless Hackett. Thanks to one impulsive act he finds himself beset with outrageous misfortune, thrown from one disquieting scenario to another and forced to run a veritable gauntlet of oddball locals, all of whom conspire (consciously or otherwise) to prevent him achieving his prime objective, which is simply to make it back home. To this end, After Hours is an exhausting, frustrating watch, but this is by no means a flaw. In fact, it’s the film’s primary virtue; one becomes fully immersed in Hackett’s travails and the picture is all the more compelling for it. In addition, because Scorsese succeeds so spectacularly in creating a unique environment in which the story can unfold, even the most improbable of events seem perfectly palatable.  
 
On the acting front, Dunne is fantastic, perfectly essaying Hackett’s increasing inredulity and desperation as he attempts to negotiate this waking nightmare (at times he’s almost heartbreaking in his vulnerability), and he’s ably assisted by a superb company of character actors- Catherine O’Hara, Teri Garr, John Heard, Will Patton, Dick Miller and Linda Fiorentino, to name but a few- all of which throw themselves into their respective roles with relish.
 
I first encountered this film whilst channel-hopping late one night in the mid 90s, and must’ve seen it dozens of times since, on each occasion picking up on some aspect I’ve missed before, be it a delicious visual flourish, curious character tic or neat foreshadowing of a later plot development. While the illustrious likes of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Raging Bull are frequently held up as Scorsese’s masterworks, After Hours is just as consistently overlooked. For me, it’s his finest work. Period. Now, anyone interested in buying one of my bagel and cream cheese paperweights?
 
Addendum:
 
Some fresh angel has posted the making of featurette from the Region 1 DVD on youtube. Part one :
 
 
Part two:
 

 

Postscript

Well, I went ahead and purchased Swedien’s book and, quite frankly, it was a total waste of 11 quid, an unmitigated dog’s dinner of a book to the extent that I literally cast it aside with a pantomimic flourish about fifty pages in.

Firstly, the book’s tone is unfocussed and, at times, plain muddled; it doesn’t know if it wants to be a dryly technical blow-by-blow account of the recording process or a warm, fuzzy, anecdotal remembrance of MJ, and so falls somewhere between the two. (For what it’s worth, the technical stuff is often so advanced that it will totally alienate the layman, while the anecdotal material consists almost entirely of sappy references to what a swell guy Michael was and how he always said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.)

Secondly, it’s poorly written, riddled with grammatical errors, excessive use of exclamation marks(!), incongruous/erroneous punctuation, and some downright bizarre misprints. It’s clear this book has not been submitted for proof-reading- indeed, I doubt it’s even been given a second glance prior to hitting the shelves. Case in point: one paragraph finishes with a full stop, after which is written ‘analoganaloganalog’, then a new paragraph starts. Baffling and inexcusable.

Thirdly, information is often repeated over and over, sometimes in consecutive paragraphs. In several instances, passages are repeated word for word.

What else? Oh yes, the purported ‘exclusive, never before seen’ photos amount to little more than some grainy reproductions of tracksheets and scrawled notes MJ left for Bruce on the mixing desk, other than that there’s very little to set the mouth agape.

Other sins include the vast swathes of the book given over to tributes from the likes of Swedien’s wife and daughter, and a host of recording engineers he’s apparently inspired down the years. No disrespect to any of these people, I’m sure they’re all fine, upstanding citizens but I honestly couldn’t care a hang for what any of them have to say in this context. There is further blatant padding in the form of pre-existing interviews and reprinted magazine articles. The ‘Foreword by Quincy Jones’, as prominently advertised on the cover, consists of a few half-assed paragraphs that ‘Q’ seems to have dashed off under extreme duress, and dates back almost a decade. Again, you hardly get the impression that the book was a labour of love.

To be honest, I’m loathe to blame Bruce Swedien for any of this; he’s indubitably a genius in his field (as much of the technical material in the book attests, not to mention the preponderance of sonic evidence that’s widely available) but patently not a skilled, engaging writer, which is why his publisher, the usually reliable Hal Leonard, should have taken the material at their disposable and perhaps recruited a ghostwriter to turn this textual sow’s ear into something vaguely resembling a silk purse, something professionally laid out and readable to both the technophile and Joe Schmo Music Fan. It seems to me that, though the book allegedly wasn’t written to cash in on MJ’s death, Hal Leonard have rushed it out early to try and sell a few extra copies, checking their quality control at the door. Either that or they really are lying through their teeth, and have simply cut and pasted together this sorry attempt at a book from other sources in an attempt to make a quick buck. Whatever their motivation, avoid this book like a belt-wielding Joe Jackson.

 

“Life ain’t so bad at all…”

 
As the grisly speculation over the circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson”s untimely demise continues, the less ghoulish among us have opted to remember the self-proclaimed ‘King of Pop’ through his music. For me, nothing in Jackson”s discography better epitomises his singular talent than his 1979 offering, and first collaboration with Quincy Jones, ‘Off The Wall’. Though Jackson”s solo career had been underway for several years prior to its release, with four pleasant-if-unremarkable long-players already under his belt, ‘Off The Wall’ truly established him as a solo artist to be reckoned with and paved the way for the stratospheric success of ‘Thriller’ three years later. Though there’s no doubting the latter deserves its place in the pantheon of great pop records, and it doesn’t take a Paul Gambaccini to calculate that it’s by some margin the more popular of the two (as global sales of over 100 million copies to date will attest), there is a charm, exuberance and sheer joie de vivre about ‘Off The Wall’ that, for me, puts it qualitatively streets ahead of its follow-up.

From the breathy, faltering, slightly effete spoken intro to ”Don”t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” to ”Burn This Disco Out””s joyous fade, there is hardly a moment on the record (save for the balladic interlude of ”She”s Out of My Life”) that isn’t suffused with a sense of fun and vivacity; Jackson is having an absolute ball, every vocal peppered with whoops, yelps, cackles, or breathy, percussive vocal sounds, or a combination of the lot. Never again, bar a few such moments on ‘Thriller’, would a Jackson record sound so life-affirming. It”s perhaps no coincidence that the album was recorded as Jackson”s management contract with his father, Joe, was about to draw to a close, freeing him not just creatively, but from a domineering presence who”d cast a considerable shadow over his formative years in showbusiness.

Jackson”s bravura vocal performances notwithstanding, much of the album”s energy can be attributed to its ‘live’ sound and the stellar cast of session musicians assembled by Quincy Jones, among them bassists Louis Johnson and Bobby Watson (whose insouciant performance on ”Rock With You” is a key to that track”s silky charm), drummer John ‘J.R.’ Robinson, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, and a crack brass section led by trumpeter Jerry Hey. The term ”session musician” is much maligned by music purists, carrying for them a connotation of soulless, uninspired proficiency, but the man known to his friends as ”Q” elicits fine performances from all concerned- funky, tasteful, and never drawing too much attention from the real star of the show. Indeed, one has to listen very closely to ‘Off The Wall’ to even notice some of the breathtaking musicianship on display, so subtly is it woven into the mix by engineer par excellence Bruce Swedien. Only Louis Johnson gets to momentarily share the limelight with Michael, courtesy of the earth-shaking slap groove that dominates ”Get On The Floor”.

Another vital ingredient in the album”s enduring success is the astute choice of material. Jackson himself comes into his own as sole writer of several the album”s best cuts, not least the scintillating opener ”Don”t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and the propulsive ”Working Day and Night”. Of equal importance are the three tracks written by Rod Temperton, an ex-pat Brit (hailing from Cleethorpes) who”d already enjoyed considerable success as keyboardist and principle songwriter with Heatwave, as well as providing hits for the likes of Rufus and The Brothers Johnson. Temperton contributed the title track (which the musicologists among you will notice cannibalises the bassline to his own ”Boogie Nights”), the hugely underrated ”Burn This Disco Out” and the evergreen ”Rock With You”. Temperton would again prove his worth three years later, penning the title track to what would go on to be the biggest selling album in history. Go here to treat yourself to a smorgasbord of other Temperton-penned delights.

Elsewhere are contributions from such luminaries as Paul McCartney (”Girlfriend”), Stevie Wonder (”I Can’t Help It”) and Carole Bayer Sager (”It”s The Falling in Love”) which, though they make up the album”s relatively lightweight second half, were canny choices clearly intended to enhance the record”s soul/funk/pop crossover appeal. Again, this would act as a template for ‘Thriller’.

So if you”ve never dug deeper into this exemplar of the pop music idiom, now”s the time to educate yourself.

Addendum: Engineer Bruce Swedien has written a book recounting his work with Michael Jackson in some detail, which is to be released imminently and should provide welcome relief from the raft of hateful hack job biographies written in the wake of Jackson”s passing.