en: ABC (The Jackson 5 album) [info]
Let's go back to the end of the 60s. Motown needed to modernise their sound. The company had been showing its first hairline fractures as public mores shifted to albums rather than the singles on which it had built its reputation. But then, the Jackson 5 came along and became the label's big thing for the new decade. Well drilled in performance for several years previously, they burst on to the world stage with eagerness and vitality - and genuine youth. And ABC, their second album, at the outset of their career (it arrived less than six months after their debut), helped establish the UK's long love affair with Michael Jackson.
ABC, the track, was the album's first hit, highlighting their potent brand of identikit kindergarten soul. Written by The Corporation (Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, Deke Richards and Berry Gordy), it is a joyous romp based on the chorus of their breakthrough smash, I Want You Back. The Love You Save, another almost note-for-note reworking of their debut hit, again, is all vitality and exuberance. Like ABC, it rose to the US top spot, and, like ABC, it too knocked The Beatles off number one. After all, they were old men pushing 30.
The closing track here, The Young Folks, which sounded like a benign commentary when originally sung by Diana Ross, plays like a statement of intent with Jackson's chirping falsetto. But it's not all about Michael - it's the vocal blend of brothers Jermaine and Tito along with Michael, with support from Marlon and Jackie, which gives it such an unmistakable sound
Perhaps by their very nature, the best Jackson 5 album will forever be one of the endless hits collections to bear their name. That said, ABC is a fine work that shows maturity beyond their years. In many ways, this is the template for every boy band long-player since - just enough soul, just enough raunch, lashings of pathos, all bound together with an elegant sufficiency of feel-good sentiment. Michael's high-pitched squall does outstay its welcome on a few occasions, but overall ABC is beautiful bubblegum soul. Listen to it instead of watching the next documentary about him and a chimp on the telly.
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