Tag Archives: album

Album Review: Michael Jackson’s “Michael”

Michael reached number 3 on the Billboard album chart

The first release of Michael Jackson’s since his death a year and a half ago, and the first album with all new material in nine years, Michael is an amalgamation of tracks. Many sound similar to different albums of his career with small touches to make them sound more modern by various people though it’s hard to tell what was changed by ear alone.

The most modern sounding of these tracks is “Hold My Hand” and “Monster”, thanks to appearances by Akon and 50 Cent respectfully.  Unfortunately, the weakest song is his duet with Akon which was to be originally released on Akon’s 2008 album, until the unfinished track was leaked. The first track to chart on the Hot 100, it reached the Top 40.  “Monster” on the other hand is much better, with anger and persecution in the vocals you would find in the last three of his studio albums.  Indeed,many of the songs sound as if they came from these albums. “Best of Joy” sounds like a song from Invincible, “Hollywood Tonight”,with its opening reminding one of “Who Is It” and a catch phrase and spoken vocal reminiscent of “In the Closet”,from Dangerous.  Originally recorded for Invincible, “(I Can’t Make It) Another Day” sounds as though it came from Blood on the Dance Floor or HIStory. It was produced and written by Lenny Kravitz with guitar and background vocal by Kravitz.

The three best songs on this album are “Breaking News”, “Behind the Mask”, and “Much Too Soon.”  The latter two were both written or cowritten by Michael during the Thriller era and it’s not hard to tell.  “Behind the Mask” is the best track on the album, with the sounds of a concert crowd  opening the song.  It includes a sample of the Yellow Magic Orchestra song of the same name.  Yellow Magic Orchestra was a pioneering electropop group from Japan, who released their original version in 1979. The only criticism is that the saxophone on the track may be a little cheesy for some.  The album closes with the song “Much Too Soon”, the title  seeming to comment on Michael’s untimely death.  However,the lyrics itself have nothing to do with the death and instead talk about love lost.  The finale harkens back to Michael’s solo songs before Off the Wall, but this time with a twenty-something voice.

Overall, the album has received reviews that were neither strongly negative or positive.  Personally, I would recommend it especially for fans of MJ.



-AM- Brief history of recordz

Phonograph Cylinder

Thomas Edison created his first phonograph in 1877 but sat on it for more than a decade before finally releasing it to the public in 1888. Edison’s phonographs used cylinders to record and play back music. Consumers could even buy blank cylinders and record themselves at home! For the first several years, the cylinders were not very durable and only lasted for about 100 plays. The customers could then trade them back in for credit. Improvements were made over the years that might be compared advancements made recently in optical discs, from CD to DVD to Blu-Ray. The first cylinders could only handle TWO MINUTES. Later they went up to a whopping FOUR MINUTES. Cylinders were manufactured all the way up until 1929.

Gramophone disc – early years

The flat disc record that we’re all familiar with was introduced by Berliner in 1894. Other companies started to make disc players, as well. The various companies’ products were often incompatible across platforms. Originally, someone realized that music could be recorded on BOTH sides of the disc and suddenly the disc had a true advantage over the cylinder – it could hold twice as much music.

78rpm records

Eventually, the disc became the format of choice and companies finally settled on a uniform speed of 78 revolutions per minute. These records were 10″ or 12″ only held about 4 minutes on each side.

33rpm (12″) and 45rpm (7″)

In the 1940s, it became possible to make the grooves much smaller than ever before. This resulted in two separate approaches. First, there was the 45rpm, 7″ disc. This format was basically the same as the old 78’s but on a much smaller and more convenient disc. The other approach was the 33rpm, 12″ disc, which could hold a whopping 40 minutes of music! In the end, the 33 became the standard for full-length releases and the 45 became the standard for singles.



Early, Hilarious production techniques:

For the first decade or so, molding techniques for reproduction hadn’t been discovered. Instead, artists recorded the same song over and over again. 10-20 cylinders could be produced from each performance, thanks to tubes leading from the recording bell. The disc manufacturers were the first to create molding techniques for mass reproduction, giving them a temporary advantage.

The early days of recording industry were like today’s video game industry:

Each manufacturer decided who and what could appear on their machines. Various formats were not cross-compatible until the 78rpm became the standard. Will video games follow this route?

The birth of the ALBUM:

Before the birth of the 12″ 33rpm record, the max playing time of records was about 8 minutes so, as you might have guessed, EVERY record was a single. The only way around this was to release a collection of several records. The first such releases were symphonies and longer classical works, released in collections of up to 20 separate records. These collections were often sold in, or at least stored in, album books much like photo albums. Practically every 33rpm record contained as much music as the old album collections, so the term ‘album’ carried over. For the first couple of decades of 33’s, most albums were compilations of various singles and hits. Classical and jazz were the first genres to widely record long programs specifically to be released as albums. Rock and country were really slow to pick up on this concept and the non-compilation albums didn’t become widespread until the late 50s, right before the Beatles and Beach Boys came along.



Michael Jackson’s Forgotten Music Video

Well, Friday was Michael Jackson’s 50th birthday, so I thought I’d talked about his “forgotten” music video, “Can You Feel It”.  It’s one of the craziest f***ing things I’ve seen, but it’s awesome!  Released in August of 1981, the single is actually a Jacksons song, but the video was conceived and written by Michael Jackson.  Something that is made clear in the credits of the video. Yes, 2 years before the Thriller video had credits and opening titles. So I guess Michael Jackson would consider it a short film, along with most of his other videos.  And the complete video clocks in at over 9 minutes.  Looking back now, it could be hard to describe “Can You Feel It” as groundbreaking, but you have to remember that MTV started the same month as this video’s release, and hundreds of thousands of dollars weren’t spent on vids as they are today.  The special effects are pretty cool and are ahead of their time for videos. But the whole premise is just crazy.  Michael and his brothers are giants spreading their love(?), water floods the earth and if you look quickly enough in one scene you can see people trapped in air bubbles.  The sound effects don’t help the video but after a few viewings it seems to fit, even if some of the sounds come from Star Wars. The long version includes the Jacksons descending from the heavens and a whole group of extras of different races and ages holding hands with an ending possibly inspired by a Spielberg alien movie.

So what’s up with this video? One commenter said it remineded him of Jehovah Witnessmaterial, and I would have to agree.  Michael at the time was a JW, and the very ending with all the races happy is reminiscent of the JW’s belief that there will be a paradise on earth after the end of the world.

And second, why do you never see it on MTV, VH1 or anyplace else? One possibility is at least in America, the single barely made the Hot 100.  Or it could be that it’s from the time when MTV showed music videos only from white artists. Or it’s become forgotten due to the whole phenomenon of the “Thriller” album. Anyhow, you can now watch it for posterity on youtube.


-AM- Greatest Hits

Well, my semester is over and I just finished moving into my new place so I have time again. Time to write about nothing. I discussed GREATEST HITS collections with Allison Paynez awhile ago and now I’d like to talk about it some more.

Allison’s position was that they’re basically useless and I probably would have shared that sentiment a year ago. TODAY, however, I definitely see their value for a variety of reasons.

1) Prior to the 1960s, the ALBUM as a fully-formed, cohesive body of work was NOT the norm. Most albums prior to the 1960s were simply greatest hits albums with some filler added in, especially in genres like rock ‘n’ roll and its close relative country. So if you’re listening to music that’s 50 years old or older, you’re pretty going to HAVE to rely on compilations.

This isn’t even really an issue of time, either. Most hip-hop and electronic recording artists of the 1970s and early 1980s ONLY recorded singles. Hip-hop pioneers the Cold Crush Brothers never released a proper album but they’re historically significant and their compilation-only status shouldn’t be held against them. Similarly, almost all of the GOOD early Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five recordings were singles-only.

2) Not all artists make great albums but some of them make a whole lot of great individual songs. Perhaps the strongest example of this, ACCORDING TO MY TASTES, is David Bowie. Between Greg Guts and Ben Baierz I’ve heard several David Bowie albums in their entirety and I have yet to hear one that I really embrace as a whole. In spite of that, there are always a few songs on each album that I really like. Bowie has been a very prolific recording artist in his career and songs that I like by him have really piled up. Given that, I would be glad to listen to a Greatest Hits album by him, even if I don’t typically want to listen to complete albums by him.

3) My final point is that gReatest hitZ albums provide a snapshot of a band or even an era. This is especially valid for those that consider themselves serious musicians or perhaps musical historians of sorts. For example, old country or jazz recordings. For an individual that is slightly interested in 1940s honky tonk recordings but not wild about them, a nice, tidy little Hank Williams (Sr.) compilation provides a snapshot of the era provided by one of the best performers of the style.

What actually got me thinking about this topic (again) wasn’t even music but actually some comics I came across as I was moving out of my apartment this week. Since I was 10, I’ve had some interest in Dick Tracy comics by Chester Gould. A few years ago I decided to buy some book collections of his strips but they were all basically ‘greatest hits’ collections so I bought them reluctantly. A couple of years ago, IDW started printing ALL of the Tracy strips in sequence and I couldn’t realy hold interest. The Tracy greatest hits books reminded me that I might as well concentrate on the best stuff an artist creates rather than discount him or her or them because some of the lesser work is not as interesting. The End.

These are some writings on the same topic from DK Presents blog:


I don’t necessarily agree with his lists but they’re well-reasoned.