Monday, August 23, 2010

Same Old Song

Yesterday's mention of the two new compilation releases, coupled with the recent unpacking and organizing of all my Jackson 5 cds, got me thinking about compilations in general.

Motown compilation cds are a frequent pet peeve over in the Soulful Detroit forum, due to the company's habit of circulating the same old songs over and over in new packaging.

And when I say over and over again, I mean over and over again. Here, for example, are the two shelves of cds I have in my J5 collection:

The top shelf includes the cd version of every J5 and Michael solo LP ever issued, including all the two-fers, remastered, and Japanese releases, as well as all of the Jacksons' and Michael's post-Motown LPs. The shelf beneath it holds all the Motown compilation cds I own. I don't even own them all because, even though I am a completist collector, I've got to draw the line somewhere. They are all so much the same that any Motown fan could probably recite the track list of his favorite artist's compilation cd before he even saw it.

But I don't automatically dislike every compilation disc. Some of the ones in my collection I like a lot, for different reasons. Take this one, for example.

There's nothing particularly outstanding about the track listing or the artwork, but it's notable because it was the first Jackson 5 cd, a fact that was so unusual at the time, they named it after the format: Compact Command Performances. There was a whole series of these for Motown artists.

This next one is the first cd I ever bought. I bought it before I even had a cd player. In fact, I bought a cd player just so I could play it.

It was originally issued in August of 1986 and it's everything a good compilation disc should be. It has all the J5 singles (not just 1969-70, plus Dancing Machine and Michael's first four solo singles), as well as some great album tracks and a few rarities, like "Teenage Symphony" and "I Was Made to Love Her." It includes as many Jermaine solo songs as it does for Michael, and even has one Jackie solo, "Love Don't Want to Leave." (In fact, the only sour note here is that it credits Jackie's solo to Jermaine.)

The packaging was also great. It came in a custom longbox (seen to the left here -- of course, I saved it!) and it included a 32-page booklet that had extensive liner notes and many rare photos, all in the correct chronological order. There was also a Michael solo Anthology put out at around this same time that has the same features. (Note: These are not to be confused with other compilations called Anthology or Anthology or Anthology.) Whoever put these two collections together did an amazing job that was not topped until almost ten years later when the amazing Soulsation! was issued.

A compilation doesn't have to have everything in order to please me. All it has to do is surprise me. My all-time favorite compilation disc is a single disc collection from Japan called Free Soul: The Classics of Jackson 5.

First, the butterscotch-colored design fits perfectly with the original photo from Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5, a brilliant photo that is under-utilized, in my opinion. And the track listing opens with a real surprise: "Christmas Won't Be the Same This Year" followed by "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Well... why not? As someone who listens to the Jackson 5 Christmas Album year round, it's a real treat to have these two cuts on a non-Christmas compilation.

They are followed with two upbeat album tracks, "E-Ne-Me-Ne-Mi-Ne-Mo" and "It's Great to Be Here" from Lookin' through the Windows and Maybe Tomorrow respectively before we get into the standard compilation fare "I Want You Back" and "ABC." But then it moves right on to two songs with Jermaine leads, "I Will Find a Way" and "Live It Up," something you hardly ever find on compilations. From there on out, we get a good mix of familiar hits with lesser known album cuts interspersed -- 25 tracks in all. Whenever I listen to this disc, I am reminded of how much I like particular albums, and it sends me back to listen to all the tracks on an LP, like Maybe Tomorrow.

A recent compilation I like is this 2009 release, Love Songs.

While about half of the tracks are the same ones that were on a 1984 vinyl release called The Great Love Songs of the Jackson 5, the cover art on the cd is a vast improvement over the original. It's also nice to see so many tracks from their later LPs, and some unusual ones at that, like "Breezy" and "Through Thick and Thin." But I confess that the real reason I bought this cd was for the photo on the back. It's one I had never seen before, although I've seen many others that were taken at this same time.

I bought this cd for its cover picture as well. I like it for its weirdness.

It's an undated Polish release, but I think it would be safe to say this came out before the wall came down. How else could it be that the artist they hired had never seen a photo of Michael Jackson, let alone the Jacksons? In fact, I'm not sure the artist had ever seen a real person of African descent.

And on the oddness scale, this one comes out near the top. The entire compilation is different remixes of "I Want You Back." Eighteen of them, to be exact.

I love the song, but I can't imagine listening to it eighteen times in a row, even with variations on a theme.


  1. I'd be up for listening to 18 I Want You Back remixes, if they isolated different instruments so we could try to disect all the ways they created magic on that perfect, brilliant single. Love the cover art too, so nice to see the group is still generating so much sales that record companies are STILL releasing stuff---the Polish release looks like the artist was drawing one of the cartoon Cosby Kids---and the Love Songs cover redo is SO much better- damn the first cover was such a waste. And oh, that CD anthology (Motown REALLY LOVED that word)---the long box, the subdued colors, very classy. I loved the eariler double album, but why'd they all have their shirts off? Many adult Motoen stars had anthologies but Smokey or Marvin didn't have to do that. Oh well, EVER teen star muct pose shirtless sooner or later.

  2. For some reason Sony's Michael Jackson best ofs annoyed me so much more than Motown's J5 ones. I admittedly adore the Motown compilations "Anothology" the pink one, it's two discs and has "Love song" on as well as "I'm so happy" I bought that in Germany a few years ago and "The Ultimate Collection" which was the first Jackson 5 CD I bought :-) They had some good compilations, then they had some that were just repeats. BTW I love how you're arranging your collection!

  3. I usually don't buy compilations these days, because I prefer keeping my money for rare, unreleased material instead.
    But it can happen that if I see a really cheap one with pictures I've never seen before, I could very well be tempted and give in.
    I own the two first in your list (although my anthology one didn't came with the long box for some reason).
    I think the very first one I bought was that one:
    I love that photo and spent years contempling it.
    I also had that one which I really loved (still does!):

  4. I absoulutely love the Free Soul, its so random lol. And I love the inclusion of Jermaine's 'Live It Up' and 'Got to Get to You Girl'

  5. I also love the back of Love Songs. The first time I saw it at wal-mart and saw the back I planted the biggest smile on my face :)

  6. 2 questions on rereleases/compilations:

    1. I've read somewhere that on the 2-disc "Gold" (from 2005--basically, "anthology" with a different title) compilation, some of the songs are presented in their single mixes. Anyone know if that's accurate?
    2. Is there anything noteworthy about the re-released J5 albums that came out this year (new liner notes, pictures, even better sound, etc)? I have the 2001 "2-fer" releases, is there any reason to get the newer versions?

  7. Hi, Kyle, there isn't anything in the liner notes for Gold that indicates they are the single mixes, so I'm hoping Corey or Justin (of the golden ears) will weigh in on that one.

    In terms of the reissues, yes, there are excellent liner notes in each one by Brian Chin, plus some additional photos, mostly from the same shoots as the LP cover (or at least, the same era). Lookin' through the Windows has Love Song as a bonus and Goin' Back to Indiana adds the live version of Who's Lovin You. The cd versions of the early 70s albums also cleverly include a replica of the J5 product sleeve as the insert graphic behind the clear plastic disc holder.

    Personally, I think these are well worth the money. I like having the single LP cds partly because the twofers have never had the right pairings in my mind. I really would like Third Album/Christmas Album, Maybe Tomorrow/Looking through the Windows and Get It Together/Dancing Machine paired. I always associate those albums with each other.

  8. Not seen that IWYB Remixes disc before. that looks interesting! was this an official release? i like the artwork. who remixed them all, Motown themselves? what year was it issued?

    Re: Gold. the 'Michael Jackson' edition of the 2cd set "Gold" has two or three J5 cuts presented in Mono, including Maybe Tomorrow. there wasn't anything special about the J5 edition of Gold.

    hope that helps! happy hunting

  9. Thanks for the answer, Justin!

    I haven't seen the IWYB remixes up close and personal but I would guess it's a bootleg.

  10. does anyone know if the 2cd Michael Jackson Anthology issued in '86 ever had a longbox!?

  11. P.S. I love the mono mix of Maybe Tomorrow. it sounds great!

  12. Re: Bootleg. ahhhhhhhh ok @ J5C

  13. i just signed up to MJJCOLLECTIONS.. but i keep getting a "stack overflow" pop-up appear. most annoying. it's very similiar to the old defunct MJCOLLECTORS, which i enjoyed.

  14. I haven't been able to get in. For some reason, the site keeps rejecting my email address. I would imagine there will be a lot of activity the next week or so while people add their collections and then it will even out.