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Soul - Released December 12, 2014 | Epic - Legacy

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Soul - Released January 1, 2009 | Hip-O Select

Released only a matter of days after Michael Jackson's tragic June 2009 passing but in the works long before that, Hip-O Select's Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection collects the entirety of his solo recordings for Motown in a triple-disc set. Although Michael had some major hits during this period -- notably "Got to Be There," "Ben," and "Rockin' Robin," all Top Five hits on both the pop and Black Singles charts -- it's fair to call these years Jackson's awkward adolescence, perched partway between the preteen dynamo of the Jackson Five and the cool, confident entertainer of Off the Wall. Certainly, Jackson wasn't in artistic control on these four albums -- Got to Be There and Ben, both from 1972; 1973's Music & Me, 1975's Forever, Michael -- not picking the songs or having a hand in the arrangements, a point hammered home on Farewell My Summer Love where the vocal tracks of unreleased cuts were set to new, modern backing tracks in 1984 at the height of Thriller mania. Farewell in all its awkwardness is here, along with the original superior mixes of nine tracks and Looking Back to Yesterday, another Motown cash-in of unreleased recordings released at the peak of Jackson's popularity. Motown effectively emptied their vaults of rare Michael Jackson material during this time so there's nothing new here for collectors, but much of this material has been out of print for a long time, so it's useful putting the somewhat forgotten recordings of a major artist back in circulation even if the music doesn't hold any new insights. Essentially, these three discs confirm the basic narrative of Michael Jackson's career to be correct: he was drifting at Motown as a solo artist, trapped both by his adolescence and the unwillingness of the label to give him anything to do other than follow shifting trends from bubblegum soul to disco (in this sense, the stiff synthesized productions on Farewell don't seem out of line, they're merely another step in Motown's continued march through fashion). Naturally, the aforementioned big hits retain their power and there are some gems scattered throughout each of the discs -- and those gems come entirely from Jackson's pure, natural charisma -- which may be reason enough for serious fans to get this handsomely produced set, but this is more interesting as a history lesson than it is as entertainment. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released May 12, 2014 | Epic - MJJ

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Soul - Released January 1, 2008 | UNI - MOTOWN

This two-disc set concentrates on Michael Jackson's solo recordings from the early '70s, including "Got to Be There," "Rockin' Robin," and "Ben," as well as a handful of Jackson 5 singles from the same era like "I Want You Back" and "Never Can Say Goodbye." It's fun stuff, but of course it doesn't include anything from Jackson's late-'80s run as the biggest thing in pop music when he was releasing Quincy Jones-produced singles like "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Thriller," and "Bad." But don't let that stop you, because the early stuff is pretty cool, too, and much more endearing. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1995 | Motown

When a teenage Michael Jackson was known primarily for his membership in the Jackson 5, rock critics tended to dismiss him as bubblegum. But even at his most waifish, the pre-Thriller, pre-Quincy Jones Jackson could be soulful. Spanning 1971-1975, this two-CD set shows how inviting some of Jackson's early solo recordings were. Major hits like "Ben" (his oddly poignant ode to a rat), "I Wanna Be Where You Are," and "Got to Be There" are included, along with noteworthy album tracks like Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and the standard "All the Things You Are." Anyone who doubted that he was a serious R&B/pop singer should have examined Jackson's moving version of the Philly soul classic "People Make the World Go Round" (which is heard with different lyrics than on the Stylistics' much better-known version). The package also contains a handful of Jackson 5 hits, including "Never Can Say Goodbye" and the infectious "Dancing Machine." To be sure, Jackson's solo albums of the early to mid-'70s had their share of filler, something this package isn't devoid of either. But thankfully, Anthology has a lot more pluses than minuses. For an introductory overview of Jackson's early accomplishments on his own, Anthology is the most logical choice. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Soul - Released May 8, 2020 | Sutra

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Soul - Released January 1, 2013 | UNI - MOTOWN

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Soul - Released January 1, 1975 | Motown

Michael Jackson's fourth and final new studio album for Motown came nearly two years after its predecessor, Music and Me. It was a more mature effort for the 16-year-old singer but lacked the contemporary dance style that had given Jackson and his brothers a career rebirth with "Dancing Machine" the year before. The album did spawn two minor chart singles, "We're Almost There" and "Just a Little Bit of You" (both produced by Brian Holland of the Holland-Dozier-Holland production team), and a third track, "One Day in Your Life," would chart as a reissue six years later. But though Jackson sang appealingly, the arrangements were noticeably similar to many older Motown charts, and there was little here to hint that, four years hence, on his next solo album, Off the Wall, Jackson would emerge as a major star. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Soul - Released April 13, 1973 | Motown

This was Michael Jackson's least successful album during his solo run at Motown. The songs were undistinguished, Jackson sounded tentative and uninterested vocally, and the production and arrangements were routine at best, sometimes inferior. There's little wonder that Jackson at this point began to openly express his desires to expand his horizons and try a fresher, more contemporary approach. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 2000 | Motown

Michael Jackson's edition of 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection concentrates entirely on his solo recordings from the early '70s, including such blockbusters as "Got to Be There," "Rockin' Robin," and "Ben." This doesn't contain every single one of his early solo hits, but it does contain the great majority of them, which means it might satisfy the tastes of many listeners who just want a sampling of the best of this era. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released September 14, 2012 | Epic - Legacy

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Soul - Released July 18, 2005 | Epic - Legacy

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There are several Michael Jackson greatest-hits compilations out there, each one its own take on what should be the definitive portrait of the gloved one's career. The Ultimate Collection, The Essential Collection (different from the one here), and Number Ones have all surfaced in 2003 and 2004, and HIStory a few years prior. Each one of these collections, while commendable in its attempt to thoroughly document Jackson's accomplishments, has fallen woefully short in one aspect or another. This has finally been rectified with this installment of Sony's outstanding Essential collection. Starting with his campaign with his brothers in the Jackson 5, this two-disc set tours through every important single and every important fan favorite short of including his duet with Paul McCartney on "Say Say Say" (the Beatle does, however, make an appearance here on "The Girl Is Mine"). From Off the Wall to Dangerous, it's all here in one concise package, making it the ideal reference point from which exploration into his deeper catalog can begin. While die-hard fans will already have every single song contained herein and may be weary to purchase another greatest-hits compilation short of a greatest-hits compilation including his backing vocals on Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me," this may be the only one fans and casual listeners will ever have to purchase to get their fill of the King of Pop's magic. © Rob Theakston /TiVo
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Soul - Released February 8, 2008 | Epic - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released January 24, 1972 | Motown

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Riding high on the wild success of the Jackson 5, Motown ringleader Berry Gordy assembled every single notable production team member and songwriter in his arsenal to contribute to the solo debut of the J5's boy wonder, Michael. By the time Got to Be There was released, much had changed in the Jackson dynamic, none the least Michael's voice. But this album launched three chart singles: a cover of the bubblegum classic "Rockin' Robin," Leon Ware's "I Wanna Be Where You Are," and the title track. As a cohesive album, Got to Be There is wildly erratic, and his covers of "You've Got a Friend" and "Ain't No Sunshine" show Jackson's versatility as a singer. It was a world away from the politically charged sound of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and the introspection that would later grace some of the best works of Stevie Wonder. But Got to Be There kept Gordy as king of the sound of young America -- at least for a few months longer. © Rob Theakston /TiVo
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Ben

Soul/Funk/R&B - Released August 4, 1972 | Motown

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Although having just entered his teens, pop prodigy Michael Jackson's star was still very much on the ascent, circa his second full-length release, Ben (1972). This LP should not be confused with the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from the Phil Karlson-directed "thriller" of the same name, and while blessed with an undeniable visual presence, Jackson was otherwise not involved in the creature feature. Like much of the Motown empire at the time, the title track's multimedia exposure, coupled with strong crossover appeal, insured that "Ben" scored the artist his first Pop Singles' chart-topper. Yet one interesting shift was the lack of participation from the Motown hitmaking machine known collectively as "the Corporation". While the aggregate had dominated most of the Jackson Five's early recordings and contributed their fair share to Jackson's debut, Got to Be There (1971), besides the title track, the only other cut to bear their unmistakable smooth production style is the practically perfunctory midtempo "We've Got a Good Thing Going." The catchy "Greatest Show on Earth" has a cinematic quality that stands out thanks to an excellent arrangement from James Anthony Carmichael -- one of several he scored for the project. While not a cover in the traditional sense, "People Make the World Go 'Round" was actually released within a few weeks of the Stylistics' more familiar hit. Although the reading heard here is equally impassioned, the emotive impact could arguably be greater thanks to the optimism infused with innocence in Jackson's vocals. "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" owes greatly to the Heartbeats' doo wop version, as opposed to Jimmy Scott's earlier classic. Jackson is obviously quite familiar with the former's phrasing while adding an age-defying maturity of his own. Returning back to his Hitsville roots, "My Girl" is updated with a funkier rhythm. The vocalist responds in kind with his own soulful lead that soars over the freshly syncopated chorus. The score includes some call-and-response interaction similar to what he and his brothers had displayed on the Jackson Five's selections "Nobody" and "The Love You Save," among countless others. "What Goes Around Comes Around" is one of Ben's better deep cuts with the vibrant melody perfectly matched to the artist's youthful voice. Of lesser note is the hopelessly dated "message" in the filler track "In Our Small Way." Luckily, a pair of winners conclude the effort with the propulsive and funky "Shoo Be Doo Be Doo Da Day" -- which was co-written by Stevie Wonder -- and the Berry Gordy-penned midtempo "You Can Cry on My Shoulder." Ben -- along with rest of Michael Jackson's recordings for Motown, can be found as part of the excellent and thoroughly annotative three-disc Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection (2009). © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 2009 | UNI - MOTOWN

Released roughly three days after Michael Jackson's passing, The Definitive Collection is a 19-track collection of highlights from his Motown recordings, including the hits he had with his brothers in the Jackson 5. This emphasizes Michael's solo hits over the Jackson 5's -- there are ten cuts of him alone, nine with his brothers (and one of those is an alternate "minus mix" of "I'll Be There") -- which skews this a little bit toward puppy love over bubblegum, something that may be a little too syrupy for some listeners, but there's no denying that for fans lacking a collection of Michael's earliest hits, this is a useful compilation, gathering "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save," "Who's Lovin' You," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Got to Be There," "Rockin' Robin," "Ben," and "Dancing Machine" in one place. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1995 | Motown

The Very Best of Michael Jackson with the Jackson Five is the U.K. version of 1995's The Ultimate Collection. The selections here are similar to those on the U.S. set, including Jackson 5 no-brainers like "I Want You Back," "ABC," "I'll Be There," and "Never Can Say Goodbye." Then, for the last quarter of program, it features a handful of solo Michael cuts -- such as "Ben," "Doctor My Eyes," and "Ain't No Sunshine." © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 2009 | UNI - MOTOWN

The first of what is sure to be many posthumous releases from Michael Jackson, The Stripped Mixes does indeed contained stripped mixes of 11 Motown hits from Michael and the Jackson Five, mixes that cut each track down to the bare-bones of vocals, bass guitar, and percussion, augmented by the occasional guitar or keyboard. Often, the logic of what is left behind doesn't quite make sense: "I Want You Back" and "ABC" have no drums (or fuzz guitar), so they feel a little tipsy and top-heavy, and it's hard to call "Ben" and "With a Child's Heart" stripped when there are echoes of strings in the background. Since so much of the genius of these recordings lay in the arrangements, having so much of the arrangement absent means that the music just sounds awkward and incomplete, as if it was waiting for the final round of mixing and overdubs. Still, if the purpose of this disc is to draw attention to Michael's vocals, The Stripped Mixes does its job, but just because his voice is pushed front and center does not mean that this is the best place to appreciate his genius. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 24, 1972 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Riding high on the wild success of the Jackson 5, Motown ringleader Berry Gordy assembled every single notable production team member and songwriter in his arsenal to contribute to the solo debut of the J5's boy wonder, Michael. By the time Got to Be There was released, much had changed in the Jackson dynamic, none the least Michael's voice. But this album launched three chart singles: a cover of the bubblegum classic "Rockin' Robin," Leon Ware's "I Wanna Be Where You Are," and the title track. As a cohesive album, Got to Be There is wildly erratic, and his covers of "You've Got a Friend" and "Ain't No Sunshine" show Jackson's versatility as a singer. It was a world away from the politically charged sound of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and the introspection that would later grace some of the best works of Stevie Wonder. But Got to Be There kept Gordy as king of the sound of young America -- at least for a few months longer. © Rob Theakston /TiVo
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Soul - Released January 1, 1984 | UNI - MOTOWN

Once more, Motown pulled a marketing ploy with Michael Jackson material they had in the vault. This time, they remixed it and convinced some people it was a new track. It's a testament to Jackson's appeal at the time that the song actually cracked both the R&B and Pop Top 40, although it didn't get out of the high thirties on either side. This was another incident in Motown's long history that does not rank as one of their better moments. © Ron Wynn /TiVo

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Michael Jackson in the magazine