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The Jacksons Live! - 1981

A recent email from my brother, Stephen.

OK, if everyone else if doing their Michael Tributes, I might as well do mine.

This is from the middle of the LP The Jacksons Live!, recorded in September, 1981, during their Triumph tour. Even though they were ostensibly promoting their critically-acclaimed 1980 LP Triumph, it could also be called Michael's Off the Wall tour. They did five songs from that LP, which had only been out for a few months. Definitely Michael Mania was in place and in ascent. But the whole album is a treat and they all shine. Michael sounds better than ever (I think) and really does sound like he's about to conquer the world. And they are a band, as much as ever (I'm reminded of the Beach Boys' early 70 LPs Sunflower and Surf's Up), and that's one of the nicest surprises: as good as "Rock with You" and "Working Day and Night" are on the original LP, these live versions benefit from the Jackson harmony, a sound Michael was trying to put behind him. These versions, with all of those familiar voices behind Michael make these songs sound like a Jackson 5 tune with Michael on lead vocals. It's really something and I'm shocked I've never heard this LP discussed. (If it took Michael's death to bring this to my attention, then so be it.)

An interesting detail about the Jacksons as a touring unit in the late 70s was that they stayed clear of their early hits, aside from the ubiquitous three minute medley. That's what I'm including here. It has a long intro, which is half its charm: they have that scripted banter that only a few performers can pull off as genuinely entertaining. It's easy to put yourself in the audience, full of screaming teenagers who were raised on "I Want You Back," but were ready for "Billie Jean." And yet this playful intro preys on a sense of nostalgia the audience didn't even know it had. It's funny (I think it is), it gets you cheering along (silly, but that's how I felt the first time I heard it), and Michael sounds so strong and hellbent on entertaining it's crazy.

Enjoy and play it loud!

Stephen

Listen / Download:
Jacksons - Medley '81

Paul Altobelli

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