Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Jacksons Music: A Wish List

Well, after my 3 part post about collecting the music of The Jacksons I got to thinking. What would I like to see be released? So, here is my wish list.

Let's start with Motown and The Jackson 5.

I'd like to see a 30th Anniversary Four Disc box set that contains nothing but previously unreleased songs. The Jackson 5 supposedy recorded some 500 songs. That includes solo songs by Michael, Jermaine, Jackie and Marlon. However, I think that this particular box set should just concentrate on The Jackson 5.

A three disc set to commemorate Michael Jackson's years at Motown. The second and third discs should containe all previously unreleased songs.

A two disc set for Jermaine. Disc one could contain his hits from his solo albums and a second dics of previously unreleased material.

Additionally, for Jermaine's years at Arista, a two disc set covering all of his, soundtrack songs, B-side songs and any unreleased material.

As for any unreleased materil by Jackie and Marlon, let's put those on the Jackson 5 set. I'm sure that there aren't that many tracks in the first place.

For Janet Jackson, I'd like to see a three or four disc set that included all of the songs that were released in the Japan release versions of her albums and any B-side songs that have been previously released.

For The Jacksons, maybe a tree disc set that covers all of their hits from The Jacksons album to 2300 Jackson Street. The second and third discs could contain any previously unreleaed tracks including anything from Randy's shelved solo album.

Finally, I really can't see doing anything extrodinary for Michael's Epic solo years after the five disc Ultimate set was released.

The most important stuff for me would be the Motown stuff. While I would be willing to purchase all of the sets I listed above, my first choice would be the Motown years collections.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Collecting The Jacksons Music - pt. 3: The 90s To Today

Well, I have decided to write a third and final part to this odyssey called The Jackons and their music.

The 90s. The dawn of the CD era. Well, not really the dawn of it, but the decade where vinyl finally gasped what we all thought was its last breath and CDs took over. The decade where my interest in the Jacksons and their music died a slow death. It would take until 1993 before I finally called it quits. Until a few weeks ago, the last Jackson CD I bought was Michael’s History CD. The 90s were also the decade when Jermaine released his last album. With the departure of Jermaine from the scene, the only Jacksons left releasing new material were Michael, Janet, and LaToya (heaven help us). In fact, after 1995’s History, Michael pretty much vanished from the scene leaving just Miss Janet to carry on. Oh sure, we’d get one more album from Rebbie in 1998. Her album Yours Faithfully was released and to be perfectly honest, I never even heard about it.

A few more previously unreleased Jackson 5 tracks would finally be released. Mainly on the 25th Anniversary Soulsation 4 CD set. One other unreleased track, Who’s Loving You (Live) would get released on the TV soundtrack for The Jacksons: An American Dream mini series. The soundtrack also contained a couple of new Jermaine songs.

Since I wasn’t actively collecting much during this period, I think I will just list what was released and when. It will be much easier.

Dangerous (1991) – Michael Jackson’s eighth solo album (his 4th for Epic) and the last one to be released on commercially on vinyl. The vinyl copies were very limited and rather difficult to find. How I managed to get my hand on two copies, I don’t remember. I think one was a gift.

You Said (1991) – Jermaine Jackson’s last solo album to date. One interesting item was released from this album. The original version of the song Word To The Badd was released on CD single and Cassette single. This was the version where Jermaine vented his anger at Michael. Believe me, he really stuck it to him. Other than LaToya’s tell-all book, this was the first time that I can recall where one of the Jacksons aired their dirty laundry in public. It was at this point that I really started to get pissed at Jermaine as a person. It seemed that every time I turned on the TV, there was Jermaine shooting off his mouth about something. While I sort of agreed with what Jermaine had to say in the song, I just thought his motives for ‘leaking’ the original version to radio stations were rather petty. It was nothing more than a publicity stunt to generate press for Jermaine. His time to grab the spot light a bit at Michael’s expense.

No Relations (1991) – LaToya’s seventh solo album. Released on the heals of her tell-all book about her family. I was also getting pretty tired of see her face every time I turned on the TV. Most of the time, everything she said I just laughed my ass off. So, I guess I shouldn’t be so upset about the whole thing. LaToya did amuse me to a degree.

The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992) – The TV soundtrack for the mini series. I won’t even discuss my outrage over this sugary, sanitized and largely fabricated story of how the Jacksons came to the forefront of the music industry. The CD contained two new songs from Jermaine (one was a duet) and one previously unreleased live recording from The Jackson 5.

Formidable (1992) – LaToya’s eight solo album is released. By this point, LaToya had fallen off my radar and I didn’t even hear about this release.

janet. (1993) – Janet Jackson’s fifth solo album is released and her first for Virgin Records. There was a special 2 disc box set released at the same time. The second disc in the set contained a couple of unreleased songs and special versions of existing songs from the album. Starting with this album, Janet’s overseas releases would contain songs that were not released in the US. Of course this went unnoticed by me. A few of the singles released from this album also had B-side songs not found anywhere else.

Love's Alright (1993) - Eddie Murphy. Michael Jackson appears on the song Whatzupwitu.

From Nashville To You (1994) – LaToya’s ninth solo album is released. This was only available via mail order on the Internet. I did hear about this album, but had zero interest in it.

In 1995 I packed my bags and moved to San Francisco. The last CD of new Jacksons music I purchased prior to moving was Michael’s History CD.

HIStory (1995) – Michael Jackson’s ninth solo album is released. My final purchase of new material by any of the Jacksons for about five or six years. Also, Michael’s last album of the 20th Century.

25th Anniversary: Soulsation (1995) – The Jackson 5. A super 4 disc set covering the entire Motown years of The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson. The fourth disc consisted of several previously unreleased tracks. I did pick this one up since The Jackson 5 are my favorite and I really wanted the unreleased tracks. In fact, I would continue to purchase any Jackson 5 compilations that contained any new songs. They were just about the only Jackson music that I did attempt to keep up with.

Stop In the Name Of Love (1995) – LaToya’s tenth solo album. Another Internet only album and again unknown to me at the time. LaToya’s last album to date and her last album of the 20th Century.

Design Of A Decade (1995) – Janet Jackson’s first Greatest Hits compilation with two new songs.

The Jackson 5 – The Ultimate Collection (1996) – A new compilation of Jackson 5 songs from Motown. The CD contained the 96 mix to the song It’s Your Thing which had been unreleased until the release of the 25th Anniversary set.

The Velvet Rope (1997) – Janet Jackson’s sixth solo album. Once again, overseas versions (mainly Japan) contained songs to found on the US version. This was Janet’s final album of the 20th Century.

Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory In The Mix (1997) - An album of remixes from Michael's HIStory ablum plus five new songs.

Yours Faithfully (1998) – Rebbie Jackson’s fourth and final album to date. Her last album of the 20th Century.

Anthology (2000) – The Jackson 5. A two disc set from Motown, once again covering The Jackson 5, Michael and Jermaine’s years at Motown. The interesting thing about this set was the inclusion for the first time on CD, the performance from The Hollywood Palace album, the B-side songs Love Song, I’m So Happy and the live version of Daddy’s Home from the (until then unknown to me) Live In Japan album.

So, we have come to the last to the 21st Century. It would take another nine years, but eventually I would revisit the Jacksons and their music and attempt to get caught up. While I would purchase Michael and Janet CDs, anything by Rebbie or LaToya I didn’t feel the need to try and find. I just really wasn’t interested. Maybe someday I will go back and get these CDs, but for now I’m content to just continue with Michael and Janet.

Invincible (2001) – Michael Jackson’s first new album in six years. While it did sell well at first, it pretty much sank like a stone here in the US.

All For You (2001) – Janet Jackson’s seventh solo album and the first with a Parental Advisory sticker on the cover. Once again, Japan versions with songs not on the US version.

Number 1s (2003) – Michael Jackson’s compilation of his number one hits. The CD would contain one new song and a live version of the song Ben.

Ultimate Collection (2004) – Michael Jackson. A five disc set that spanned Michael entire career and contained several previously unreleased songs. This would be the final release of any Michael Jackson material until the 25th Anniversary Edition of Thriller.

Damita Jo (2004) – Janet Jackon’s eighth solo album. Again, Japan release would contain songs not found on the US version.

20 Y.O (2006) – Janet Jackson’s ninth solo album. Again, Japan release would contain songs not found on the US version.

Discipline (2008) – Janet Jackson’s tenth solo album. Again more bonus tracks not found the US edition.

Also in the new century, Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad would be released as Special Edition CDs with previously unreleased tracks. In 2008, Thriller would once again get re-released. This time in a 25th Anniversary Edition with more previously unreleased tracks. There is also a rumor about a 30th Anniversary Edition of Off The Wall with previously unreleased tacks.

Destiny and Triumph would get Special/Anniversary Editions on CD with bonus tracks. Mainly the bonus tracks consisted of the long out of print 12” disco mixes for certain songs.

To finally round out this blog, it should be mentioned that Janet Jackson has appeared on no less than six additional albums. Two movie soundtracks, and four Rap artists albums. Those albums and songs are as follows:

The Best Things In Life Are Free (1992) - Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross from the movie soundtrack Mo' Money.

Luv Me, Luv Me (1998) - Janet Jackson and Shaggy from the movie soundtrack How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Also appears on Shaggy's album Mr. Lover Lover - The Best Of Shaggy part 1.

What's It Gonna Be?! (1999) - Janet Jackson with Busta Rhymes from the album Extinction Level Event.

Girlfriend/Boyfriend (1999) - Janet Jackson with Blackstreet from the album Finally.

Feel It Boy (2002) - Janet Jackson with Beenie Man from the album Tropical Storm.

Don't Worry (2005) - Janet Jackson with Chingy from the album PowerBallin.

In conclusion I’d just like to say that the lessons that I learned during my intense ten years of active collecting Jacksons music helped in other areas of collecting. I had to learn patience to start with. While I knew about certain items that did exist, I learned that I just couldn’t run right out and find them at my local used record store. I also learned the value of thorough research. If it hadn’t been for certain books on Michael Jackson that were released at the height of the Thriller period, I might not have ever discovered that certain recordings existed. This skill would continue to help me with other collecting obsessions like my involvement in Rocky Horror. My Rocky Horror collection at the time was the only thing that could rival my Jacksons collection. While I no longer have the Rocky Horror collection, I do still have my Jacksons collection. Lastly, the biggest thing I learned while collecting the Jacksons: When find what you’re looking for, buy it right then and there. Do not under any circumstances walk away and hope it will be there the next time you return. Chances are it won’t be.

Today’s collecting market is so much easier than it was in the 80s. With the advent of the Internet and the launch of eBay collectors have a vastly easier time than I had in the 80s and early 90s. Today you just need to pull up eBay, sit back and start your search. Now, thanks to eBay, I consider my collection complete up to 1995. Through eBay I was able to go back and fill in the few missing pieces for my collection that I had been searching for. Things like the Hollywood Palace album, the Steeeltown singles, the Japan Live album, the couple of Jermaine’s singles that I either couldn’t find (that had non album B-sides) or had to purchase on cassette single and the few CD singles (like Jermaine’s Word To The Badd) that I had not been able to locate when they came out. So, thanks to eBay, I now consider my collection complete up to and including the year 1995. However, that only includes the music from the brothers. I still do not have each and everyone of LaToya’s albums nor do I have Rebbie’s last album. I also do not have any of the import versions of Janet’s albums with the extra songs. In the new century, I guess I’ve decided to only keep up with just so much Jackson music. I know that several things have been leaked through the Internet. Jackson 5 songs that remain unreleased but have somehow found there way to the Internet and into the hands of collectors. Several songs by Michael have also been leaked. There are Internet only songs that have been released for download. None of this stuff really interests me all that much. Like I said, I consider my collection complete to a point. Let others have their fun with that stuff. I’m out of the picture. Now, if Motown does finally get around to releasing anything that they may have sitting in their vaults (or even CBS for that matter) I would, of course, purchase it.

Additionally, with the take over of CDs, several previously hard to find stuff (or things that had only been available on vinyl) has turned up. Like the Hollywood Palace performance. I’m sure that most collectors out there have one or more of the CDs that were released of the Steeltown songs. I know that I have two different ones myself. I believe that if these CDs had never been released, then I would have paid well over $100.00 each for those singles on eBay. As it was, I did manage to snatch up all four of them for less than $50.00 each. Now, once again those singles are going up in price. And speaking of the Steeltown singles. I’ve noticed something very, very odd about them. How on Earth did so many of these wind up in England? These singles were released locally in the Gary, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois areas in 1968. I mean, I made several pilgrimages to the Gary and the surrounding area in the 80s just to look for them and never turned up a thing. Well, I did find a used record store that at one time the manager had them and made a tape of the A-sides for the three singles and sold that to customers. Other than that, nothing so much as a whisper about those singles. I still don’t understand how so many of these singles found their way to England? Certainly odd that.

So, to any future Jackson collectors I wish you luck. I hope these three articles have been helpful and informative. There is a TON of music out there to find. Some easy. Some not so easy. Have patience and most importantly, have fun. Half the fun of collecting is the hunt. Not the having.

For an article that started out being about just the music and how to spot original release copies of the early albums, it somehow became about my 10 year quest to complete my collection. Odd that.

Collecting The Jacksons Music - pt. 2: The 80s

Ah…the 80s. Well, here is where things really got complicated from a collecting stand point.

Jermaine left Motown for Arista. Michael releases Thriller. Janet, LaToya and Rebbie begin their respective recording careers. The Jacksons reunite for the Victory album and tour. Then fracture and go their separate ways for five years. Jackie releases his second solo album. Marlon releases his first solo album. Randy soon follows suit. However, there was nothing coming from Tito. Bless him. Soundtrack albums, duets, B-side recordings and Motown dips into the vaults to release more previously unreleased material. The whole mess just gave me a headache. Not to mention a very large financial hit to my wallet. There were times that I just wanted to throw my hands in the air and call it quits. I just might have if Tito had released a solo album. Just keeping up with Jermaine became a full time job. Everywhere I turned he was popping up on some album or another.

One thing that I should have included in the first part of this blog was that LaToya Jackson released her first album, LaToya in 1980 on Polydore records. Since I don’t believe the album sold all that well, the chances of finding an original release copy should be pretty easy. I base this also on the fact that it took me a very long time to find a copy of the album. If the album had went through more than one printing it should have been much easier to find than it was.

So, let’s dive into the murky waters of the years 1981-90.

Over at CBS, The Jacksons were riding high on the success of their late 1980 release Triumph. Michael Jackson had just come off his success with the 1979 album. So, in 1981 The Jacksons launched their biggest concert tour at the time. The tour would visit 39 US cities from July – September of 81. The tour was captured on record with the 1981 double album release of The Jacksons Live. The album sold extremely well. To track down an original release copy of this album, be sure to make sure to check the two inner sleeves. Both contained pictures from the tour. Additionally the album itself was a gatefold album.

After the Triumph tour, things would be relatively quite on the group front for a few years. What happened next was truly spectacular to behold.

Over at Polydore Records, LaToya released her second album, My Special Love. Once again, not a chart topper and my knowledge of this record is very limited. Not to mention the limited number of copies that seem to be floating around out there. I was fortunate to find a still sealed copy at a small used record store in Chicago. How to tell an original release copy from a reprint (again, if there were any reprints ever done in the first place), I couldn’t tell you.

In late 1982 Michael Jackson unleashed Thriller on an unsuspecting world. No one could have predicted what was to follow. Ironically, this album was not the spark that lit the fuse to my obsessive collecting of Jacksons music. That would come a little later. There have been numerous articles written to attempt to explain why Thriller became the record breaking success that it was. I happen to believe that two major factors contributed to this phenomenal success. First, the music industry was changing in the way albums and singles were being promoted. Radio airplay of the latest single was a small factor, but what really could make a single fly up the charts was having a video. MTV went on the air in August 1981 and the entire landscape of record promotion changed. These little promotional films that originally had been produced on low budgets (and were rarely seen by most of the record buying public) suddenly became a big money making enterprise. Now, to put things in a bit more perspective, music videos (or promotional films as they were originally called) had been around for a number of years. ABBA used these films from as far back as 1974. There are a few groups that produced promotional films even as early as the mid 60s. The Beatles used (at the time a live performance) of the song All You Need Is Love. This song and performance could almost be called the very first genuine ‘music video’. These so called ‘promotional films’ were mainly used in place of an actual live performance by a group or artist on TV where the group or artist was unable to appear in person. Later, mainly in the 70s, these promotional films were used on TV adds for compilation album companies like K-Tel. As the 70s progressed, the promotional films became a bit more sophisticated and sleek. Shows like The Midnight Special aired them right along side the live performances. In fact, in 1979 The Jacksons hosted The Midnight Special and their video for Blame It On The Boogie was shown. Anyway, the advent of MTV helped to promote Thriller in a way that had never been seen before. The sleek and sophisticated approach Michael Jackson used in producing the videos from Thriller was a level that had never been seen before. These little ‘promotional films’ began to reach an audience that simple radio air play could not. Then in 1983, Motown celebrated its 25 anniversary with a spectacular TV special that reached millions. I believe that it was this one single performance by Michael that is what caused Thriller to finally go on to be the all-time best selling record in history. Strangely, even though I’d seen the video for Billie Jean and was pretty familiar with the Thriller album, it was the Motown 25 special that was the spark that lit the fuse for me. Not Michael’s solo performance. No. It was seeing The Jackson 5 together again that did it for me. After that, I would spend close to the next 10 years totally obsessed with collecting all of the Jacksons music I could get my hands on.

So, how out of the 109 million copies do you find an original release copy of Thriller? Good luck with that. The best bet would be to find a promo copy of Thriller, but again good luck with that. The earliest copy that I have is the copy my sister got for Christmas in 1983. That was a full year after the album had been released and was already considered a smash hit. I also bought a copy of the album but not until the summer of 1984. So, I did contribute to the initial 40 million copies that got the album in the Guinness Book of World Records. What I eventually opted for as the definitive copy for my collection was the half-speed master version. I explained in my previous blog, my reasons for doing this. This is quite simply the cleanest sounding version of Thriller on vinyl that I’ve ever heard.

Also, there was a picture disc version of the Thriller album released and a nine singles pack. The singles pack consisted of the four singles from Off The Wall and five singles from Thriller all pressed on red vinyl with picture sleeves. The picture sleeves, while not always the original picture sleeves for the singels are made of a sturdy paper. All in all, quite a nice little collectible.

One small note. The Thriller and Billie Jean singles had a song on the B-side called You Can’t Get Outta The Rain. This song was not available on any Michael Jackson album. However, this is simply You Can’t Win, part 2. If you have the 12” single for You Can’t Win, then you don’t need to try and find a copy of the 45s that it appeared on. Kind of odd but thought I’d better mention it.

Anyway, moving on.

Also in 83, Michael did his second duet with Paul McCartney. The song Say, Say, Say appears on Paul’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace along with another Paul/Michael duet called The Man.

Rockwell released the album Somebody’s Watchin’ Me in 1983 and Michael can be heard singing backup on the title song. Jermaine apparently appears on the album as well, but I’ve never been able to find exactly where.

I think that it should also be noted that around this time, 12” singles began to be much more commercially available. During the height of the Disco era, 12” singles came into prominence and were the preferred method for DJs in the Disco to play songs. Radio DJ also made use of them, but to a lesser degree. With the demise of Disco in the early 80s, 12” singles looked to be on the way out. Once dance music had shook off the stigma (I hate using that word since I happen to like Disco) of Disco, the 12” single began to make a slight comeback. While they still were not available at places like Musicland or Sam Goody in your local mall, larger record stores (like Tower) did start to carry them. As I stated in the first part of this blog, 12” singles are not really all that important to me. If I find them, I find them. For a short time in the late 80s, I did actively seek them out, but they just started to become a real pain in my ass so I dropped them. Just keeping up with the album releases and checking the singles for non album B-side songs (along with just trying to collect the entire back catalog of Jackson music) was more than enough to keep me occupied.

So, during the height of the gluttony of success that was Thriller, The Jacksons announced that they would reunite for an album and tour. This would be the first time that Jermaine would be apart of the group since 1976. Now this was a plan that I could really get behind. In fact, I did. Whole heartedly. Hook line and sinker. The fuse had been lit and I was on fire.

Additionally, it was around this time that I discovered a little store in my hometown called J&L Records. As far as I could tell, this was the very first used record store in our town. In less than a year, there would be three such stores. Before J&L opened, for me to find old records I usually had to shop thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales. The main draw back to this was most of the records were, to put it kindly, trashed. Scratched records (looking like a cat had dragged its claws over the record), severely worn and torn covers. Not the kind of records that I wanted in my collection. At J&L, here were records that were in great shape (and in some cases pristine condition) and even promo copies of albums. Promo copies were a new thing to me. Finding a promo copy of a Jackson 5 album guaranteed that I had an original release copy. Even though at this early stage of my collecting, having an original release copy wasn’t all that important to me. This would come later as I got more sophisticated and specialized in my collecting.

So, while the reunited Jacksons were preparing their album and tour things were really happening on a different front. In fact a few different fronts.

First, in 1984 shortly after the Motown 25 special, Jermaine left Motown for Arista. Jermaine’s final two albums for Motown were minor successes. The 1981 album I Like Your Style had something that was a bit of a departure for Motown. I Like Your Style contained an inner sleeve. This inner sleeve, I believe had the song lyrics, writing credits, liner notes and production credits for the album. A definite first for a Jackson/Motown album. However, this would be a short lived thing. Jermaine’s next album, Let Me Tickle Your Fancy (1982) had just a standard plain white inner sleeve. Total bummer. So, the only way to tell an original release copy of I Like Your Style is by the inner sleeve. As for Let Me Tickle Your Fancy…well…if you can find a promo copy that would be the best way. Other than that, I’d say just look for the best copy that you can find.

Now, in 1983 over at A&M Records Janet Jackson released her first album. As for how to tell an original release copy of the Janet Jackson album, I really couldn’t tell you. I do recall buying the Janet Jackson album brand new in the stores, but that was a few years after the album had first been released. Since the sisters are not what I focus on, it really doesn’t matter if I have an original release copy or not. Just a copy is enough for me.

In 1984, the Victory album was released and over at Arista Jermaine releases his first album for them. Now, the way to find an original release copy of both of these albums is by making sure that they have the picture inner sleeves. While I don’t think either album had more than one or two printings, the chances of finding original release copies are pretty high. Additionally there was a picture disc version of the Victory album. An interesting item. It has the same picture as the regular album cover, but for some reason there is a dove on Randy’s shoulder on the picture disc and it isn’t on the regular album version.

Also in 1984, Janet Jackson released her second album, Dream Street, LaToya Released her third album, Heart Don’t Lie and Rebbie jumped into the mix with her first album, Centipede. I think it was at this point I was ready to throw in the towel.

I mean, I had just started collecting this music earlier in the summer. While I had already amassed quite a few of the older albums, I still had many more to go. I tried to concentrate the albums released from 1970-80 but the overwhelming amount of new stuff coming really started to discourage me. How was I going to be able to get caught up? It just seemed impossible. It was at this time that I decided to strictly concentrate on the brothers music and leave the sisters to later (if I even cared to begin collecting their music). There was just too much back catalog of Jackson 5, Jacksons, Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson that was much more important to me.

Also, I began to notice certain things in the used record stores. The availability of the older titles started to increase. With the announcement of the Victory tour and album, it seems that everyone in my hometown went through their old records and started selling off anything from the Jacksons that they could find. While this was great for me, it also created a problem. When I first started collecting, I could go to say J&L and look at everything they had available and pick one or two (sometimes three if I had the money) albums and feel pretty confident that the rest of the stuff would still be there the next time I went back (usually the nest week after I got paid). Well, suddenly all three of the used record stores began carrying different titles. While J&L might have had, say Jermaine’s Let’s Get Serious album, Tracks up the street suddenly got in a pristine copy of My Name Is Jermaine and I hadn’t seen any copy of that album floating around since I started collecting. So, I had to make a choice. Pick up My Name Is Jermaine instead of Let’s Get Serious. Sometimes it was an easy decision because it depended on the plentiful availability of certain titles versus others. And, I also noticed that I wasn’t the only person in my hometown that was buying these albums. I had some competition. That meant the race was one. Who would get to the new stock at the used record stores first? Me or the other guy? It was at this time I learned my first lesson of collecting. If you happen to find a rather hard to find album in great shape, then buy it right then and there. Never, ever walk away and hope that it will be there the next time you come back. Because, guess what? It won’t be. This happened to me more than once. The time that stands out in my mind the most is when Tracks had two, TWO, pristine copies of the Michael Jackson Ben ‘rat cover’ album and I passed one up in favor of Jermaine’s first two solo albums. When I went back the next week to get a copy of Ben (even though I already had a copy) both of those ‘rat cover’ albums were gone. At the time I was all that upset about it, but just a year or so later I had done further research and discovered that the ‘rat cover’ was the more valuable cover to have.

Anyway, this isn’t about my adventures on collecting Jackson albums. This is supposed to be about the albums themselves. I said at the top of this article that the 80s were a messy period. Starting my collection in this quagmire certainly didn’t help. On the positive side, by 1985 I would have all of Micheal’s albums, The Jackson’s albums, most of Jermaine’s albums, and most of The Jackson 5’s albums. A few albums, Boogie, Jackie’s solo album, Jermaine’s I Like Your Style and Jermaine albums proved elusive but eventually those would get tracked down.

Ok, so in 1985 the Victory tour is over and everything began to quite down. There would be a blessedly peaceful year with nothing, and I do mean nothing new coming out.

Michael did contribute the song, Eaten Alive to Diana Ross’s album Eaten Alive and he even sang background vocals. A really fun song that I just had to have in my collection.

1986 was also another relatively quiet year. Rebbie released her second album, Reaction and Jermaine Released his second Arista album, Precious Moments.

A few things about Jermaine’s Precious Moments album. First, when the album was first released the song listing on the back of the album was incorrect. Either the songs were listed in the wrong order or there were songs listed that were not on the album. I don’t really recall. However, soon after its initial release, the album started appearing with a sticker on the back covering up the incorrect song list. So, to really find an official first release copy of Precious Moments, you will need to track down a copy without the sticker on the back. Good luck with that. I’ve tried for years to find a copy of the few that got away and so far (to this very day) have yet to run across one. I know that this happened because I actually held an original copy in my hands and saw that there was no sticker. I didn’t buy the album but decided to wait until later. It was, after all, a brand new album and it would be around for a while. Boy was I stupid. By the time I picked up the album, just a few months later, the sticker had already began appearing on the albums.

I think it was at this time that Jermaine really started to bug me. Not only had he released his first Arist album in 1984, but he did duets with Pia Zadora, Whitney Houston and appeared on the Perfect motion picture soundtrack. So, not only did I have to get his two Arista albums, I had to pick up Perfect, Whitney Houston’s first album and the single for When The Rain Begins To Fall with Pia Zadora. Also, Jermaine’s single for the song Do You Remember Me? from the Precious Moments album had the song Watcha Doin’? as a B-side song and it wasn’t available on the album. Sheesh. That’s a lot of Jermaine to find.

Things were pretty quiet in 86 (except for Jermaine) and then look out here comes Janet. She had taken Control. Good grief, Miss Jackson. This album just seemed to come out of nowhere. No one was expecting this. I certainly wasn’t. It did make me sit up and take notice. It was also the first of Janet’s albums that I picked up while it was still in stores. Not a first release copy but pretty close to it. In 1987, Janet would appear on the Herb Alpert album Keep Your Eye On Me. The song Diamonds became a huge hit.

In the middle of all of this mess, LaToya released her fourth album, Imagination. It sank like a stone so finding an original release version was no problem later. It has a picture inner sleeve. Once again, since the album was a poor seller, finding an original release shouldn’t be a problem. I used to see them everywhere.

By 1987 I had moved to Indianapolis and started hitting the used record stores there. I was still searching for the ever elusive Jackie Jackson album and the Boogie album. By that time I thought that those were the only two things I was missing from my collection. That changed when Michael’s Bad album was released.

During the Thriller/Victory period I had picked several different biographies on Michael and I hadn’t read any of them. When Bad came out, I started to really delve into those books and discovered a lot more music that was out there that I hadn’t known about before. Some from the 70s and some from the 80s. It was at this point I really started checking the B-sides to singles and watching movie soundtracks for songs.

Ok, things to look for that are of particular interest to collectors from the Bad album. First there was a picture disc version of Bad released. Some copies came with a poster while others didn’t. I picked up my copy in the stores when it first came out and there was no poster in it. So, the rumor of a poster might be false. I don’t know since I’ve never found a copy with the poster.

The 12” single for I Can’t Stop Loving You has a Spanish version of the song on the B-side.

The CD for Bad came with an extra song, Leave Me Alone. This song would be released as a single but not in the US. However, there are promo 12” singles out there.

The song Liberian Girl was released as a single outside of the US and there are 12” singles with a great picture sleeve out there.

Also, Michael did a duet with Stevie Wonder on his Characters album. The song is called, Get It and it’s quite the little groove. Highly recommended.

In 1987, the Jacksons also released a song call, Time Out For The Burglar from the Burglar movie soundtrack. This would be the last Jacksons recording for a couple of years. Jermaine had a song, All Revved Up, on the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack.

In 1988, Rebbie released her third album R U Tuff Enough. Marlon finally released his first solo album, Baby Tonight. The CD for Baby Tonight contained an extra song, Everyday, Everynight that wasn’t available on the vinyl version. Prior to this, Marlon had a song appear on the Golden Child soundtrack in 86. LaToya released her fifth album, La Toya (again it sank like a stone).

In 1989, Michael was being quiet but the rest of the clan wouldn’t shut up. The amount of releases in 89 rivaled the gluttony of releases in 84.

First, The Jacksons released their final album, 2300 Jackson Street. The single for 2300 Jackson Street contained the non album song When I Look At You on the B-side. Now, When I Look At You is perhaps one of my all time favorite Jacksons songs. It bouncy, catchy and just a lot of fun to listen to. I highly recommend tracking this little gem of a song down.

Jermaine released his Don’t Take It Personal album. He also had a song, Clean Up Your Act, on the I’m Gonna Get You Sucka soundtrack. The single for I’d Like to Get to Know You contained the non album song Spare The Rod, Love The Child on the B-side. These would be the final releases from Jermaine in the 80s.

Jackie released his second solo album, Be The One.

Randy released his first solo album, Randy and The Gypsies.

LaToya released her sixth album, Bad Girl.

And Finally, Janet released Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.

I really thought I was going to lose my mind in 1989.

And I haven’t even mentioned what Motown was doing to in the 80s. So, here goes.

During the Thriller and Victory eras, Motown dug back into their vaults and pulled out a few gems. So, in 1984 the album Farewell My Summer Love was released. These were Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 songs that had been recorded from 1973 to 1975 that were never released.

Then in 1985 or 86, another albums worth of previously unreleased material came from Motown. The album Looking Back To Yesterday: Never Before Released Masters. The interesting thing about this album was it contained the song I Was Born To Love Her that had not been released since the 1979 Boogie album.

In 1987, Motown released The Soul of Michael Jackson. The only new song on this album was the never before released 25 Miles. There was also a newly remixed version of Dancing Machine. The promo version of this album came with a press release, an 8x10 black and white glossy of Michael and a post card announcing the upcoming Stevie Wonder Characters album. Quite a nice collectible if you can find one. I got lucky.

Somewhere along the way, in 1981 or 82 I believe, Motown released an album called Motown Superstars Sing Motown Superstars. The album contained one previously unreleased Jackson 5 song, Ask The Lonely.

So, that now brings us to a few of the off shoot recordings that are out there to be found.

Marlon duets (and produces) with Betty Wright on the song I Promise You from her 1983 album Wright Back At You.

Of course I have to mention the USA For Africa album with We Are The World. What would a list of Jackson recordings from the 80s be without it?

I think, at last, this covers everything from the 80s.

I will probably do a part 3 to cover the 90s but I have to be honest. By 1993 I had pretty much thrown in the towel. The few recordings that I had not been able to track down seemed impossible to find and I didn’t think that I would ever actually find them. It wouldn’t be until the dawn of the Internet that I would revisit my collection and attempt to fill in the missing pieces. By that time, Janet had released a few albums. So had Michael. I just didn’t have the energy to keep up with it all anymore. After almost 10 years of avid collecting, I was running out of steam. I think the final nail in the whole mess were the child molestation charges against Michael. When he settled out of court that first time, I really lost interest. Michael’s History CD was the last thing by him that I bought. I bought a couple more of Janet’s albums after that, but quickly lost interest in her as well. Plus, in 1995, I was 29 years old and had moved to California and my collecting gene focused on other things. Maybe I stopped because The Jacksons as a recording group had finally disbanded. After 2300 Jackson Street, there would be no further new recordings from the brothers as a group and all of them together was what had always been my favorite stuff. The thought of them never recording together again really saddened me. If they were through, then maybe it was time for me to hang it up as well. Who knows? It was perhaps a combination of all of those factors. Whatever the reason, I just stopped.

The more I think about it, I don’t think any of those reasons really apply. I think that it simply boils down to the fact the vinyl was on the way out and I didn’t have a CD player. I mean, in 91 after the release of Michael’s Dangerous album, everything new that came out was on CD and CD only. While had been picking up a few CDs here and there (like Michael’s Bad album and Marlon’s Baby Tonight album) I was still clinging to vinyl. I hate format changes and I fought every step of the way. I just didn’t want to have to convert my entire collection to CD. It had taken me years to collect the library of music that I had. The thought of re-buying everything on CD just didn’t sit well with me. Plus the cost to repurchase everything was, in my opinion, a waste of money since I still had a turntable and could listen to my records. If I wanted to have the music in a more portable format, I simply made cassettes of my records and listened to the tapes. That helped to preserve my records from any further wear and tear. I did finally make the leap to CD, but I did it very grudgingly. Once I decided to invest in CDs, it would only be for the new releases. I would not, and did not duplicate any of my records on CD. Until recently.

I will say, here it is 2009 and I have revisited the Jacksons and their music and discovered how much I still enjoy several of those older albums. Most of the stuff from 1970-80 hold up very well today. Plus, I have also purchased the entire group catalog on CD. Every Jackson 5 and Jacksons albums. I still love many, many of them and I’m glad that I have them on CD. A part 3? Maybe. It would take some serious research to figure out what has been released since 1991.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Collceting The Jacksons Music - pt. 1: The 70s

I’ve recently taken the time and effort to purchase all of The Jackson 5 and Jacksons albums on CD. It has been almost 20 years since I last listened to several of these albums and I must say that more than a few still hold up as great music today.

To get a bit of history out of the way for the uninformed. The Jackson 5 first signed with Motown records in the summer of 1969. The deal was actually struck in November of 1968, but Motown had to buy out The Jackson 5’s deal with Gary, Indiana based Steeltown records before they could begin recording for Motown. The buy out was finalized in March of 1969 and recording began that summer. While at Motown, The Jackson 5 recorded 12 albums (plus one greatest hits collection), Michael recorded 4 albums (plus one greatest hits collection), Jackie recorded 1 album and Jermaine recorded 9 albums (2 while his brothers were still with Motown and 7 after they left Motown). In 1976 in an effort to have more creative control over their music, Michael, Marlon, Randy, Jackie and Tito signed with CBS/Epic records and Jermaine remained with Motown.

Renamed The Jacksons, the brothers released another 7 albums. The group officially disbanded in 1990. Michael, of course, went on to bigger heights as a solo artist with the release of the 1979 masterpiece Off The Wall. However, The Jacksons also release two albums that are considered masterpieces. The 1978 release Destiny and the 1980 release Triumph. Both albums are now considered classic albums and have received anniversary edition releases on CD.

I’ve been collecting Jacksons music since about 1984. It all began with my first purchase of The Jackson 5 album Lookin’ Through The Windows. To this very day, that album is still my favorite Jackson 5 album. I spent most of the late 80s and early 90s completely immersed in Jacksons music. I would guess that by 1987, I had managed to find every Michael Jackson, Jackson 5, Jacksons, and Jermaine Jackson albums. True, there were a couple that still seemed to elude me, but I was actively seeking them at all costs. Around that same time, I started to do some serious research on the Jackson family and their musical legacy. I discovered several songs and performances that appeared on other albums (mostly movie soundtracks). Of course, that became the next phase of my collection. These ‘odd’ recordings would take me years to track down and acquire. Some, like the Steeltown singles, I wouldn’t have in my hands until the next century, but in the end I would obtain them.

So, long before the days of the Internet, I used to haul my cookies to record shows, used record stores (usually all over the country) in the search for those ever elusive recordings. With the advent of the Internet, the few recordings that I still hadn’t tracked down I found easily in places like eBay and Amazon. Now, I believe that I have every officially released recording by Michael, Marlon, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Randy. And just for the record, while I do collect the sisters (Janet, LaToya and Rebbie) albums, they are not the main focus of my collection. It started with the brothers and they are what I am the most interested in. And just for the record, there are a few of LaToya’s albums that I don’t have and at least one of Rebbie’s. Additionally, Janet has recorded several songs with other artists that do not appear on her albums and I don’t have those songs in my collection. I also know that several of Janet’s albums contain additional songs that were released overseas but do not appear on the US versions of those same albums. Those songs are also not contained within my collection. Let’s face it, after a while it just got to be too much to keep up with all nine Jacksons and their various recordings. So, I just kept my focus on the brothers.

What I’d like to do at this point is give a few helpful hints and suggestions to other collectors. This first of two blogs will concentrate on the 70s output of Jacksons music. Keep in mind, that any collection depends on the particular taste of the collector and may or may not reflect everything that may be available out there to collect. For example, I know of several collectors that wish to have every version of say the single, Beat It, that was released all over the world. I have never really been one to collect picture sleeves nor have I felt the need to have a single for a song that is already on an album that I own. Also, 12” singles and various remixes have never been a great focus for me. Now I do like to have the 12” singles that were released to DJs in the 70’s just because I ike having the disco versions of the songs, but they are not something that I actively seek out. Plus, in the 70s, the 12” version of a particular song was just the album version pressed on 12” single so to me they just never really added all that much to my collection.

Also, I am dividing this blog into two sections. The Motown years and the CBS years and it will stop with the 1980 release of the Triumph album. All of the albums discussed here will be the original US releases unless specifically noted.

The Motown Years (1970-75)

Ok, collecting The Jackson 5, Jermaine, Michael and Jackie albums from the Motown years is not an easy thing. First of all, I like to have original release copies of all of the albums (and I am talking vinyl albums) in my collection. Mainly because the vinyl used in the early 70s was still of good quality and the albums sound better and are much more sturdy. Additionally, over the years certain aspects of the albums changed. Certain albums that were released and gatefold albums changed to non gatefold albums. More on this later. Finally, original release versions of the early Motown albums is problematic just due to the way they were constructed. More often than not, the early album covers were made of thicker cardboard with the paper picture wrapped over the cardboard. Then the back picture was glued on to cover up the folded over sections of the front picture. This is the most distinguishing characteristic of the early albums and it makes them easier to spot. The only real drawback to these early covers is the fact that the covers tend to show wear and tear much easier than later versions. In my search I was able to find several original release copies of The Jackson 5 Third Album, but the covers were really worn and haggard so I kept looking until I found an almost pristine copy of the album.

The nice thing about Motown was that they kept almost all of their entire catalog of past albums in print. Some, like certain Supremes albums, had been in print for close to 20 years or more before they made the switch to CD. So, the albums on vinyl are readily available and easy to track down. Original release versions on the other hand are not so easy to find. Of the Jackson 5 albums, The Christmas Album, Goin’ Back To Indiana, Third Album and Moving Violation are perhaps the most difficult to track down. I searched for years to find an original release of Moving Violation. Now since 90% of the Motown catalog was in print until around until the late 80s or early 90s, these versions are easy to spot. They all have a little white box on the back that lists the original release dates. So, if any Motown album in your collection has this white box, then you have a re-release copy of that album. It should be noted that these white boxes didn’t start appearing on reprint albums until the 80s.

The major drawback to having most of the Motown catalog in print for so many years, is that Motown usually didn’t take the time or effort to strike new masters for pressing. The overall sound quality of later Motown albums tend to suffer from the loss of some of the lower and higher end frequencies. So, the sound is not a crisp and sharp as it once was and some of the more softer instruments and vocals tend to have just faded away. This is the main reason that I chose to only have original release versions of The Jackson 5 albums in my collection. I waned the full spectrum of the music as it was heard when it was first released.

Motown did do a few special things with some of The Jackson 5 albums that should be noted. The albums Maybe Tomorrow and Goin’ Back to Indiana are gatefold albums. Both were later re-released as single non gatefold albums. Also, the Maybe Tomorrow album contained a unique inner sleeve that had lots of J5 merchandise like stickers, pictures, posters, magazines (TCB the official magazine of the J5) and offers to join the fan clubs for each of the boys in the group. Some of the prices for these items is really a gas to see. 25 cents for 100 heart shaped stickers featuring group and individual pictures of the J5. $1.00 to be Jackie Jackson’s soul mate. Ah, to be able to go back in time and take advantage of those offers.

To spot an original release version of The Jackson 5 Greatest Hits (with the new song Sugar Daddy), look for the perforation on the front cover of the album. The original release let you punch out the picture of The Jackson 5 so you could hang it on the wall. The picture frame around the picture is also textured. It’s bumpy and kind of feels like a real picture frame. The inner sleeve is another unique sleeve. Expanding on the inner sleeve from Maybe Tomorrow, you can now order stationary and other items not only for The Jackson 5 but several other Motown groups and singers. With the release of this album, Motown began to shift from thick heavy vinyl to a more floppy type of vinyl. In fact, the vinyl for the J5 Greatest Hits is so floppy that it can almost be bent in two without damaging the record itself. I wouldn’t recommend trying this. This type of really floppy vinyl must have been sort lived experiment, because the rest of the J5 albums are a much more sturdy vinyl. The original release of the Get It Together album featured a die-cut cover and picture inner sleeve. The reprint version just has the letters G-I-T on the cover in red instead of the die-cut.

The other albums, Lookin’ Through The Windows, Dancing Machine, and Moving Violation don’t have much in the way of distinct features that easily separate the original release versions from the reprints. The only thing that I was able to use to judge the difference was the type of vinyl used for the records. Also, the albums usually said ‘Also available on Motown cassette and 8-track tapes.’ While this isn’t all that important in determining an original release copy, it should be noted that later copies didn’t have the ‘8-track’ listed as an option. So, if you find a copy of say Dancing Machine, and it does state as being available on 8-track, then you have a copy that is at least from the 70s.

There are three Jackson 5 albums from Motown that are considered (at least at one time they were) rare and hard to find. Those are the 1976 album Joyful Juke
Box Music (the only album to be creditied to The Jackson 5 featuring Michael Jackson), the 1973 In Japan (a live album) album and the ultra rare 1979 Boogie album. Of these three albums, Joyful Jukebox Music is the easiest to find. It was part of the original Jackson 5 Motown catalog for years. Thus it was reprinted several times until Motown switched to CD. So, it is out there, but these days it might take a bit of effort to track down a copy on vinyl. The In Japan album was until the advent of the Internet, virtually an unheard of album to most US collectors. I had never heard of the album nor did I ever run across any reference to it in the many, many books I read on the Jacksons. It was quite a surprise to read about it in the liner notes for the 2 disc Jackson 5 Anthology CD set (2000 edition) that contained one track from the album. So, of course I had to start hitting eBay to get a copy. The Japan album also came with a poster but I have never seen what the poster looks like. My copy didn’t have the poster but it had all of the other original materials inside. This live album is, in my estimation, even more rare and hard to find than the Boogie album.

A little history on the Boogie album. Like the Joyful Jukebox Music album (which was released at the same time the album The Jacksons was released on Epic), in 1978 The Jacksons released their mega hit album Destiny. So, to take advantage of the momentum created by that album, Motown reached into their vaults and pulled out 7 previously unreleased songs and three hits and put together the Boogie album. Released on Motown’s smaller Natural Resources label, the album sold very few copies and there was only the initial printing of the album (maybe only a few thousand copies at best). So, until the Internet, this album was almost impossible to find. It took me years to find a copy and at the time it cost me a whopping $65.00. Plus it was still sealed so that was a plus. Well, truth be told, the album didn’t cost me a dime. It was a Christmas gift from my boyfriend at the time. He bought me this album and another hard to find album (which I’ll discuss a bit later). Now, with the advent of the Internet (and the release of it on CD) the album is a bit easier to find but it is still pricey. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t seen a copy of Boogie pop up on eBay in quite a while so perhaps what little supply there was has now dried up again. Who knows?

Ok, a special note about the second Jackson 5 album, ABC. Finding an original release copy of this album simply drove me up a tree for years. The main problem for me was actually determining what an actual original release copy looked like. I had assumed that like the Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 and the Third Album, ABC had also incorporated the thicker cardboard with the paper wrap around covers. Apparently this is not the case. It’s really not surprising as Motown with several different types of album covers. So, for some reason Motown decided to have the ABC album cover printed directly onto the thinner cardboard, cut, folded and glued together. Much like the process that most albums that were printed in the mid to late 70s. There are even examples of this type of cover on a couple of late 60s albums. A Supremes and Temptations album from 67 or 68, I believe, used this type of cover since the outer part of the cover could be detached to hang on the wall. Likewise the 1970 album Right On by the Supremes (the first album minus Diana Ross) also used this type of cover. So, it was not uncommon for Motown to use this type of cover for other albums, but it was (at the time) much more expensive and time consuming to produce versus the older wrap around type of cover. Eventually, I was able to obtain an older printing (if not an original release copy) of the ABC album. The cover has a rough type of texture versus the smooth glossy feel of the other albums. Also, the vinyl of the copy I found was quite heavy and thick like the Diana Ross Presents album. Eventually, I conclude that I had indeed found an original release copy of the album. I’m still looking to see if I can find a copy of the album with the wrap around paper cover but to this very day I have yet to find one.

The final Jackson 5 album released by Motown was the three record set Anthology from 1976. This quite literally contained every single released by The Jackson 5 plus all of the solo singles from Jermaine, Michael and Jackie plus various album cuts and favorites covering the Jacksons entire time with Motown. A nice collection to have, but really not necessary to complete a collection as everything on the album had been previously released.

Now the solo albums from the Motown years are just a unique and distinctive as the group albums.

Let’s start with Jackie Jackson’s 1973 solo album. This is by far the rarest and most sought after solo album from the Motown years. Like the Boogie album, Jackie’s (poor Jackie) solo album sold very few copies and had the only the initial printing. However, unlike the Boogie album, Jackie’s album is much more plentiful. While Boogie may have had only a one time printing of say 5,000 copies, Jackie’s album was expected to sell better so there may be 20,000 copies floating around out there. Now those numbers are just speculative as I don’t really know exactly how may were printed but there were more of Jackie’s album than Boogie. So, if you find a copy of Jackie’s album you are 100% guaranteed to have an original release copy of the album. I have only ever run across one copy of it in a used record store and I bought it. While I already had a copy of the album, I knew how rare it was and since the record (and cover) were in really great shape, I figured $3.00 was worth it. My first copy was a still sealed promo copy that I got for Christmas when I got the Boogie album. This particular album cost my boyfriend $55.00. He found both Jackie Jackson and Boogie at a store in California that specialized in out of print records. He got lucky in the fact that he was able to purchase the very last copies of each album that they had. That was a great Christmas.

Now, for Michael’s five albums. His first album, Got To Be There. The only way to tell an original release from the reprints is buy the cover and the record itself. Once again, the cover was thick cardboard with wrap around type of paper and the record is, again, thick heavy vinyl. There were lots and lots of these albums sold so finding an original version should be quite easy. The Ben album is another issue all together. There are two different covers for this album. The first release has a picture of stampeding rats on the lower half of the album cover. All other releases omits this portion and has just the full picture of Michael on the cover. Personally, I don’t like the ‘rat’ cover. I prefer the second pressing that has just the picture of Michael. The ‘rat’ cover can be a bit pricey but if you search hard enough, a copy can be had for under $40.00. I have both versions only because I ran across a copy of the ‘rat’ cover in great shape at a great price. Otherwise I was quite happy with my second printing version (which I still consider an original release version).

Michael’s third and fourth albums contain some distinct telltale signs to separate the original releases versus the reprints. The Music and Me album has a distinctive textured cover. The reprint versions have a smooth cover. The Forever Michael album, the original was a gatefold album and the reprints are not. Easy enough.

The final Michael solo album on Motown was a greatest hits album and it was released after Michael had already left Motown. The only way to tell an original release version is by the vinyl. Look for that slightly heavier vinyl. Also, again this album was reprinted for years so look for the ‘8-track’ wording and the absence of the white box with the original release date. This album is perhaps the most worthless. There are no new tracks and every song was previously release on the preceding four albums so there really isn’t any reason to have this album in the collection other than for completion purposes.

Now since only Got To Be There and Ben have been released on CD (now long out of print) as double CD (two albums on one disc), these albums have become big collector’s items. Music and Me and Forever Michael have (at least to my knowledge) never been released on CD here in the US. This makes these two albums very highly sought after by fans and collectors.

Jermaine had a long recording career with Motown. His most prolific years were after his brothers moved to CBS in 1976. However, in 1972 and 1973 there were two solo albums released for Jermaine. The first was titled Jermaine and contained the single Daddy’s Home. The second was Come Into My Life and contained the single That How Love Goes. Both of Jermaine’s first two albums are gatefold albums. Jermaine’s first post Jackson 5 album is the 1976 album My Name Is Jermaine. This album is also a gatefold album. All three albums were later reprinted as non gatefold albums. Aside from the heavy vinyl, this is the only way to differentiate the original release from the reprints.

Jermaine’s 1977-1980 albums are a bit more difficult. There really are not any distinctive about any of the albums. The only way to really tell is by the vinyl of the records themselves. However, it should be noted that by 1977 or 1978 Motown was moving to the thinner vinyl less expensive vinyl that other record companies of the time were using. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind about Jermaine’s solo albums post Jackson 5. The didn’t sell well. My Name Is Jermaine, Feel The Fire and Frontiers were major disappointments. Of those three albums, probably only My Name Is Jermaine went into multiple printings. The song Let’s Be Young Tonight was a hit in the discos but other than that, the album sank like a stone. Feel The Fire and Frontiers didn’t even chart on the Pop charts and barely made the R&B charts. Finally in 1979, Let’s Get Serious came out and Jermaine started having more respectable chart success. The trend continued with the 1980 release, Jermaine. Both Let’s Get Serious and Jermaine did go into multiple printings and I’ve seen later versions of both albums with the usual white box on the back. The only way that I’ve been able to determine older printings is by the ‘available on 8-track’ thing on the back. Frontiers sold so poorly that chances are if you can find a copy in good shape then you are getting an original release version. Feel the Fire is a bit more dicey. It did get reprinted long enough to have the white box original release date thingy on the back, but by the mid 80s the album was pretty much gone.

Jermaine’s final two Motown albums I Like Your Style and Let Me Tickle Your Fancy were once again low charters but they sold enough copies that they are out there to be found. As these are 80s albums, they will be discussed in the second part of this blog when I discuss the Jacksons music of the 80s.

With the lack of CDs for almost all of Jermaine’s Motown albums, several of the vinyl albums have become hot collectors items.

The final things released during the Motown years consists of B-side songs that were not available on any albums and a few other albums that contain songs and performances not found anywhere else. The following list is for the avid collector and believe me, tracking some of these down will take a bit of work. With the help of eBay and Amazon finding them should be a lot easier then when I was trying to find them. Anyway, here goes.

Motown at the Hollywood Palace (1970). This has the Jackson 5 singing a live medley of Sing A Simple Song/Can You Remember and their single I Want You Back. The medley portion was finally released on CD with The Jackson 5 Anthology (2000 edition).

Save The Children (1973) Motion Picture Soundtrack. This contains a live version of the Michael Jackson solo hit I Wanna Be Where You Are as performed by The Jackson 5. If you have ever seen the clip of Don Cornelius introducing ‘the mighty, mighty Jackson 5,’ then you have seen a clip from this movie. I’ve never seen the entire film or even the Jackson 5 portion of the film, but from what I was able to gather this is a concert film to benefit a children’s charity or foundation. The entire album is a live recording of portions of this concert.

Diana! (1971) TV Soundtrack of Diana Ross’s first TV special. It contains two live performances by The Jackson 5. Look for a gatefold cover to get an original release copy of this album.

Mahagony (1975) Soundtrack. One song by Jermaine, She's The Ideal Girl.

Pop We Love You (1979). An album by Motown stars dedicated to the memory of Berry Gordy’s father. It contains a duet with Jermaine Jackson and Tata Vega.

I Lost My Love In The Big City (1973). This is the B-side song to Jermaine’s That’s How Love Goes single. This song was never released on any of Jermaine’s solo albums.

Love Song (1972). This the B-side song from The Jackson 5’s Lookin’ Through The Windows single. This song was not released on any Jackson 5 album but was later released on CD in the 2000 edition of The Jackson 5 Anthology and the CD of Goin’ Back To Indiana/Lookin’ Through The Windows.

I’m So Happy (1972). This is the B-side song from The Jackson 5’s Sugar Daddy single. This song was not released on any Jackson 5 album but was later released on CD in the 2000 edition of The Jackson 5 Anthology and the CD of Third Album/Maybe Tomorrow.

Additionally for the avid collector there are cardboard cut out records from the back of cereal boxes. There are two different versions. One has a picture of The Jackson 5 on the record itself. I believe that these were from the back of Alpha-bits boxes. There were five different songs released. The second set of cereal box records were from the back of Honey Comb cereal boxes. At least I believe that they were. I don’t recall off the top of my head. There were three different songs released. These do not contain a picture of The Jackson 5.

So, this constitutes the bulk of music released by The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson and Jackie Jackson during their years at Motown.

The CBS Years (1976-80)

Well, let’s start with the very first album from 1976, The Jacksons. This is a gatefold album. The record itself has the orange Epic label. Epic would change their label to the more familiar dark blue with the silver logo in 1978. However, all reprints of this album continued to use the orange label. I don’t know why, but it did. Also, all reprints continued to be gatefold covers. This makes it very hard to find an original release copy of this album. As there aren’t really any distinctive features to this album that wasn’t continually reprinted, I just picked up the first excellent copy that I could find. I may or may not have an original release copy in my collection. I’ve never been able to tell. The sound quality on the record itself is great and the quality of the vinyl used is good, so I’m not really sure what edition I may have. Distinguishing original release copies of the later CBS/Epic releases would be much easier than this album.

The Jacksons second album Goin’ Places (1977) was once again a gatefold cover with the orange Epic label. Now, the way to tell an original release copy from reprint copies is by the inner sleeve. If the album contains an inner sleeve with the song lyrics then that is an original release copy. All subsequent reprints have a plain white inner sleeve.

This is a trait that would continue throughout the rest of The Jacksons releases on Epic. All of their albums would have distinctive inner sleeves. Most with the song lyrics. Destiny (1978) and Triumph (1980) all had the song lyrics printed on the inner sleeves.

However, Michael Jackson’s 1979 Off The Wall album did not contain a special inner sleeve. While the album was a gatefold cover, the gatefold itself had the song lyrics. The inner sleeve on all copies was a plain white inner sleeve. Quite a problem when trying to track down an original release copy. The only thing that I’ve been able to distinguish original prints versus reprints is the song Rock With You. After several pressings, the finger snaps in the song can’t be heard. Again, the lower and higher end sound frequencies seem to suffer the most from continued re-use of the same masters. So, what I ultimately chose to do was purchase the half-speed master version of the album that was released in the early to mid 80s. This was a series of albums that CBS released that used very high quality vinyl and mastered at half-speed in order to insure an almost CD like sound quality to the album. Quite frankly, this version of Off The Wall is the best copy that you will ever find on vinyl. The music would not be heard this clearly until it was re-mastered again for CD. These half-speed master versions were geared toward the record collector with superior sound systems that wanted to get the full range of sound out of their records. So, at the time, these records cost almost twice the price of a standard release of the same album. In today’s record collecting market they can fetch a hefty price and are highly sought. Another nice aspect of these half-speed master versions was that CBS reprinted each of the albums as they were originally released. Including any special inner sleeves. The covers, however, did contain the ‘half-speed master’ logo on them so they are quite easy to spot.

There were a few interesting items released for The Jacksons on CBS. First and foremost, in the mid to late 70s, record companies started to produce ‘collectors’ items. Things like colored vinyl versions of albums as well as picture discs of albums. The Jacksons received two picture disc versions of their first two albums.

The picture disc for The Jacksons album has the same picture of the group on both sides. I don’t have a copy of this picture disc and I’ve never even seen one in person. I have seen a picture of the disc in a book called Picture Discs of the World but have never actually held one in my hands.

There is also a picture disc version of the Goin’ Places album. This comes in a brick red cardboard cover with a large circular die-cut to show off the picture disc. The picture disc has the cover of the regular album on both sides. Nothing really spectacular, but attempting to track one of these down today if rather difficult. I did see one on eBay recently and the seller had it as a ‘Buy It Now’ and the price was well over $100.00. I guess I was lucky to have found one at a used record store for the outrageous price of $25.00 in the late 80s.

Also, it should be mentioned that the 1978 soundtrack album for The Wiz features one song from Michael Jackson and the Ease on Down the Road duet with Diana Ross. This was the only off shoot recording by any of the brothers during their late 70s time at CBS.

Jermaine’s mid to late 70s output at Motown is discussed above so I won’t restate it here.

In 1977 Randy Jackson began working on a solo album, but the album was shelved after Randy was in an auto accident. However, there was one single released. The single for How Can I Be Sure was released on CBS/Epic records. This single has not only become a Jackson brothers collectable but a Janet Jackson collectable. The B-side song A Love Song For Kids is a duet with Janet and Randy and this song is the very first recorded song by Janet Jackson. As this single was the only thing released from Randy’s aborted solo album it is quite rare. However, with a bit of patience they can be found on eBay often. A friend happened to find a copy of the single at a flea market several years ago and gave it to me. He knew I was a Jacksons collector and picked it up just because it happened to be a Jacksons record. What he didn’t know was how long I had been searching for that particular record. I got very lucky with that record.

I guess I should mention the few 12” singles that are out there to be found. Now, I have only collected 12” singles from the 70s if they contain a version of the song that is not available on the album. If the 12” single is the same as the album version of the song, then I didn’t waste my time.

There are three 12” singles that I feel are worth tracking down. First is the 12” single for Blame It On The Boogie (1978). The extended disco mix to this song is quite excellent. The 12” single for Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground) is…well…a bit of a problem. There were two versions released. Once version is just the album version on 12” and the other is a remix version called ‘European Version’. I have both versions and both are quite easy to find on eBay. The Blame It On The Boogie 12” single on the other hand is a bit more troublesome to track down but it is out there. The third special disco mix 12” single to look for is Walk Right Now. Again, the 12” disco mix is quite excellent and well worth tracking down.

I also managed to find 12” singles for You Can’t Win (Michael’s song from The Wiz) and Ease On Down The Road (also from the Wiz). Both of these 12” singles contain disco mixes to the songs not found on the album. As to how hard these are to find, I couldn’t begin to guess. It did take me quite a few years of searching to track them down, but with the Internet today, they may not be all that hard to locate.

So, that is pretty much the entire 70s output of Jacksons music. If you do choose to start or upgrade your collection I wish you the best of luck. It took me years and years to acquire all of the albums and singles I have mentioned in this blog.

I suppose I should mention the famous Steeltown singles. Yes, I do have them and it did take me decades to find them. Eventually, thanks to eBay I got my hands on all three of them. The singles were Big Boy/You’ve Changed, We Don’t Have To Be Over 21/Jam Session. These were actually released on Steeltown. Atco re-released We Don’t Have To Be Over 21 with the previously unreleased song Some Girls Just Want Me For Their Lover on the B-side.

If you are a really adventurous collector you might try tracking down an album titled Getting Together With The Jackson 5. This album also contains the Atco release of We Don’t Have To Be Over 21 single complete with the B-side as the first two cuts on the album. The rest of the album contains songs by other groups. I don’t recall who else is on the album. I had never heard of the album until I ran across a copy of it (for $1.00) at an antique mall around 1994. When I found the album I casually picked it up and turned it over to see what was on it. Imagine my shock to see two Steeltown songs on the album. In fact I think my roommate (who was shopping with me at the time) had to remind me to breathe. I just stood there not believing my eyes. This was my very first copy of any of the Steeltown songs on vinyl. I already had a tape of three of the five songs so I was already familiar with the music.

Now, when looking for the Steeltown songs (which have now been released on several CD compilations) do not be fooled by the song Let Me Carry Your Schoolbooks and its B-side I Never Had A Girl by a group called Ripples and Waves Plus Michael. This is not The Jackson 5 and these are not Jackson 5 Steeltown recordings. While they do sound a lot like The Jackson 5, these are songs by an entirely different group. I don’t recall how these became to be thought of as Jackson 5 songs but they are not The Jackson 5. While Michael Jackson did provide the lead vocals on these songs, the band is an entirely different group. So, in a way, yes, they are part of the whole Jacksons recording history, they are not by The Jackson 5. I believe that the story behind these two songs are bit more complicated but at the moment I am unable to track down any concrete information. There used to be a web site called J5 Collector that had a great article about these two songs and how they came to be thought of as Jackson 5 songs, but the site is no longer around.

So, now in part two of this blog we move into the 80s.