Monday, January 28, 2008

Jackie Jackson - s/t

In October 1973, big brother Jackie decided to step up to the plate to release his own solo project following the lead of siblings Michael & Jermaine. The outcome resulted in one of the most overlooked and undervalued soul albums of all time. When most folks mention The Jackson 5 the first thing that comes to most folks' mind is "bubblegum soul". Anyone who may have written Jackie's self-titled debut off as just another teeny-bopper disc clearly missed the boat. What the album turned out to be was a glimpse at a maturing Jackie stepping out to try his hand at a more adult style. Listening to the album, paying attention close to its production and vocal delivery, you might find it easy to make comparisons between Jackson and many of the falsetto-fueled acts of the day like The Delfonics, Eddie Holman or The Stylistics. Who knows, maybe that's part of the reason the LP stalled before reaching the status it deserves. My theories (yes, I have more than one about what could've gone awry) go like this...

[Sidebar: Bear in mind, I was still in diapers when this all happened so this is all speculation and I could be totally off-base here.]

For your consideration...

Theorem 1) Too Much of a Good Thing?
In 1973, Motown issued Jackie's album along with the three other Jackson-Motown projects that year; Michael's Music & Me, Jermaine's Come Into My Life, and the group's LP Skywriter. One can see that Motown was really trying to flood the market with Jackson product and repeat the successes it had doing the same just the year before. Now the Jackson 5 was basically marketed towards a pre- to mid-teen audience and while that age group is statistically shown to have the most disposable income, maybe expecting a 12 year old girl to go out & scarf up 4 albums with her hard-earned baby-sitting money was a bit too unrealistic.

Theorem 2) For Whom was this Album Truly Intended?
If someone in 1973 looking for the average "Jackson 5 sound" were to buy Jackie's album and realize they'd wound up with a ballad-heavy, Delfonics-sound-alike record instead, that might make for some disappointed listeners. Perhaps this new direction Jackie's producers decided to take strayed too far from what their core audience was used to. On the other side of the coin, coming right after hits like "Little Bitty Pretty One", "Got To Be There" & "Rockin' Robin" perhaps the freshly reinforced stigma of "bubblegum" was firmly stuck in the minds of the post-teen to adult record buying public and seeing the name Jackie Jackson emblazoned across the front of an album cover coupled with little to no promotion from the label to help showcase this new side of Jackson wasn't doing the trick to attract an older ear who might be more appreciative of and receptive to a more sophisticated sound.

While an argument could be made that Jermaine's debut solo album issued one year prior seemed to go for a more adult sound, yet still sold well; there are major difference between each projects that invalidate the point. Jermaine already had an excellent head start as a solo act since he was already being viewed as a strong secondary lead within the group. Jackie never had a solo number or sang more than one or two lead lines at best. Another thing to keep in mind was that Jermaine's solo project had the magnificent Motown Marketing Machine behind it. Promotion for his album was well orchestrated and played a key role in it's market performance. At radio, Jermaine had two singles generating a buzz, Jackie never even got one. In concerts and appearances, Jermaine was given a spotlight to perform songs from his album. Heck, the family was featured in an entire episode of Soul Train where Jermaine was featured in his own segment to promote his set complete with a short film and an extra interview with Don Cornelius.

Theories aside, the fact remains, that due very little promotion and no single releases, Jackson's sole Motown solo album quickly became rack job fodder. My sister nabbed her copy (now mine) for a whopping 88 cents at Mays department store in NY back in '76 or '77.

[Sidebar: C'mon you remember rack jobs right?? Those record racks you used to see at your local drug store, car wash or supermarket that had the albums with the corners chopped off or had saw marks or holes cut thru the jackets??... No??.... Never mind, I think just dated myself.]

Even though no official singles were issued, the cut, "Love Don't Wanna Leave" has popped up on several Jackson 5 comps over the years. Three times to be exact. The first being 1976's Anthology set, the second appearance was on the original CD reissue of the same set again in 1986 (it was left off the 2000 re-reissue). The third and final chance to get the track was on the 1995 25th Anniversary boxed set, Soulsation. All three compilations are currently out of print. Way to go Motown!!!

This album hasn't been reissued in any format as far as I know but if you're in the market for your own copy, you can usually find one pretty reasonably priced here or even here.

Featured cut: "Love Don't Want To Leave"


Anonymous said...

great job! i enjoyed reading all of this!!!

Anonymous said...

They're all so talented! We all know they're beautiful, can sing perfect harmony & dance that 'Jackson Jive'. But everything was always so focused on Michael. Michael was of course the star of the J5. But that shouldn't dismiss the other boys. The media were unfair to the other Jackson brothers and when they released their solo stuff - they were always 'the other brothers'. I mean Jackie can sang baby! He's got soul & his albums were HOT. He deserved better than he got.

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