The Jackson 5 – The Ultimate Collection (1996): On Second Thought

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Rare is the group that appeals to both squealing girls and picky critics, but such was the Jackson 5.

Formed 1964 in Gary, Indiana, the band of siblings, whose ages ranged from 13 to 6, honed their skills and paid their dues playing local gigs before landing their big break early in 1969 when signing a deal with the Motown label. Comprised of Michael Jackson on lead vocals, Tito on vocals and guitar, Jermaine on vocals and bass, Jackie on vocals and tambourine, and Marlon on vocals and tambourine, the Jackson 5 may have been kids, but they were extremely talented and professional. Come 1975, the youngest brother of the brood, Randy, was recruited on drums.

The years 1969-75 belonged to the Jackson 5, and The Ultimate Collection (Motown Records) duly concentrates on this period. The one exception is the group’s remixed version of “It’s Your Thing” from 1995. Originally written and waxed by the Isley Brothers, the Jackson 5 recorded the song in 1969, but never received a proper release until appearing on Soulstation! The 25th Anniversary Collection in 1995. The Jackson 5’s initial take of “It’s Your Thing” is included on The Ultimate Collection as well.

Assembled in chronological order, The Ultimate Collection traces the Jackson 5’s evolution from teenybopper tuneage to innovative brilliance. Combining springy and sparkly bubblegum bliss with shrewd soul seasonings, “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” “Mama’s Pearl” and “Sugar Daddy” sound like the Archies having a fling with the Four Tops. Snapped tight with inflated harmonies and hooks incisive enough to cut right through the vinyl, it’s easy to hear how these songs invaded the charts and rewarded the Jackson 5 with a devoted congregation of fans.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles are credibly revisited on an adaption of “Who’s Lovin’ You,” while “I’ll Be There” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” further press the Jackson 5’s flair for unfurling emotionally wired musings, radiating with empathy and conviction. The genesis of disco music can be experienced on “Dancing Machine,” and obviously titled “The Life of the Party” shuffles and shakes to a festive groove. Punching in at nearly eight minutes in length is the absolutely spellbinding “I Am Love, Pts. 1 & 2,” which starts out on calm and quiet footing before blowing up into a funky hard rocking jam of power and perspiration. Solo offerings from Michael and Jermaine additionally fatten the package.

Sporting a sure and solid blend of soul, funk, pop and rock, the Jackson 5 transcended time, space, and barriers. Although it certainly requires more than one person to cement a group, there’s no question Michael was the star of the show. Aside from his unbelievably potent and heartfelt vocals, he was an amazing dancer and those fortunate enough to catch the Jackson 5 live never hesitate to comment on how entertaining and energetic they were.

Of course, Michael’s solo career skyrocketed something crazy and brought in billions, which calls for another chapter altogether. But for a glimpse of the grand genesis, The Ultimate Collection stands as a swell sample. The Jackson 5 were a great group, and here’s the evidence.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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