The Essential Jacksons

The Jackson 5

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The Essential Jacksons Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

The first thing to realize about Epic/Legacy's The Essential Jacksons is that it's a collection of the Jacksons, not the Jackson 5. Which means that none of the group's hits for Motown in the early '70s are here -- it's everything that came afterward, when the group signed to Epic/Philadelphia International (soon to be just Epic) and changed its name to the Jacksons. In other words, it's their disco and funk material, highlighted by the singles "Enjoy Yourself," "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," "Lovely One," "This Place Hotel," "Can You Feel It," and the post-Thriller hit duet with Mick Jagger, "State of Shock." While this material may not be as irresistible or timeless as the Motown material -- nor is it as transcendent as Michael Jackson's solo album Off the Wall, which was done in this style, only better -- the best of the singles ("Shake Your Body" and "Can You Feel It" in particular) stand among the group's best work, and this is the best way to hear it. After all, prior to this collection in 2004, there was no good CD-era compilation of the Jacksons' late-'70s/early-'80s recordings, and this fills that absence very well, containing all the charting hits, usually in their full-length album versions. As an overview of this often-overlooked era in the Jacksons and Michael Jackson's career, this is first-rate.

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