iMusic: The sound of silver anniversaries
By Gregg Shapiro
You have to pity poor Michael Jackson. As if an early death (at 50 in 2009) wasn’t probably already in the cards for the eternal child star, the King of Pop had the daunting task of following up his bazillion selling Thriller album. While 1987’s Bad fell short of what came before it, including Jackson’s previous Quincy Jones collaborations Off The Wall (1979) and the aforementioned Thriller (1982), it wasn’t , well, half bad.
The newly reissued deluxe (3 CD/1 DVD) 25th anniversary edition of Bad (MJJ Productions/ Epic/Legacy) consists of a remastered version of the original album, a disc of rare and unreleased tracks (such as French and Spanish version of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and the bizarre and controversial “Song Groove (aka Abortion Papers),” among others), the live CD/DVD from Jackson’s July 1988 Wembley concert, a pair of booklets, a sticker and a poster.
Bad opens with the title track, retaining the MJ-as-tough-guy spirit of “Beat It” from Thriller. “The Way You Make Me Feel” a well-deserved hit single is a triumph, but “Speed Demon” hints at the hiccup singing style that Jackson unfortunately mined until his death. While “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” also ranks among his best (listen to him sing!), the inexplicably popular “Man in the Mirror,” was Jackson at his most manipulative. Frankly, Jackson was a man who desperately needed to take a look in the mirror, not just sing about pretending to do so. “Leave Me Alone,” the final track, originally a CD only bonus cut (back when Bad was originally released on vinyl, too), is the strongest song on the disc (and one of the best he ever wrote). Pissed off and rocking, it’s the declaration of independence Jackson always needed to make.
If Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, then R.E.M. was the Kings of College Radio (later known as alternative music). In a career spanning 30 years, Athens, Georgia’s R.E.M., led by queer front-man Michael Stipe, defined modern rock. On their early recordings, from the exposed jangle pop roots of beloved recordings such as Murmur and Reckoning to the dark folk of “Fables of the Reconstruction” to the beginnings of their mainstream pop breakthrough on “Life’s Rich Pageant,” R.E.M. paved the way for themselves and the multitude of imitators, grabbing at their crown, who arrived in their wake.
It was probably unintentional, but Document (I.R.S./Capitol), R.E.M.’s fifth album, released in 1987 (and the last one before they relocated to Warner Brothers), could easily be the soundtrack for 2012. That works out well for the rereleased, expanded, double CD, 25th anniversary edition of Document. As prescient as anything in R.E.M.’s oeuvre, Stipe sings about signs of the times in the aptly titled “Exhuming McCarthy,” including being “Loyal to the Bank of America” as well as “vested interest united ties, landed gentry rationalize”.
The attractively packaged anniversary set includes a 20-track live disc recorded in Holland, a large poster, booklet and postcards.