Albums You Should Own Part 4

After another random interval, I’m back with the fourth instalment of my suggestions for the perfect record collection. If you stick with me, by the time I’m done, your collection could be as good as mine. No, really, it’s possible! If the previous offerings made you think I was well and truly stuck in the 60’s or 70’s, well, now I’ll prove there’s more to me than that. Not much more, but a little more. Enough waffling, let’s get down to business.

Thriller by Michael Jackson
Released in 1982, as the follow up to ‘Off The Wall’, this album is widely considered to be one of the best albums of modern times. The production by Quincy Jones certainly plays a huge part in the feeling and sound of the songs, and shouldn’t be underestimated. With unbridled success worldwide, the album spawned 7 (count ’em) singles, which leaves just 2 “album tracks”, which is fairly unusual to be honest. In my opinion there are three reasons why this album is a ‘must-have’.

Number one is the song ‘Thriller’ – possibly one of the most iconic songs of the last 50 years of popular music. Take the video out of the equation, the song stands on its own. From that bass line to the howling wolf sound effects, with the intro building to the synthesised brass sound, and the spoken word ending, voiced by horror legend Vincent Price. All squeezed into six minutes of timeless pop.

Reason number two is ‘Beat It’. The intro ambles along until the guitar riff kicks in. It’s a harsh, manufactured sound, but it ties the song together and it works. And then, from nowhere, comes the guitar solo. And the man who provides it? Eddie Van Halen. If you don’t know, then it’s just another solo. But once armed with the information, you can go back and listen to it, and it all makes sense. A typical Van Halen sounding guitar solo, am I wrong?

The third reason is ‘Billie Jean’. When you’ve listened to this song, you can see how he ended up at ‘Bad’. The vocal styling was beginning to emerge, with the “he he’s” and the “whoo’s” and the slight funk-style instrumental arrangements. Apparently written about an experience he had whereby a deranged female (obviously!) fan wrote to him claiming he had fathered a child. Hence the line “but the kid is not my son.”

You’d be hard pushed to find an artist these days with three tracks of such impeccable quality on the same album (and greatest hits don’t count). And I haven’t even mentioned ‘Wanna Be Startin Somethin’ or ‘PYT (Pretty Young Thing)’. I will just mention the cringe-worthy duet with Paul McCartney, ‘The Girl Is Mine’. Oh, it’s so, so cringe-worthy! The song isn’t that bad, it’s the chatty interchange between them both that does it. And another thing to note, this meeting sowed the seeds that resulted in Michael Jackson controlling the publishing rights to the Beatles catalogue.

So, whilst many find it hard to see past the controversy and mystery that surrounded his later life and ultimate death at the age of 50, if you seal yourself off from all that, and just listen to the craft contained in this album, you will agree that you have missed out by not having this album in your collection. And don’t forget that album cover – another iconic image that has been mimicked and parodied time and time again (Ricky Gervais on the cover of his ‘Animals’ DVD is one example that springs to mind).

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