MICHAEL JACKSON Thriller 25 (Epic/Legacy)
Thriller 25 celebrates a quarter of a century of, as the front cover bluntly explains, the worlds biggest selling album of all time. I paid no attention to the album on its original release, which in retrospect is perhaps a good thing because otherwise I wouldnt be marvelling at how much Thriller sounds like a sanitised Prince album these days. Really, it could be 1999 with all the dirty bits excised.
Well, almost. Its certainly a starting point. Quincy Jones hyperkinetic arrangements still sound genuinely breathtaking at times, although theyre slightly compromised on this 25th anniversary vinyl reissue by a top end that scythes mercilessly through earwax. Vile and reprehensible as The Girl Is Mine is, the title track is positively Floydian in its conceptual sweep, and the percussive tumble that opens Baby Be Mine astounds me every time I hear it. This is no lowest common denominator cynically assembled assault on the marketplace, this is a lovingly craftedassault on the marketplace. Beat It is a snappy pop/rock hybrid replete with seamless credibility graft via Eddie Van Halens solo, and Billie Jean, if anything, has had its reputation bolstered by Ian Browns cover. Co-written by Steve Porcaro, Human Nature is deceptively laid back, although no doubt as impeccably detailed in its arrangement as the rest of the album. If anything dates Thriller, its the synth sounds, and for that reason the more organic Off The Wall arguably wears its age a little lighter.
Theres a somewhat scrappy assemblage of extras accompanying the main feature. A 25-second outtake from the title tracks Vincent Price voiceover session makes a good answering machine message, if nothing else. A bunch of 2008 remixes featuring contemporary R&B types will.i.am, Akon, Fergie and Kanye West are similarly redundant outside the odd moment of fleeting interest writing Paul McCartney out of The Girl Is Mine, for example, the mildly diverting electro throb of P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) and the early piano ballad promise of Wanna Be Startin Somethin succeeding in sounding more clumsy than contemporary. The venture is saved, rather late in the day, by For All Time, another part-Porcaro ballad from the Thriller sessions. I can appreciate that there wouldntve been room on the album for both this and Human Nature, but its far too good to have been consigned to a quarter of a century in the vaults.