Off The Wall

Michael Jackson

Epic Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


To call Off The Wall Michael Jackson's solo debut would be incorrect; most people know he had solo albums on Motown in the '70s, long before this disc came out in 1979. And to call it his official break for Motown would be incorrect as well; he had been recording with his brothers as The Jacksons on Epic for a few years. (The band was coming off their biggest hit to date, "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)", shortly before Off The Wall was released.)

What this album is, in fact, is Jackson's declaration of independence. Never mind the fact he would record a few more albums with his brothers; this was the coming out party for Jackson the adult singer. And while the dance motif of this disc is a bit dated, the singles this album is noted for are still as fresh today as they were 20 years ago.

I remember this album mostly for the video for the opening track, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". When I was a teenager, one of the UHF stations in Chicago started playing this video during the whole my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Thriller craze, as if they had a world exclusive on their hands. Of course, they didn't, but it was still exciting to see and hear this song that I wasn't familiar with at the time. And I have to admit, this track is still very much a guilty pleasure for me. I know it doesn't have a lot of substance, and the falsetto vocals can get on one's nerves, but I just like the song.

Off The Wall had three other notable singles. "Rock With You" is probably the best-known of them, a solid effort that is the best song on the album. Jackson and his backing band lay down a slightly funky groove that is instantly addictive, and might cause spontaneous dancing in the living room when it blares out of your speakers. Immediately following is a faster-paced, funkier number, "Working Day And Night". This one, again, doesn't have too much substance, but is kind of fun to listen to.

Jackson dips into ballad territory with the three-tissue tear-jerker "She's Out Of My Life," the tragic tale of how one man's uncertainty of entering into a commitment costs him the woman of his dreams. It almost sounds at the end like Jackson himself is getting choked up from the tale - possibly suggesting that this could be autobiographical?

The one thing that strikes me about Off The Wall is that some of its aims are incredibly dated. Not that Jackson was trying to be a disco artist, but songs like "Get On The Floor" and "Burn This Disco Out" have their feet planted way too firmly in the musical past. I've heard worse, admittedly, but these are two cuts that have not aged very gracefully.

And while there are some interesting cuts that didn't get a lot of media attention like "It's The Falling In Love" (I know someone else did that song, but I was too lazy to look it up prior to writing this review) and the Paul McCartney-penned "Girlfriend," there are other tracks like "I Can't Help It" and the title cut that just don't impress that much.

You have to admit, though, for an album like Off The Wall to still have moments that sound fresh 20 years after its release is a rare thing. But this was not to be the musical path that Jackson would follow; he was just a few years away from creating an album that would forever change the face of popular music... but that's another story for another day.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.