Greatest Hits

The Jackson 5

Motown, 1971

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jackson_5

REVIEW BY: Paul King

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/23/2008

Every once in a while, a compilation album is released that perfectly captures its subject matter at the absolute apex of their creativity and popularity; this perfect preservation of the artists concerned at the height of their powers is like a fly in amber. One such compilation is the Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits. Originally released in December 1971, the album is a perfect summation of the group’s first two years on Motown and their meteoric rise from Gary, Indiana hopefuls to global teen sensations.

For once, the album title Greatest Hits is utterly appropriate, being that this record contains the Jackson brothers’ first four chart-topping singles -- “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and “I’ll Be There.” Rightly considered as bona fide classics of the genre, these successive tracks come on like a master class of Bubblegum Soul, timeless in their pop perfection and youthful energy. In addition to these chart-toppers, Greatest Hits also includes three other top five hit singles, two outstanding b-sides and the song “Goin’ Back To Indiana” from the band’s prime time ABC TV special of the same name.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album opens with “I Want You Back,” a song that features one of the best chord progressions in the entire history of pop music and one that’s still guaranteed to fill a dance floor more than 35 years after its initial release. The track is also notable for being the Jackson 5’s first release on Motown Records as well as the first song written and produced by “The Corporation™.” This team of in-house composers and producers, consisting of Motown chief Berry Gordy along with fellow musicians/songwriters Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards, were responsible for writing eight of the eleven tracks found here, including three of the number one hit singles.

You could pretty much single out any one of the songs on this record for special praise, but perhaps the sublime reading of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You” is one of the hardest hitting, if not the most well-known. The sheer soulfulness and emotion that comes through Michael Jackson’s voice on this track is hard to reconcile with the fact that he was just 11 years old at the time this was recorded. In fact, when Smokey Robinson first heard the group’s rendition of his song, he was compelled to state that he believed Michael Jackson must’ve been at Motown before, perhaps in a previous life, because his voice had all the soul power of a much older performer.

Ultimately, the Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits is one hell of a compilation album that features all the band’s biggest hits from their years on Motown. Everything after this was a slow retreat for the Jackson brothers until the artistic re-birth of 1978’s Destiny and its two monster discothèque hits, “Blame It On The Boogie” and “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground).” Indeed, much the same can be said for Motown as well. Never again would the record label have a chart-dominating success story like the Jackson 5, a sad fact that led Berry Gordy to comment that the Jackson 5 were “the last big stars to come rolling off the Motown assembly line.”

In the years since the initial release of Greatest Hits, there have been plenty of more exhaustive collections of the group’s output, but as a concise introduction to the magic of the Jackson 5 during their first two golden years on Motown, this album is close to perfect.

Rating: A-

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