Thursday, May 15, 2014

Michael Jackson - Farewell My Summer Love

Today (May 15th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Farewell My Summer Love, a release of previously "lost" tracks from Michael Jackson. This album did very well in the UK where it charted at number 9 and became a Platinum seller. It also hit number 94 in Canada, number 90 in Australia, number 50 in New Zealand, number 47 in the Netherlands and number 40 in Germany. Here in the US, it spent fifteen weeks on the Billboard Album chart and peaked at number 46.

The nine songs were recorded between January and September of 1973, but they remained in the Motown vaults for eleven years. Motown polished them up with some new remixing and musical overdubs, likely in an attempt to give them a more current sound and to help capitalize on the still popular Thriller album from 1982.

Side one begins with "Don't Let It Get You Down", a mid-tempo tune with a bouncy beat.

"You're Really Got a Hold on Me" is a cover of the 1962 hit by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

"Melodie" definitely has that Jackson 5 lyrical feel and comes complete with backing vocals from Michael's brothers.

The second single "Touch the One You Love" did not make much chart impact. I suspect that is because it really has a 70's sound; there seems to have been less touching-up on it compared to others.

As the third single, "Girl, You're So Together" hit number 33 in the UK.

Side two opens with the title track. "Farewell My Summer Love" was the first single; it went to number 68 in Australia, number 51 in Germany, number 46 in Canada, number 35 in New Zealand, number 38 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 37 on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 7 in the UK. I vaguely remember this one from the radio airplay back in 1984. The song does a good job capturing that young love sentiment, complete with the seaside sound effects at the start.

The romantic ballad "Call on Me" is next.

"Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" is a cover of the 1973 Al Green hit. This version would have been recorded just as Green's song was climbing the charts. I found the take to be interesting; Jackson clearly avoided an imitation route and went for his own spin. The music arrangement, obviously, is more current thanks to the studio work on the tracks.

The album closes with "To Make My Father Proud", a ballad that exposes Jackson's childhood insecurities. Even though it was written for him by others, he clearly was tapping his own depths for the recording.

What is interesting about Farewell My Summer Love is to be hearing the then-fifteen year old Michael Jackson, making that puberty transition from boyhood to manhood, with a clearly 80's pop accompaniment. In a way, it does work on a few tracks. But that is not enough for me really to want to give this one another listen down the road. I still hold my position that it was a cash-grab move on Motown's part. Granted, this was not the first time they did this; they did something similar when 1979's Off The Wall took off. It would be interesting to actually hear the untouched originals from the Motown vault, but I know that will never happen.

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