Michael Jackson “SCREAM” (Album Review)

CD/digital download available: 29th September 2017

Vinyl record available: 27th October 2017

Produced by: MJJ Productions – Released by: Epic Records/Legacy/Sony Music


 

WELCOME TO YOUR DOOM

As Maestro of All Hallows Eve’s unofficial anthem, Michael Jackson has for many years been synonymous with the witching season. But it is not just on 1982’s monster hit “Thriller” (and that John Landis-directed 1984 short film) that the King of Pop got to indulge his love of the macabre in his music. While Christmas albums have long been a profitable tradition, this creepy compilation – the brainchild of the late star’s prolific Estate – is perhaps the first high profile Halloween-themed set. Executive producers John Branca and John McClain will hope Scream will rise from the grave to haunt record store shelves every October.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Xscape Origins (Book Review)

Written by: Damien Shields
Published by: Modegy, 2015.
141 pages.
damienshields.com         xscapeorgins.com


 

XPOSING THE BLUEPRINTS

Reaching #1 around the world, receiving healthy reviews, regular radio spins and music channel plays and introducing a new generation to the genius that is Michael Jackson, it is fair to say that Sony’s second major posthumous album, 2014’s Xscape, was a sizable hit. But for all its critical and commercial success, the album left a sour taste in the mouth of some long-term supporters.

Motivated by his dissatisfaction that the King of Pop’s “unpolished gems” were relegated to deluxe edition bonus tracks in lieu of what were essentially newly produced remixes by big name producers du jour (Timbaland, StarGate, J-Roc), lifelong Australian mega-fan Damien Shields began to research and compile a book through which he could shine a light on the work, energy and passion which his idol put into perfecting the original unreleased tracks and demo versions.

“A perfectionist has to take his time…. He shapes and he moulds and he sculpts that thing until it’s perfect. He can’t let it go before he’s satisfied; he can’t.”

Xscape Origins: The Songs & Stories Michael Jackson Left Behind (to give its full, synopsis-encompassing title) is that book, stitching myriad collaborator interviews, studio anecdotes, hard facts and song trivia into an easily accessible and moreish read. Shields self-deprecatingly reduces his input to that of “storyteller” in his ‘Introduction’, but he should be commended for his journalist talent in conveying what could be a deluge of baffling and boring details in a light and enlightening document. The fact that the book concludes with FIFTEEN pages of ‘Sources’ and ‘Acknowledgements’ cements the author’s exhaustive commitment to this defiant passion project.

Taking the album’s eight tracks chapter-by-chapter, Origin’s economic length is constricted by the source material’s skimpy duration. But within each chapter a wealth of knowledge is imparted – some of which I, as a diehard fan since the age of 7, was shocked to learn and surprised I had never heard before. That Shields was able to bag exclusive interviews with such A-list musicians and engineers as Michael Prince, Brad Buxer, Cory Rooney, Dr. Freeze and Rodney Jerkins (to name but a few) is a major coup – and shows how much their time writing and recording with Michael Jackson resonates even with industry professionals.

It’s just a pity that due to its antagonistic, record company and Estate-needling nature Xscape Origins will only ever be an unofficial fan-made curio, as the prose content is breathtakingly insightful. Sadly prose is all it consists of, where some photographs and pictorial documentation (of studio sessions, handwritten lyrics, etcetera) would undoubtedly have elevated this slim paperback into an even more compelling and well-rounded glimpse into the creative process of one of music’s most inspirational and enigmatic legends.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars