In the late 1970s, Disco was a big thing. It seemed that, unless you were a Punk rocker, all the main acts of the day had a Disco inspired sound or a similar approach to Disco than what was audibly noticeable. Michael Jackson was an up-and-coming artist at this point after being a child music star, he had the world at his feet and this is his first album to be seen as a truly great listen. It is a response to the sounds of the times. Let’s take a listen to this historic release from one of the biggest selling musicians in history.
We begin with Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough which begins with some Funky bass and Michael Jackson deliberately stammering some interesting spoken word parts, before going into a very Disco sounding song. Straight away, you can tell that Michael Jackson has an instant classic here. Very lovely to hear, this does not disappoint at all. Michael Jackson’s falsetto here is brilliant, sounding like nobody else. The production and instrumentation here are immaculate, everything production wise is done perfectly to crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. There is a glorious solo section towards the middle, before launching back into the main song. A brilliant combination of melody, rhythm and good quality sounds, this is a reminder of an era now long gone. Still, this is extraordinarily good, even if you are not a huge fan of Disco or Michael Jackson’s music. The outro is really cool, and this is never dull during the six minute length of the song. Various sounds and instrumentation from the track finish this off. A Pop classic.
Following is a shorter piece Rock With You – Single Version which begins with a neat drumroll. The piece then launches into another very Disco sounding song, with Michael Jackson singing emotionally. The chorus here is awesome and amazing, with Burt Bacharach like horns throughout and a gorgeous string section. The whole piece sounds fresh and inspired. The chorus itself may refer to sex or music (or both), but is a very decent and excellent song. There are some really interesting melodies, before a key change that sounds really nice. Another classic song by Michael Jackson.
Workin’ Day And Night begins with some salsa instrumentation, before going into another very heavy Disco sounding song. It has some Funky guitar work, excellent piano and Michael Jackson’s typical falsetto vocal. This is obviously a good piece to dance to, and although is very polished, this sounds very nicely constructed. It sounds a lot like the Bee Gees, but is MJ all the way through. The horn section here is interesting, and is nicely placed in the mix. This is an energetic and excellent listen. Various instruments, such as the bass guitar and electric guitar have a solo section here, which is different. A really cool piece of music and it is clever and unique. Really upbeat and fun to listen to, this is a great slice of Disco based Pop. There are some great guitar riffs and excellent use of the studio as an instrument, a lot like Phil Spector would have done. It fades out gently, another classic from this album.
Get On The Floor is an excellent slice of super Funky Disco Pop which sounds different, but wonderful simultaneously. The usual signature sounds are here: Michael Jackson’s falsetto; Funky bass; fluttering strings; romantic based lyrics and other neat production touches. Even if you are not a fan of Disco based music, this is very easy to appreciate, even today. A real ode to dancing is throughout this song, and one can imagine that early House music would have come from remixing wonderful songs like these. Michael Jackson puts in 100% here, singing and yelping away in an awesome way. The second half has whispering and bongo beats, before launching back into the main part of the tune. Gloriously good, this is another classic tune that hasn’t aged much at all. The fadeout is nice as well.
The title track Off The Wall begins with some nicely crafted guitars, some odd harmonies and laughter. It goes into an unusual melody based piece that is once again, excellent listening. Michael Jackson sings very emotionally and in a great way here, he just delivers perfectly for this sort of music, which suits him nicely. An ode to dancing and partying, this is also a nod to dancing and dance based culture. The production here is also very well done, mastermind Quincy Jones must be applauded for this wonderful mix of music and sonic textures. Still, it is a Michael Jackson piece that sounds very timeless. Wonderful Disco inspired Pop music.
Following is Girlfriend which begins with Funky bass and a proto 1980s keyboard sort of piece. It is a slower and gentler sounding piece about relationship issues. The guitars in the background, along with the keyboard driven melodies make for an excellent sonic match for Michael Jackson’s vocals to go over. In the middle, some wonderful harmonies make this piece shine, followed by a cool saxophone solo. Even the lesser tracks on this album sound fresh and brilliant, MJ does a fantastic job here. Excellent song, the nimble bass playing at the end is excellent.
She’s Out Of My Life – Single Version begins with a ghostly keyboard melody that evokes melancholy. Before long, lush sounding textures, particularly the guitars enter. Michael Jackson sings calmly over the top of this, despite the emotional sadness of this song. This is likely an original take on Yvonne Elliman’s If I Can’t Have You. No banging drums or percussion here, just a gentle and smooth ballad that is very open to lyrical interpretation. A beautiful song that deserves listening, just like the rest of the album. Superb.
I Can’t Help It begins with more lush textures and bass gently plucked in the background. Michael Jackson enters singing nicely, making another lush and smooth proto RnB sort of tune here, but better than the average postmodern RnB track. The gentle and soft sounds here are very cool and different. This is another very good song that actually sounds like a slow dance sort of piece. There are no guitar solos here, just wordless harmonies in the middle instead. Very beautiful and different to a lot of music today, no wonder Michael Jackson was so popular after the release of this album, he deserved it here. Towards the end, MJ sings in a more urgent way, before finishing off this track with wordless harmonies once again and a nice fade out. Brilliant.
Next is It’s The Falling In Love which sounds like a rather (for postmodern music) soppy piece, but once Michael Jackson gets singing, the piece comes alive. There are some nice wah-wah guitar, plucked basslines and an emotional sense here that is excellent. This piece is a great example of lush Disco Pop that threatened to rival the Bee Gees in terms of influence and listenability for the genre. The duet with female singer Patti Austin here is perfectly complementary to the song, and this is another really excellent piece of music, It gets very catchy towards the end, a really good listen from start to finish.
The last track here is Burn This Disco Out which begins with an unusual piano and horn led groove that sounds a bit strange. Michael Jackson sings in a passionate way here, and does not fail to impress here. The song itself does not refer to arson, just people getting down to Disco music and similar forms of music of the time. The passion in Michael Jackson’s singing is always here, and this is a really fine track from him, as well as the rest of the album. The horns throughout and Michael Jackson’s yelping propel this piece along. A nice and fine craft from Michael Jackson and those who made this album. It fades out to finish, an excellent listen.
This is a classic album that deserves a definite place in your record collection, even if you are not a huge fan of Michael Jackson. Everything here is near perfect: sounds; songwriting and singing. Yes, this is primarily Disco music but it sounds really top and awesome. Of course Michael Jackson would later release Thriller and become hugely popular in the 1980s, but that was yet to come. This is a shining moment for him, however, and one that should not be ignored.
Great Disco music.
If you liked the article and would like to support the author in his musical review quest, please donate to show your support. Thank you for your consideration. Chris Airey