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I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters

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Album Review

Easily the best of the of posthumous Michael Jackson-related collections released in 2009, I Want You Back! Unreleased Masters unearths 12 cuts from the Motown vaults that have somehow managed to not see the light of day despite many repackagings and reissues. To an extent, this is an indeed a collection of odds and ends, items that never saw release because they didn't fit elsewhere or, in the case of backing tracks for live TV performances of "Never Can Say Goodbye" and a medley of "I Want You Back/ABC/The Love You Save," they were never meant to be heard in this fashion. These two cuts have good, safe vocals from Michael, but they're not as bracing as a considerably different vocal arrangement of "ABC" — an arrangement not nearly as good as what wound up on the release, but it's fascinating to hear the music being worked out. The other alternate here is an extended version of "Dancing Machine" — enjoyable, but not that different — but it's eclipsed by the previously unreleased cuts here: the creamy Stevie Wonder original "Buttercup," two terrific pieces of bubblegum-soul from the Corporation ("That's How Love Is," "Love Comes in Different Flavors"), some cinematic soul from Bobby Taylor ("Listen I'll Tell You How"), and bright, snappy funk on Willie Hutch's "Love Call." Compared to the classic Jackson Five singles, these do pale slightly, but taken on their own merits — and seen in the wake of strained pieces of product like Michael Jackson's The Stripped Mixes — they're dynamite, proof of how joyous and irresistible the Jackson 5 were at their peak.


Formed: 1966 in Gary, IN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

The Jackson 5 were one of the biggest phenomenons in pop music during the early '70s, and the last great group to come out of the Motown hitmaking machine before Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder shifted the label's focus to more individual visions. The Jackson 5's infectious brand of funky pop-soul was a definite departure from the typically smooth, elegant Motown sound, as befitting the group's youth and the dawn of a new decade. That youth, coupled with the merchandising juggernaut that sprang up...
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