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Album Review

Michael Jackson, 'Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection'

August 17, 2009

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Pop
Michael Jackson Hello World: The Mowtown Solo Collection
Hip-oselect.com
ESSENTIAL “Got to Be There’’

In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, sales of his albums have raced up the charts as if it were 1982 all over again. Fans, and surely some new ones who missed out on “Thriller’’ and “Bad’’ the first time around, have been hungry to relive those musical moments that shot Jackson’s fame into the stratosphere. But before that, Jackson was finding his voice and identity as a wunderkind solo artist on Motown. Breaking out from the Jackson 5, he made a series of albums that are lovingly preserved (and decadently packaged) on “Hello World,’’ a three-disc set that collects all of his solo recordings from 1971 to 1975. That translates to the albums “Got to Be There,’’ “Ben,’’ “Music & Me,’’ and “Forever, Michael,’’ plus sundry bonus tracks and unreleased material. By the time he recorded “Forever, Michael’’ in 1975, he was obviously straining against the Motown mold and edging toward funkier stuff (“Dapper-Dan’’); it’s astonishing to think he emerged, so fully formed, with “Off the Wall’’ just four years later. And that’s what makes “Hello World,’’ which was finished long before Jackson’s death and released eight days later, such a fascinating look at Jackson’s brisk evolution from boy-wonder singing sensation (still aping his heroes like Smokey Robinson) to pop icon waiting in the wings. (Out now)

JAMES REED