After his metoric rise to the most popular artist in the world in 1982 with 'Thriller', Michael Jackson had gone from strength to strength releasing Bad in 1987 and then Dangerous in 1991, each of which offered something new and became some of the popular albums of all time. Ever since the early 80s he'd had press articles discussing his bizarre image and actions, however, up to 1993 it had been nothing to put his career in jepody. Then as everyone knows the first child molesting accusations came out and Jacksons life would never be the same again. History was intially conceived as a difinitive greatest hits collection, however, since Michael had already written a reasonable amount of songs he decided to make it a double album- The first disc for his greatest hits and the second as his new album. Perhaps he felt his new material would need some help if it was to sell the 30 odd million that Dangerous had, especially now with the accusations lingering in the air. So in the summer of 1995, wroking again with Teddy Riley, Jackson released perhaps the most crucial album to affirm his continuation as the unrivalled 'King Of Pop'....
1. Billie Jean
2. Way You Make Me Feel
3. Black or White
4. Rock With You
5. She's Out of My Life
7. I Just Can't Stop Loving You
8. Man in the Mirror
10. Beat It
11. Girl Is Mine
12. Remember the Time
13. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
14. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'
15. Heal the World
I am not going to review each individual song since they have all been reviewed in the 'Off The Wall', 'Thriller', 'Bad' and 'Dangerous' album reviews. Suffice to say they are almost all 5/5 classic songs, Jackson has possibly the strongest back catelogue and most of his biggest hits are here. The only less good songs are I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Girl Is Mine and Heal the World. They were all quite big hits at the time but they probably do not deserve a place in a hits collection especially when there are so many better tracks missing. The most glaring ommisions are 'Human Nature' from Thriller, 'Dirty Diana' and 'Smooth Criminal' from Bad, 'Will You Be There' and 'Give In To Me' from Dangerous. These were all huge hits and some of Jacksons best songs, however, when condensing such a great artist like Jackson down to 15 tracks it is impossible not to miss out 5 or 6 number ones. Human Nature though is among Jacksons finest and it is pretty much unforgivable to leave it out- perhaps with 5 of Thrillers 9 tracks already on the disc they didn't want people to stop buying Thriller by adding a sixth track.
As a collection of songs, History Disc 1 is 5/5, but as a summing up of Jacksons solo career it has too many glaring ommisions. Jackson is one of the few artists from whom you should probably buy all the first 4 of his original albums even if you are quite a casual fan since 'Hits' collections will inevitable leave out a sizable number is superb songs. If you do only want a hits collection, however, then 'The Essential' is your best bet feauting almost all of Jacksons biggest hits from the Jackson 5 to Invincible without missing out such great tracks as Human Nature, Dirty Diana, Smooth Criminal and Will You Be There as this collection does. For its many glaring ommissions I will have to give Disc 1 4.5/5 although the actual material on it is an easy 5/5.
Disc 1- 4.5/5
1. Scream- This is the first track of the new album and its quite a decent opener, similar in many ways to the kind of material on 'Dangerous' and its angry lyrics really set the tone for the album. The song is a duet with his sister Janet Jackson who had become one of the biggest female stars in the world by that point. Lyrically its decent enough and the chorus is catchy, however the very manufactured backing track in the verses does grate after a while. At 3.00 in theres a nice interlude with Janet singing in a chilled out way adding some contrast which is followed by quite a cool guitar solo- its very orginal and really adds some depth to the song. The space video was/ is the most expensive ever at 7 million- 4.2/5
2. They Don't Care About Us- A very original song by Jackson featuring some quite sparse instrumentation. For the most part the song is just Jackson spitting out against racism and discrimination over what sounds like a military drum style beat. It really gets into gear at the choruses and whilst its not perfect at all, its a very good song and was one of the most original hits in the charts- 4.5/5
3. Stranger In Moscow- Jacksons long time pianist collaborator said he felt this was Jacksons strongest and most mature songs and I would have to agree. Its arguably the best song on the album and whilst it isnt as catchy as songs like 'Billie Jean' its among Jacksons best in a way. The song is a rain-soaked ballad that has a real driving quality that sucks you in immediately. It reminds me alot of superb verses in The Police's 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', in fact the whole song reminds me of The Polices work in a way. This is really superb stuff and a criminally underrated song- 5/5
4. This Time Around- A return to the angry lyrics of the previous tracks, this is one of the many songs aimed directly at the 1993 allegations. Its actually a decent song and sounds like alot of the better R'n'B/ Hip Hop in the charts these days- it gets slightly repetitive though. It also has a rap part towards like that in 'Black Or White' on Dangerous. Decent song- 4/5
5. Earth Song- This was actually written and recorded for Dangerous in 1991. For some bizarre reason it was left off that album and became one of this albums biggest hits and is I think the biggest selling single ever in the UK or there abouts. I can understand that some people didnt like the egotistical video but this song really is a classic. It has almost a gospel sound to it with much of the chorus just Jacksons tuneful, wordless, cry- 5/5
6. D.S.- Heres where the album starts to fall apart abit. This is the guitar/rock track of the album and again it features Slash like 'Give In To Me' on Dangerous. Unlike that song, D.S. is quite mediocre. The verses are quite good but the same boring guitar chord just continues over into the chorus albeit with some more verve. Its basically just one chord over and over and it gets boring even though vocally Jackson is ok. The solo is quite good and the fact that it has Slash in is cool but this is a wasted opportunity considering all of Jacksons previous rock songs have been flawless. D.S refers to T.S.- Tom Sneddon the attorney who brought charges against him. 3/5
7. Money- This is a very boring track with a very boring. almost monotone beat running through the verses. As always the lyrics are decent enough and the song actually has a quite good chorus when it finally comes but overall this is one of the weakest tracks here- 2/5
8. Come Together- This is obviously a cover of The Beatles 'Abbey Road' song, one of my favourite Beatles songs. Jackson actually covered it on his Moonwalker movie a while before so its inclusion seems rather random. As a songer, Jackson is leagues ahead of the Beatles and the bassy instrumentation is quite good but theres something missing from the original. Its a good cover but I do prefer the original- 4/5
9. You Are Not Alone- R Kelly penned this ballad (although now recent evidence suggests he stole it from some Dutch songwriters). It was one of the albums biggest hits along with Earth Song and whilst its lyrics are abit maudlin and sickly sweet, I still really like this song- especially as it gets towards the end. Its his strongest ballad since 'Shes Out Of My Life', though not as good as that song. Jackson really shows off vocally, holding his notes for extremely long periods towards the end of the track- 5/5
10. Childhood- Another one of the singles and another ballad, though a weaker one than track 9. The song reminds me of something from a 50s musical or an old Disney song with its classical instrumentation. The lyrics may be slightly hard to stomach but its actually quite a good song in a weird way, even though I can see that many will dislike it- 3.8/5
11. Tabloid Junkie- Very much like 'Privacy' on Invincible, this is Jacksons rant against the media this time. Its not bad really though parts of it make you laugh- Jackson saying in very effeminite voice after the chorus 'they say hes homosexual'. Its quite catchy, though its not one I listen to alot- the ranting at the media just gets too annoying. Just ok- 3/5
12. 2 Bad- The song sound like Jacksons attempt to replicate his idol as a child James Brown- Payback era. In comparison to James Brown its abit limp but as a song on its own its among the better tracks on the later half of the disc- 3/5
13. History- The title track is quite a bizarre song with an insanely long intro of famous news reports of the 20th century. When the song finally kicks in its actually ok and is similar in a way to 'Keep The Faith' on Dangerous- though again not at all as good. The 'never give up' lyrics are quite good and the chorus has its own sound however its all abit to pompous. Without the excessive sound effects and trumpets it would have been a good song, as it is its just quite good- 3.3/5
14. Little Suzie- Possibly his oddest song and thats saying alot- the song is about infanticide! Its very much a classical song with a choir intro (like 'Will You Be There' on Dangerous). Its very similar to 'Scared Of The Moon' (on The Ultimate Collection). Basically this is an odd song and sounds like something from a musical, terrible really- 1/5
15. Simle- Another cover- this time of the Charlie Chaplin song. Chaplin was one of Jacksons biggest idols apparently. This is a decent cover and Jacksons voice makes it worth while. It ends with Jackson whistling it as the instrumentation is stripped down to a piano tune- reminding you of the era it originally came from. As a song its 5/5 and its a decent cover, but it feels slightly odd on a Jackson album- he never needed to do covers before. Anyway its quite a good, if bizarre end to the album- which is probably a good wat to sum up the whole album- 4/5
Overall the album actually has about 7 very good songs on it- the first 5 and then tracks 9 and 10- these were basically all the singles from the album too.
Normally on Jacksons albums the non-single material is also very strong, however here while theres nothing terrible about most of it- its just abit mediocre with some odd covers thrown in. If the album had been cut to maybe 9 tracks then it would have been a great, though not classic, album. Unfortunately Jackson wanted to mirror the hits disc 1 with 15 new tracks when only about 8 or 9 were really very good. It has got some classics like Stranger In Moscow and Earth Song, but the overall feel of the album is just too angry and too mediocre. Its better than most pop albums out at the time for sure but for a Michael Jackson- the man who gave us 4 faultless albums, its a disappointment.
Disc 2- 3.3
Stranger In Moscow
You Are Not Alone
The album went on to sell about 18 million copies and is one of the biggest double albums of all time. In comparison with his previous album however it was abit of a disappointment sales wise- though its still the 70 something biggest seller of all time. It did alot better in Europe than in the US. Overall its a little disappointing- from the pompous cover art to the half great/ half mediocre disc 2. The greatest hits disc is missing many great songs too. Overall this album marks the end of an era- the end of a time when Jackson was the greatest pop artist in the world. In History, disc 2, Jackson showed us half an album of superb songs, some written during Dangerous sessions, and half an album of very mediocre songs- indicating perhaps that his creativity dried up with the 1993 allegations perhaps and also that the disc 2 was a little rushed. With the exra hits disc it raises the albums a little but considering most are buying this for the original album disc I rate this album as 3.3- better than average but no where near the heights he reached in the 80s.
-If you want a Greatest Hits collection for Jackson- buy the 'Essential' collection. I would consider just buying his first 4 albums instead though since they are all very cheap and are all classics.
- If you are interested in this album and liked Jacksons previous songs then download Stranger In Moscow and the other singles.
- If youve got his first 4 albums and love them then buy this album if you see it on sale cause it contains 8 or 9 great songs.