Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Jacksons

  • The Jacksons [Epic, 1976] C+
  • Destiny [Epic, 1978] B+
  • Triumph [Epic, 1980] A-
  • Live [Epic, 1981] B+
  • Victory [Epic, 1984] B+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Jacksons [Epic, 1976]
Sorry--Michael and his brothers just aren't high-powered enough to rev up Gamble & Huff's faltering music machine. Or is it vice versa? C+

Destiny [Epic, 1978]
They wrote all the songs, but it's the debut self-production--after a second stiff in Philadelphia--that puts their best regular-release album since the beginning across. Specifically, it's the production on the dance tracks--the lyrics are best when you can blame them on the boogie. B+

Triumph [Epic, 1980]
More cluttered than Off the Wall, partly because Michael's brothers are butting in, partly because Quincy Jones isn't. But most of the clutter is sheer, joyous muscle-flexing--hated the chorale that opens "Can You Feel It" at first, but now I chuckle at their audacity every time it comes on. Anyway, you know about solo albums--the songs do improve when the group butts in. A-

Live [Epic, 1981]
Quincy Jones marshals subtler dynamics, and the only classic (?) that gets full treatment is "Ben," still a song that could make you hate rats. But both material and singer(s) are live-er than you'll ever be. B+

Victory [Epic, 1984]
Victim of a truly perverse heightened expectation syndrome, this expert pop record is certainly in a league with Destiny and Triumph, now remembered as unjustly ignored black-music milestones by many of those who unjustly ignored them. What it lacks is Michael at the pitch of gulping syncopation we've learned to love so well, although I do think his two turns suffer the worst backlash of all--better a Stones throwaway than a Wings throwaway, and better the high-strung delicacy of "Be Not Always" than the mundane sensitivity of, say, "If You're Ever in My Arms Again." As for the Other Bros., this showcases them more vividly than the tour of the same name--there can never be too many crafty tunes about wanting a body or saving the world. B+