The Jackson 5 - 1969 – Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5
An impressive debut album, made doubly impressive by the fact that the lead singer of the Jackson 5 is an eleven-year-old kid. Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 is arguably the best of the J5 LPs. It’s certainly the most digestible, since Berry Gordy and his Corporation™ hadn’t yet pushed the Jackson brothers into bubblegum territory.
Contrary to popular belief, this album wasn’t hastily prepared to support “I Want You Back“. The majority of the album was recorded in Detroit, with The Vancouvers’ Bobby Taylor as producer. Taylor, more of a rhythm and blues traditionalist than much of the Motown family, had the boys record a gang of soul covers – both Motown/Jobete copyrights and outside works. At least a dozen recordings that didn’t make it on this album have been released on other compilations, but the ones that did make it are the ones you want to hear. The Jackson 5’s versions of “Who’s Lovin’ You” and “Born to Love You” give the originals (by The Miracles and The Temptations, respectively) give the originals a run for their money, while their readings of The Tempts’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You“, Sly & the Family Stone’s “Stand!“, Marvin Gaye’s “Chained“, and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from Song of the South (!) are also well done.
Little Michael Jackson and his older brother Jermaine share much of the lead vocals, though it’s clear before the end of track one just who the star was in this group.
A1 Zip a Dee Doo Dah 3:15
A2 Nobody 2:42
A3 I Want You Back 2:58
A4 Can You Remember 2:57
A5 Standing in the Shadows of Love 4:05
A6 You’ve Changed 3:05
B1 My Cherie Amour 3:39
B2 Who’s Loving You 3:57
B3 Chained 2:50
B4 (I Know) I’m Losing You 2:13
B5 Stand 2:34
B6 Born to Love You 2:26
One of the big surprises of listening to this,the Jacksons’ introduction to the world outside Gary Indiana you understand not too long into it why this album was assembled the way it was. Whatever the idea of the song happens to be,the image of five young men from the midwest enjoying the taste of LA for the first time and getting all dolled up in those wild psychedelic costumes cannot help but come into ones mind.Part of this general atmosphere was a strong sense of freshness.The same can be said of this that can be said of another classic pop music debut with The Fab Four’s Please Please Me ;hard to believe there’s only seven years between them. The main similarities is that both of them feature each group at the top of their form,eager and with their sounds in the most “uncut” of states. Not only that but the songs they cover on this album have a lot to do with their direction and musical vision from the outset.
“Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” alone shows how much the Isley’s late 60’s funk sound had on the Jacksons at this early stage and yes-even “I Want You Back” demonstrates a very high degree of funkiness.Of course we already know that;The Crusaders Wilton Felder plays bass on the song and that groove extends strong not only through versions of “Chained” and “I Know I’m Losing You” but around of course Sly’s “Stand”;the Family Stone’s strong influence on the Jacksons’ is not only evident here but especially on how they use the heavily funky outro to the original as a bridge throughout the song.As if it didn’t in the first place their “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” enhances the eastern feel James Jamerson got with many Four Tops hits with strong psychedelic sitar-like guitar riffs.While Michael of course dominates in the vocal department Jermaine gives a particularly gravelly tone to “My Cherie Amour”.Of course one of most rightfully revered songs here is Michael’s take on Smokey’s “Who’s Lovin’ You”.
His yearning pleads and cries on the song have an almost scary intensity.”You’ve Changed”,a cover of an old tune done at Gary’s small Steeltown label is only marginally doctored up from the orginal through Motown’s Funk Brothers smoothing out the rough edges well enough. The upbeat “Nobody” and “Born To Love You” find a place between the standard Motown sound and late 60’s pop-funk wheras the ballad “Can You Remember”,as with pretty much everything here focuses in on the brothers distinctive harmonies. When you think of how even the Jackson 5 progressed musically at Motown in only the next two years this music is very honest,as Diana Ross’s liner notes state as well as possessing an enthusiastic drive and belief in the material they were singing on.The musical expectations of R&B based family groups would never be the same after this for sure!