MICHAEL JACKSON - "Bad" (25th Anniversary Edition)
Twenty five years. Go back a quarter century before then, and its before Elvis, before The Beatles, and Hitler only dead seven years. And it seems like yesterday. How could it be?
Still, Death sells. Now that Jackson has been dead three years, we've seen a greatest hits set, a behind the scenes documentary, an album of unreleased/unfinished studio stuff, a remix album, and now, the a packed-to-the-brims fat reissue of his high-water mark - 1987's "Bad". Popular convention has it that "Thriller" is the best album (and it's not bad, as such, though "Thriller" is often anodyne and schmaltzy). Popular convention is wrong. "Bad" has aged well - mostly, and is also, - mostly - absent from the kind of sentimental histrionics that spoils Jackson's key talent as a peddler of slightly sleazy disco pop. From a quarter century remove, and shorn of the bonkers rumours, "Bad" is an excellent pop album : full of strong, memorable songs structured to leave the listener wanting more. Only "Speed Demon" flags slightly, and is conspicuous by being not quite as good as everything else (the Nero remix on the bonus CD is a complete rethinking with tons of modern flourishes).
The bonus CD is the main draw to the avid fan made of demo versions of unfinished/unreleased songs recorded around the time. No chance, then, of hearing an embryonic version of "Bad", for example. "The Price of Fame" is easily companion to anything on the main CD. How this sat in a drawer for 25 years surprises me. Of the other material some is known from the 2004 Box Set, some isn't, and some are foreign language versions of well known material. The set is only padded out by new remixes of "Bad" (that are, at best OK) and "Speed Demon". Perhaps the big miss here, is the 12" remixes from the time of release : though some weren't very good, and others were on the hugely expensive and rip-off CD/DVD single reissue box set of a few years ago, full length, artist approved, extended mixes of songs such as "Smooth Criminal", are simply missing.
The other attraction is a DVD, and CD, of Jackson live at Wembley Stadium in 1988. Taken from a screen-feed onto VHS, it is a flat, unexceptional visual document designed to complement the attraction on stage, and not be a document of the "Bad" stage show. So, no helicam shots, no wide pans from the back of the stadium, and remastered from a video tape. It's a good show, but perhaps not the most representative film of the tour - if there is one. Still, 8 nights at Wembley Stadium is a world record matched only recently by Take That. Well done.
Overall though, its a good set with some very good, long-lost material, padded out by remixes, missing some others, and with a rare live show. It doesn't feel shortchanged, but is lacking upon close examination. On the other hand, a proper remaster of this record is long overdue, and as a greatest hits, it is probably the finest single vinyl slab Jackson ever released : "Thriller" eat your heart out - "Bad" is the Michael Jackson high watermark. For a short while, this man was, undoubtedly, a musical genius.