Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a CD, later replaced by the 2003 Deluxe Edition.
Last time I sat down and wrote my list of "Desert Island CD's" in August 2004, this CD was on it. When I was 16, this was a very influential album in my life, even though I didn't understand what the critics were talking about when they mentioned Cole Porter and Tin Pan Alley. I heard Steppin' Out on the radio and fell in love with it. Since this was prior to the Information Age, it took me months to find out the name of the artist. Even though he'd been around for a while, that was the first time I'd heard of Jackson. I bought this album as soon as I could and listened to it constantly as it was unlike any other music around at that time. I've never thought the music sounds dated and I still listen to this CD 4 or 5 times a year. For me everything clicks with this album - the music, the lyrics, the smooth production, the cover art - it's Jackson's best; nothing comes close.
The Deluxe Edition includes a 28 page booklet with great liner notes and the music has all been remastered. "All tracks 96K/24-bit mastered from the original analog tapes" - I really don't know what all that means, but it sounds impressive.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #4
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #7
Tracks: I've listened to this so many times I can't imagine skipping any tunes. I bought this album based solely on the strength of Steppin' Out and that remains not only my favorite song on this disc, but one of my favorite songs of the '80s. I did like side 1, the "Night" side, better than side 2, the "Day" side, so I listened to side 1 much more often.
The Deluxe Edition contains a second CD with demo versions of 6 of the album's songs along with 5 tracks from Jackson's soundtrack for the movie Mike's Murder and, inexplicably, 5 live tracks lifted directly from a previously released Jackson CD (Live: 1980-86). With the exception of Target, the demo tracks are too close to the final album versions to be particularly interesting, and all are inferior to the completed album versions. I'm happy to have the Mike's Murder tracks; I had an LP of that album and converted it myself to a CD, so it is nice to have actual digitally remastered versions of those songs. Not as nice as a full-blown CD release of that album, but nice nonetheless. The best of those 5 tracks are Cosmopolitan and Moonlight. The five live tracks were recorded during the 1982-83 Night And Day tour, of which only On Your Radio is even mildly fun. There's an a capella version of Is She Really Going Out With Him? which is interesting for about a minute, but you find yourself yearning for the original version by the end. So, of the tracks here, only the Mike's Murder tracks are worthy of getting ripped to iTunes.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I must have purchased this album on a cold and rainy day in the fall of 1982, because any time the weather turns cold and wet (as it did this week), I get the urge to listen to this music.
My senior year in high school, I tried my hand at music arranging by adapting Steppin' Out for jazz band. The arrangement wasn't too terrible for a teenager with no formal theory training. I look at it now and cringe. My jazz band director not only humored me, but encouraged me and the jazz band performed that arrangement more than once. I think I've got a cassette recording of that somewhere around here.
Previously revisited for the blog:
Volume 4 (2003)
Body and Soul (1984)