Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls
The Jackson 5 “Love Trip” from Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls (Hip-O Select)
So many times when compilations are released of a band’s vault material, the listener is left unfulfilled. The Jackson 5 dispelled that theory with a batch of twelve songs in 2009 on I Want You Back: The Unreleased Masters with a set of songs that any artist on Motown would have been proud to be a part of. Surely, though, a follow-up compilation with thirty-two more tracks that have never seen release couldn’t be equally as strong. Actually, Hip-O Select’s Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls may even surpass it.
The tracks range from 1969–1974, most of the J5’s tenure at Motown. Deke Richards, who shares production or writing credits on nearly half the tracks, provides a backdrop for the set in his essay. He recalls the first time he set eyes on the group in an experience he calls “Gospel Truth.” Shortly following that encounter, he would be assigned as a producer when the group and label moved westward to Los Angeles. Richards, aside from being credited as a writer and producer, is also responsible for the spelling of the group’s name—5, the number, instead of Five as he indicates at the end of his piece—just another lasting memory of his legacy not only with the Jackson 5 but with Motown on the whole.
The two-disc set, limited to 4000 units, is assembled almost completely chronologically allowing a view of the group’s maturation. Opening the compilation is “We’re The Music Makers,” which sounds as though it could have been utilized for a concert opening or TV guest spot. Even at a scant 1:01, the track proves to be a true pleasure with its refrain, “We like to make music / It’s fun to make music,” before each member introduces himself. The following track, “If the Shoe Don’t Fit,” could be considered the single from the set, in part because of its inclusion as the A-side of the 45 packaged in Rare Pearls. “Shoe” sounds like the classic J5 material thanks to more great writing and production from The Corporation who were responsible for their string of breakout hits. A twelve-year-old Michael sings with fervor to a girlfriend who isn’t treating her suitor to his liking, and like many other songs he sang during this period sounds completely believable even as his youthful inexperience should work as his undoing.
The bubblegum pop icons show a funkier side even as early as 1970 with “Iddinit.” Trading a lead singer in favor of a group vocal is one of the more stark approaches utilized (especially surprising given that this was a tune by the Corporation), although Jermaine gets a few lines to himself. It’s one of the funkier tunes in the whole Jackson 5 oeuvre, replete with ascending horns overlaid atop a steady bass and funk guitar.
As with many Motown acts, covers were a staple of their albums. A number of them grace this set including in-house covers of the Surpremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” (lead by Michael), the Temptations’ “Since I Lost My Baby” (lead by Jermaine), and Eddie Kendricks’s forgotten “Let’s Go Back to Day One.” However, they also saw fit to cover other popular period tunes such as Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright,” of which we got our most recent glimpse of the J5 cover through the Live at the Forum set released in 2010 and which originally appeared on 1971′s Goin’ Back To Indiana soundtrack; the Drifters’ “Up On the Roof” where the brothers each trade lines creating a joyous celebration; and a hilarious version of “Mama Told Me Not to Come” where Michael channels his inner Redd Foxx with his gruff voice.
Rare Pearls also contains some fantastic ballads including the mid-period “Love Trip,” a dreamy affair with a more mature Michael crooning confidently. The song was recorded in early 1973 and produced by another West Coast Motown maven. Aside from Michael’s excellent lead, a somewhat psychedelic refrain elevates the song into the ethereal. Another excellent ballad on the set is the Jermaine-led “Going My Way,” proving that Michael wasn’t a one man show. The tune’s message would actually prove relevant to Jermaine several years later when he stayed behind at Motown while his brothers moved to Epic. The chorus, aside from having a beautiful melody wrapped around it, is one of the best vocal performances performed by Jermaine throughout his career.
Astute fans of Motown may recognize three other tunes on the set. The backing tracks for “Jumbo Sam,” “Would Ya Would Ya Baby,” and “Let’s Go Back to Day One” all would be utilized for a disco project by the Magic Disco Machine with “Would Ya Would Ya Baby” being given another title (“Tryin’ to Get Over”). As great as those tunes were as instrumentals with additional synthesizers overdubbed, they’re brought to life with the Jackson brothers lending their talents.
With such a vast amount of previously unheard material (aside from an extended version of “That’s How Love Is” which appeared in edited form in 2009 on I Want You Back: The Unreleased Masters), you’d think that it might be for hardcore fans only. Not true with this release. The material is so strong and the performances so enjoyable that any fan of ’70s pop and soul should find themselves grooving along without hesitation. Between the two compilations that have assembled their previously unreleased material, the Jackson 5 have a rightful claim as one of Motown’s most consistent acts, not just because they’re entertaining but because their material and performances are top notch. Sure, more important albums may have come out under the Motown/Tamla umbrellas, but even the heralded Temptations, Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder should be in awe of such talent. Unbelievable given that it’s performed by a group of teenagers. Talent, though, knows no bounds.