Spike Lee’s documentary Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall



Michael Jackson Off the Wall

There are some who say that Off the Wall—and not Thriller—is the crowning album achievement of Michael Jackson’s storied career. We certainly won’t try to convince you one way or another, but either album is a history-in-the-making affair. Off the Wall is jam-packed with energy on Side A. From “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” to “Rock with You” to the underappreciated “Get on the Floor,” a dance floor somewhere in the world is being rocked to one of these songs as you read this article. Side B is slower-paced with the cover of Wings’ “Girlfriend” to the heartbreak of “She’s Out of My Life” and the sensual cool of “I Can’t Help It” before going out with yet another up-tempo track in “Burn This Disco Out.” The range of emotions from start to finish is breathtaking, from Jackson’s breakdown on “She’s Out of My Life” to the elation in that “OOOHHHH!” on “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” as the album opens.

Earlier this year, director Spike Lee premiered his documentary tracing Jackson’s musical steps from Motown to Off the Wall. The first half of the 93-minute documentary—titled Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall—follows the rise of the Jackson 5 to the Jacksons tenure at Epic, and The Wiz, which leads into various artists and celebrities (Rosie Perez, Kobe Bryant, Berry Gordy, Misty Copeland, Questlove, Marlon and Jackie Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and more) telling their stories of growing up with Jackson on their stereos and TVs and how Off the Wall shaped the musical landscape to come.


Lee also dug up some fantastic live clips of Jackson and his brothers on everything from Soul Train to their Triumph Tour to interview clips filmed at the Jackson’s family home in California in the ’70s and Jackson speaking with Fred Astaire on Dinah! to other concert footage.

Sony/Legacy has reissued Off the Wall bundled with Lee’s documentary in CD+DVD and CD+Blu-Ray configurations.

The album itself is presented as it has been for many years—although not in its original incarnation. Early versions of the album had different mixes of “Rock with You” (with handclaps during the chorus) and “Get on the Floor” (various differences including an excluded rhythm guitar during the chorus), which were later remixed to Jackson’s liking. The remixed single versions of each is what’s been presented for the majority of the album’s pressings. The original versions have appeared on some compilations throughout the years but take some research to find. It would have been nice to see their inclusion on this release, although this author is still hoping for Off the Wall (and Thriller, for that matter) to get deluxe book treatments with alternate takes, unreleased tracks, and full video of live shows that may be in the Jackson estate vaults.


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