"Michael Jackson could make you forget he was so young." So writes Suzee Ikeda, a Motown artist and A&R assistant who was a creative confidante of a teenaged Michael, in her introductory essay to Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection
, a 3-CD set that features every Michael Jackson recording released from 1971 to 1975, plus the Motown-era songs that were released after he left the company.
At the height of the Jackson 5 mania in 1970-71, a solo career for young Michael was not a given. But when Donny Osmond went solo while staying in the Osmonds family group, Michael went solo as well, and was given material that made him sound more mature. "Got To Be There," his first solo hit, featured a stunning, declamatory phrase that provided the name of this collection.
The LP Got To Be There, released in January 1972, was followed by Ben, after the No. 1 hit title song from a film about a pet rat. Ben was first issued with a cover featuring lurid artwork from the film, which was quickly replaced by a simpler image of Michael Jackson; this package reproduces both covers in the 48-page booklet.
Music And Me was next, featuring a few Adult Contemporary covers, followed by Forever, Michael, which had a harder dance age; it included the now-classic hits "We're Almost There" and "Just A Little Bit Of You."
Although Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 left Motown in 1975 to go to Epic Records, that wasn't the end of the story. "One Day In Your Life," released in the aftermath of Michael Jackson's solo Off The Wall, turned into a No. 1 hit in the U.K. and top 40 AC in the U.S. Following the crazy ride of Thriller, Motown released Farewell My Summer Love, a batch of songs from the vault with contemporary overdubs; the title song went top 10 R&B. There's more: in 1986 Motown issued Looking Back To Yesterday, a collection of more vault masters - some with the Jackson 5 - that contained further unexpected gems.
Hello World has all of that and these extra gems: all nine songs from Farewell My Summer Love are included in their original, undubbed mixes. Plus, the label has unearthed the original mix of "Twenty-Five Miles," Michael's cover of the Edwin Starr hit that has previously been available only in a 1987 vault collection. It's all in a splendid, hard-backed 8"x 5.5" package with an introductory essay by Motown's Suzee Ikeda, a main essay by Mark Anthony Neal, pages of annotations, rare photos and repros of the LP jackets. It's deserving of the one of the greatest performers the world has ever known, at any age.
Rolling Stone - p.784 stars out of 5
-- "Jackson summoned pains beyond the realm of adolescent experience on his aching cover of 'Ain't No Sunshine'....'Ben' remains eerie and extraordinary."
Entertainment Weekly - p.58
"[This] collection of Jackson's 1971-75 solo work is a sad but timely reminder of how gifted he was from the start." -- Grade: A-
Released only a matter of days after Michael Jackson's tragic June 2009 passing but in the works long before that, Hip-O Select's HELLO WORLD: THE MOTOWN SOLO COLLECTION collects the entirety of his solo recordings for Motown in a triple-disc set. Although Michael had some major hits during this period--notably "Got to Be There," "Ben," and "Rockin' Robin," all Top Five hits on both the pop and Black Singles charts--it's fair to call these years Jackson's awkward adolescence, perched partway between the preteen dynamo of the Jackson Five and the cool, confident entertainer of OFF THE WALL. There's nothing new here for collectors, but much of this material has been out-of-print for a long time, so it's useful putting the somewhat forgotten recordings of a major artist back in circulation even if the music doesn't hold any new insights. Essentially, these three discs confirm the basic narrative of Michael Jackson's career to be correct: he was drifting at Motown as a solo artist, trapped both by his adolescence and the unwillingness of the label to give him anything to do other than follow shifting trends from bubblegum soul to disco. Naturally, the aforementioned big hits retain their power and there are some gems scattered throughout each of the discs--and those gems come entirely from Jackson's pure, natural charisma--which may be reason enough for serious fans to get this handsomely produced set.