Recording information: Osaka Koseinenkin Hall (04/30/1973).
Photographer: K. Abe.
Available outside North America since the mid-'70s, In Japan! makes its debut thanks to the audio archivists at Hip-O Select. The online sonic shop went as far as re-creating the original gatefold album jacket -- in miniature of course -- and a 16-panel fold-out replicating the Japanese insert. Still known as the Jackson 5, Marlon, Tito, Randy, Jackie and Michael took to the stage of Osaka's Koseinenkin Hall in support of their most recent release Skywriter (1973) -- yet the extracts from the show on this title are filled primarily with familiar tunes not only from the quintet's sizable songbook of hits, but also selections gleaned from Michael Jackson's and Jermaine Jackson's respective solo catalogs. In fact, both brothers come out stronger than the collective ensemble with Michael performing "I Want to Be Where You Are," "Got to Be There" and "Ben," while Jermaine provides persuasive renderings of his early platters "That's How Love Goes," as well as covers of Shep & the Limelites' "Daddy's Home" and Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar." The show kicks off with sturdy, though unremarkable stabs at the Rare Earth side "We're Gonna Have a Good Time," followed by a half-hearted "Lookin' Through the Windows". It doesn't take long before they are able to turn the beat around on the inspired interpretation of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," which many may find worth the price of admission in and of itself. They similarly barrel into a propelling and hearty spin of the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," commencing with an eerily portentous siren during the prelude. Even as the version of "Never Can Say Goodbye" is among this set's zeniths, it is likewise the sole entry from the Jackson 5's extraordinary run of best-selling and chart-topping R&B/pop crossover smashes. Those omissions are not entirely unexpected, as they had come a great distance from the catchy bubblegum of "ABC," "I Want You Back," and "The Love You Save," maturing into decidedly more demanding roles within the band -- especially Jermaine and Michael, whose respective stars would continue their ascent during the ensuing decades. The aforementioned Hip-O Select edition of In Japan is limited to 5,000 copies and is available through their website www.hip-oselect.com. ~ Lindsay Planer