Too often, the Jackson 5 are written off as simply being the group that gave Michael Jackson his start. What is equally significant about the group is that they were the last great Motown act, and one that earned their fame and commercial success. Due to Motown’s utter lack of respect for the musical legacy it created in the ‘60s and ‘70s, fans of the J5 and their labelmates have waited years for remastered, well-packaged collections of their music on compact disc. It has been nearly 25 years since the Jackson 5 left Motown, and only now are they getting their due, in the form of the two-disc Anthology.
Comprising 36 tracks recorded between 1969 and 1976, Anthology is a J5 fan’s dream come true. The collection features a lengthy and informative essay by David Ritz, release dates and chart positions for each song, a discography, and several photographs. Of course, the music is the biggest treat. As expected, all of the J5’s Number One hits are included—“I Want You Back”, “ABC”, “The Love You Save”, “I’ll Be There”, “Never Can Say Goodbye”, and “Dancing Machine”.
These big hits, however, are only part of the story. While their chart-toppers were common enough on previous collections and currently receive a good deal of airplay on oldies radio, the J5 released a lot of great singles, several of which charted but are rarely heard today. “Mama’s Pearl” was a Number Two hit on the pop and R&B charts and was featured in the closing medley of the J5 cartoon, but many casual fans might not know it. What’s so exciting about a collection like Anthology is that younger fans are going to be hearing this fantastic song, one of the J5’s best, for the first time, and they are going to love it.
Among the other lost gems on the first disc are “I Found That Girl”, a soft soul number that features an all too rare lead vocal by Jermaine; “Who’s Loving You”, with which Michael wowed Ed Sullivan’s audience; and the surprisingly funky “I’ll Bet You”. The second disc, which features Michael’s post-voice change work, has its highlights but isn’t nearly as satisfying as its companion disc. “Get It Together” and “Hum Along and Dance” have a funky bent, “Whatever You Got I Want” is pleasing pop fluff, and “The Life of the Party” hints at the disco direction Michael would take on Off the Wall.
With the exception of “Dancing Machine”, however, there are no truly great songs on the second disc. The J5 handled growing older as well as any child stars could, but they were at the mercy of Motown’s songwriters and producers, who were hardly at the top of their game by the mid-‘70s. It was not until 1978’s Destiny that the group (now called the Jacksons) took full control of their music and regained their magic touch. For those who want to remember their magic moments at Motown, however, Anthology is the definitive statement.