Music Review: Michael Jackson – Immortal

mj-immortalI received Michael Jackson’s “Immortal” as a Christmas gift from one of the most talented musicians I know. I didn’t know what to expect when I first opened the CD. It’s impossible not to be impressed by his talent, rhythmic sensibility, and most of all, his flawless intonation. After listening to this collection, those opinions were confirmed. I was mesmerized from the first downbeat.

The soundtrack to Cirque du Soleil’s celebration of Michael Jackson’s music is a twenty-track effort that takes the King Of Pop’s catalog and sanctions producer, Kevin Antunes, to chop up and piece back together to fit the show. In my opinion, this album doesn’t approach the sophistication of the remixing demonstrated by Cirque’s Beatle’s show, “Love”. It does, however, celebrate Jackson’s musical genius admirably.

The collection does a fine job drawing from the various eras of Michael’s career, from "The Jackson 5 Medley", featuring "I Want You Back", "ABC", and "The Love You Save", to the modern “King of Pop”. I found it hard not to smile as I listened to Michael’s grade school voice clearly cut through the densely orchestrated charts.

The album fuses lesser-known tracks like "Speechless" with bigger hits like "Human Nature", leaving the crisp bouncing of the twinkling synth intact. Disco laced rarities like "Workin’ Day And Night" and "This Place Hotel" feel at home with the thumping beat of "Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’", though THE slightly more cluttered beat does not really add anything to the tune.

Some of the songs are condensed into shorter versions of themselves, with the occasional sound effects to enhance the choreography; such as the machine gun to close the otherwise effective, horn and metallic drum fueled remix of "Smooth Criminal". The sparse snaps that introduce "Thriller" would have made for a charming a cappela take on the song, but the storm of sound effects interferes with what could have been a fantastic retelling. At least they leave in Vincent Price’s creepy spoken word portion as the flickering funk of the guitar pulls in.

The slightly growling vocals of "Is It Scary", speaking of a book of darkness and mystery, give way to MJ’s trademark breathy beatboxing and piano-kissed orchestra swells pushing along the sinister hook before giving way to the clunky "Threatened", enhanced with a touch of Rockwell’s "Somebody’s Watching Me". A drippy electro-tinged synth muddies the waters of "You Are Not Alone" before transitioning to the string-laced, quivering vocals of "I Just Can’t Stop Loving You", where Antunes manages to sap the beauty out of one song before wisely using a more delicate touch with another on the same track. Titled “Immortal Megamix”, a new take on his solo hits makes for an eight-minute musical marathon on "Can You Feel It", "Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough", "Billie Jean", and "Black And White", with DJ scratches and a dance beat anxiously assembled together with interesting chants of "Michael" droning through "Billie Jean".

For me, the musical payoff comes on the last track, “Man In The Mirror”. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear this, I am always inspired.
Ultimately, this is a well-intentioned celebration of Michael Jackson’s music. Undoubtedly, the audio/visual show will be exemplary, with context given to this musical mix. As a teaser for the Cirque show, this CD absolutely does the job!

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