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Celebrating Michael Jackson's Youth: The Stripped Mixes and Hello World - The Motown Solo Collection

09/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mixing Michael Jackson's solo material with that of The Jackson 5's, The Stripped Mixes rips away layers of production, revealing a young boy with the ability to emote mature emotions at an early age. Of course, that's the irony, considering Michael Jackson's post-thirty-five material is riddled with man-child topics and some pretty contrived acrobatic voicings. But Stripped's vocals sound honest and full of life, despite the family drama at the time of these recordings; and they are presented as round and mostly uncompressed, making this batch one of the most revealing presentations of all the works of The King of Pop.

Producers Tom Rowland and Jeff Moskow (with Motown guru Harry Weinger and Mulholland Music's mastering chief Doug Schwartz) lovingly treat the young Jackson's recordings with respect, allowing his notes to breathe and soar whenever possible. Opening with the lone bass of "I'll Be There," these new mixes hush anything that competes with Michael's cherubic voice as it earnestly suggests things like "you and I should make a pact" or when it crescendos in lyrics such as "let me fill your heart with joy and laughter." One of the project's best re-mixes is the almost unbearably innocent "Ben" that is now cradled within a far-off string section and gentle acoustic guitar. The album practically is worth its cost for this song alone, or possibly for its newly-simplified bridge with a previously buried, touching string conclusion.

The remix of the heartbreaking "With A Child's Heart" mainly succeeds from Michael's now clarified, sullen approach that tackles its subject matter with an eerie perceptiveness--especially sad considering his later "adult" years; and the revision of his cover of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" (released as a UK single) spotlights a moodier, soulful side, one that someone Michael's age normally doesn't have access to. These are some of his richest vocals prior to the ink on his Epic contract drying.

But the schoolyard romps that are the simplified "ABC" and "I Want You Back" show off this happy little kid goofing around with his big brothers, and celebrates his just being a boy (albeit a ridiculously gifted one). Though "Got To Be There" is all about its vocal octave jumps and not much more, "Never Can Say Goodbye" and its re-focused rhythm section (is that electric guitar a sixth Jackson?) show-off Michael being a showoff. It's a great showcase for all of the Jackson brothers, but especially for the runt who's just riffin' away on lines such as "I never can-a-say-a-goodbye" like a little wiseass.

And Stax fans are going to love "Who's Loving You" that's been pared down to its pianos (including electric), bass, era-appropriate electric guitar chinks, and doo-wop background vocals, it time-tripping us back to the sixties where the song belongs. The only complaint one might have about this collection is a major one...it only offers eleven tracks (what, no "Mama's Pearl," "The Love You Save" or "Rockin' Robin"?). But throughout these short, blissful insights into the music of Michael's childhood, you get to re-explore this pop genius from another perspective, one that invites you to revisit your own youth along the way.

For the completist, there is the box set Hello World - The Motown Solo Collection that gives you everything that united the "Michael Jackson" and "Motown" monikers. It gathers every Jackson recording between 1971 and 1975, including bonus tracks such as nine from the album Farewell My Summer Love in their "original, un-dubbed mixes." The three-disc collection features all the hits and Michael's unreleased, original mix of his take on Edwin Starr's "Twenty-Five Miles." Liner notes include those by Motown artist and Jackson friend Suzee Ikeda plus Mark Anthony Neal, and they and the discs are housed within a 48-page, hard-backed box that also includes annotations, rare photos, and LP jacket reproductions, including the disturbing "rat" cover originally released for Ben.

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The Stripped Mixes

1. I'll Be There
2. Ben
3. Who's Loving You
4. Ain't No Sunshine
5. I Want You Back
6. ABC
7. We've Got A Good Thing Going
8. With A Child's Heart
9. Darling Dear
10. Got To Be There
11. Never Can Say Goodbye

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Hello World - The Motown Solo Collection

Disc 1
1. Ain't No Sunshine
2. I Wanna Be Where You Are
3. Girl Dont Take Your Love From Me
4. In Our Small Way
5. Got To Be There
6. Rockin' Robin
7. Wings Of My Love
8. Maria (You Were The Only One)
9. Love Is Here And Now You're Gone
10. You've Got A Friend
11. Ben
12. Greatest Show On Earth
13. People Make The World Go Round
14. We've Got A Good Thing Going
15. Everybody's Somebody's Fool
16. My Girl
17. What Goes Around Comes Around
18. In Our Small Way
19. Shoo Be Doo Be Doo Da Day
20. You Can Cry On My Shoulder
21. Don't Let It Get You Down (original mix)
22. You've Really Got A Hold on Me (original mix)
23. Melodie (original mix)
24. Touch The One You Love (original mix)

Disc 2
1. With A Child's Heart
2. Up Again
3. All The Things You Are
4. Happy (Love Theme From Lady Sings The Blues)
5. Too Young
6. Doggin' Around
7. Euphoria
8. Morning Glow
9. Johnny Raven
10. Music And Me
11. Were Almost There
12. Take Me Back
13. One Day In Your Life
14. Cinderella Stay Awhile
15. We've Got Forever
16. Just A Little Bit Of You
17. You Are There
18. Dapper-Dan
19. Dear Michael
20. I'll Come Home To You
21. Girl You're So Together (original mix)
22. Farewell My Summer Love (original mix)
23. Call On Me (original mix)

Disc 3
1. When I Come Of Age
2. Teenage Symphony
3. I Hear A Symphony
4. Give Me Half A Chance
5. Love's Gone Bad
6. Lonely Teardrops
7. You're Good For Me
8. That's What Love Is Made Of
9. I Like You The Way You Are (Don't Change Your Love On Me)
10. Who's Lookin' For A Lover
11. I Was Made To Love Her
12. If 'N I Was God
13. To Make My Father Proud (original mix)
14. Here I Am (Come And Take Me) (original mix)
15. Twenty-Five Miles (original mix)
16. Don't Let It Get You Down
17. You've Really Got A Hold on Me
18. Melodie
19. Touch The One You Love
20. Girl You're So Together
21. Farewell My Summer Love
22. Call On Me
23. Here I Am (Come And Take Me)
24. To Make My Father Proud

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