Picks and Pans Review: Thriller

updated 01/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/24/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Michael Jackson

Michael, 24, has long been the son around which the rest of the Jackson soul system revolved. This album his first since 1979's hot-selling Off the Wall, shows a more musically sophisticated solo artist, but not one who has lost his boyish charm and playfulness. With the help of producer Quincy Jones, who has done little wrong lately, Jackson has fashioned a bouquet of nine tunes. Forget that saccharine duet with Paul McCartney, The Girl Is Mine. Michael's Wanna Be Startin' somethin' and his clever Billie Jean (about a paternity suit) show the master's Motown touch in blending soul and rock elements in a fluid, appealing style. His affecting tenor is marvelously displayed on the ballad Human Nature, composed by Toto-ite Steve Porcaro and John Bettis. And while he gives a stylistic nod to funky party music with Beat It, even there he avoids the temptation to become lyrically sloppy. A surprise on the title cut is a wonderful cameo rap by Vincent Price, whose bogeyman voice is perfect for the lines "The body starts to shiver/ For no mere mortal can resist/ The evil of the thriller." Willingness to experiment and a flawless sense of rhythm make this an album that lives up to its title.

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