Picks and Pans Review: Farewell My Summer Love 1984
The Jacksonizing of pop music is, obviously, proceeding apace, as these three albums by Joe and Katherine's amazingly musical offspring attest. Jermaine, 29, is, in a lot of ways, a deeper, more powerful singer than his much more famous brother and former 5-mate Michael. (Jermaine sometimes sounds like Michael played at 27 rpm or so.) His eighth solo album (Arista) demonstrates his versatility too, ranging from the driving funk of Dynamite to Ralph Dino and Larry DiTomaso's gently romantic Do What You Do. There's also one lively duet with Michael and another touching one with Whitney Houston. Jermaine sings with such involvement and passion it's even possible to forgive him for the excessively sentimental Oh Mother, which he co-wrote with Elliot Willensky ("Have I thanked you /For letting me come out of you/And giving me all of your best"). But then Jermaine is nothing if not grateful. On his liner notes, he thanks his parents, his siblings, father-in-law Berry Gordy Jr., Yamaha, his wife and children, someone named Marrianne "for all the brownies and cookies," "the people" and Bernard Gross, an elementary school classmate from Gary, Ind. In contrast, LaToya performs with a detached, almost bored approach at times. She also sings in clipped bursts that bespeak a short musical attention span, perhaps because most of the material on this, her third solo LP (Private I/CBS), has a droning, rhythmic quality. Only on the reggae-tinged Frustration does her enthusiasm seem to become engaged. To put it mildly, the title of Michael's album (Motown) is a blatant, opportunistic cheat. None of these songs was recorded more recently than 10 years ago when Michael was 15. (The album includes a poster full of childhood pictures of the pre-gloved, pre-nose-job singer.) It's too bad that his old label found it necessary to foist this deception on his fans, since the music itself is splendid and previously unreleased. It may be an aural illusion, but Michael's voice sounded at least as mature then as it does now, even if his style is flashier these days. In any case it's fun to hear him sing the old Smokey Robinson hit You've Really Got a Hold on Me and Al Green's Here I Am (Come and Take Me). Fortunately, even back then people noticed that this was a kid with a future.