Picks and Pans Review: Centipede
At least the Jacksons don't have to worry about running out of topics for conversation if they get together for Thanksgiving. They can always discuss their relative standing on the record charts and who looks most beautiful on the album covers—although it's hard to beat Michael in that category, among others. Janet, 18, is the clan's youngest, though she's a showbiz veteran, having had regular TV roles on Good Times, Diff'rent Strokes and Fame. She has a sweet, delicate singing style—too delicate a lot of the time. Her album, co-produced by brother Marlon (along with Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte and Jesse Johnson), makes its greatest impact on the softer cuts. There's a duet with British popster Cliff Richard, Two to the Power of Love, and the smooth If It Takes All Night. It's Wayne Henderson who wins the producer sweepstakes this time, for making the most of Janet's sister Rebbie's considerable talents. At 34, she's the oldest of the Jacksons and has spent most of her career backing up such semi-singers as Carroll O'Connor and Lynda Carter. But she finally has a hit with the title single from Centipede. Written and produced by Michael, it is an essentially dumb song. The line "Like a centipede that's hot/ The fire is in your touch" doesn't mean anything, unless we're talking fried centipedes. But Michael's arrangement more than compensates, blending John Barnes' eerie synthesizer figures with some spectacular background vocalists: Michael himself and the Weather Girls, Izora Armstead and Martha Wash. If it's all much ado about nothing, it's enjoyable ado. Henderson helps Rebbie create nice packages for Frank Hamilton's Ready for Love, Play Me (I'm a Jukebox), by Jan Buckingham and Pam Tillis, and Prince's I Feel for You. Of the three Jackson sisters, Rebbie has most of the depth and power as a singer. (Janet: A&M; Rebbie: Columbia)
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