Friday, December 19, 2003

"Billie Jean," Michael Jackson (2/12/83)
He made it all look so easy, so effortless. A

"Outstanding," The Gap Band (2/5/83)
...and the brothers Wilson's streak continued right into '83 with "Outstanding," their third #1 in as many years. Yes, those are congas you hear, here - the most prominent instrument on the single which is not either a piano or Charlie Wilson's amazing tenor. And it's mid-to-downtempo! If that doesn't reel you in, nothing will. The Gap Band = one of the most important R&B groups of the first half of the '80s. A-

"The Girl Is Mine," Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney (1/15/83)
I wonder what a Beatles record would've sounded like produced by Quincy Jones rather than George Martin. Or, for that matter, an entire Macca album studio'd by Q? Anyway, this is a really lovely, gorgeous record; don't dismiss it out of hand, especially if you've not heard it in some time. Yes, it's a bit on the twee 'n schmaltzy side. Yes, it's tasteful - or "tasteful," if you prefer. But that doesn't change the fact that it's actually a well-written song, well sung (well, as long as Jacko's not making those guttural noises he makes, nearly anything with either of these two on it's going to be well-sung), cleanly produced. What gets it over for me, though, is that you can hear the nascent friendship between the superstar pair in the way they banter near song's end. Thisisgoodandifyoudisagreewithmeyouarewrongsoshutup. B+

"Sexual Healing," Marvin Gaye (11/6/82)
1982's final charttopper was also one of its best, the definition of comeback and the definition of brilliance combined. Everything Marvin did well, updated (tweaked, as it were) for the '80s without ever coming off as pandering; basically, it's a rework of "Let's Get It On" for '82, and thus, it's just as perfect (if not moreso). He arranged, wrote, produced, and played every note, along with his usual buttery lead vocals. This is what you find when you seek a definition of "lover's rock." Now go rock your baby all night long. A+

"Love Come Down," Evelyn King (10/2/82)
I told you she'd do better. An easy-going, easy-rockin' ode to her man infused with an insufferable joy, "Love Come Down" is can't miss - and it can't. B+

"Jump To It," Aretha Franklin (9/4/82)
Go 'head, call it a comeback, 'cause that's exactly what it was. Her biggest hit since the mid-'70s, "Jump To It" brought Re-Re back to the premiere league of R&B, and not a moment too soon, either. Completely of-the-moment production (which still sounds good) paired with a sassy song equaled a certain, deserved smash about how Aretha's gotta ask "how high?" when her man says "jump." Mm. B+

"Dance Floor (Part 1)," Zapp (8/21/82)
Roger (Troutman)'s 1981 cover of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" was a total bore; fortunately, he bounced back much better with the subsequent album from his group Zapp. He was still relying too much on his bag of vocoder tricks, but at least here they're accompanied by the requisite amount of funk, if not quite your recommended daily allowance. B

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