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Chalk dust! Is the Michael Jackson Off The Wall reissue a bad call?

Jackson_offthewall_packshot

Sony’s approach to Michael Jackson reissues has been a little uneven at best…

2008’s Thriller 25 did come in a rather blingy gold hardcover book but the bonus material was a mixed bag. It didn’t include previously (re)issued material such as the Billie Jean home demo, and outtakes Someone In The Dark and Carousel – meaning you couldn’t discard the 2001 expanded set – and instead obsessed on keeping MJ ‘relevant’ by including newly commissioned remixes from will.i.am, Akon, Fergie and Kanye West. A DVD provided the three ‘short films’ (Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller) as well as the now familiar ‘Motown 25′ footage. This wasn’t so much a comprehensive reissue, rather than just one piece in the Thriller ‘jigsaw’.

2012’s Bad 25 was a big improvement, including a DVD and CD of Live at Wembley and a decent second disc of bonus material. However none of the many twelve-inch versions were included and neither was Spike Lee’s Bad 25 documentary anywhere to be found. A disc of videos/short films only came with the exclusive three-disc edition via US retailer Target and again Sony/Legacy (or perhaps the Jackson estate) still thought Michael needed to be associated with modern day acts, hence more woeful reworkings, courtesy of Afrojack and Pitball.

The new Off The Wall combines a CD of the album with a Blu-ray/DVD featuring a new Spike Lee documentary. It repeats the errors of Thriller 25 by containing less audio than previous editions – not hard, since there is actually no bonus audio at all on this new edition – but at least there is a purity and simplicity to the offering and thankfully we have no modern remixes to contend with.

There’s not too much to be said about the album itself, that hasn’t already been said, of course. The first ‘side’ of what was the vinyl record (Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough to Get On The Floor) is arguably as strong a 20 minutes of music as Michael Jackson ever produced. Spike Lee’s documentary – on the other disc –  is prosaically titled Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall and it does what it says on the tin. It’s highly entertaining with plenty of archival footage of The Jackson Five, then The Jacksons (they had to change the name after they’d left Motown) and Michael in his late teens enjoying life and hanging out in Studio 54 and acting the flop film version of hit musical The Wiz.

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Spike Lee directed the Off The Wall documentary

The documentary has no voiceover and tells the story via the archive footage and plenty of ‘talking heads’ with people queuing up to heap praise on Michael and the album, including Pharrell Williams and Mark Ronson. Paul McCartney, who wrote Girlfriend, is notable by his absence. Obviously, if you want a balanced and considered approached to the pre-Thriller years, this isn’t it. But it’s still a great watch.

The packaging sounds quite gimmicky since it comes with a piece of chalk which you are supposed to use to scribble on the ‘wall’ inside the gatefold sleeve. However, Sony have actually designed this very well, since even if you discard the chalk, you are left with a high quality gatefold card wallet which slides into a plastic slipcase with overprinted image of Michael. The unboxing video below illustrates this better than words can!

In the end, it’s probably not fair to judge this as a fully-blown ‘deluxe reissue’, it’s obviously more of an interim release which perhaps anticipates a bigger set in the future – Off The Wall 40 in 2019? The question is whether you really need this at all, since the documentary will inevitably be coming to a TV channel near you at some point in the next 18 months, if not sooner.

The Off The Wall CD+DVD or CD+Blu-ray reissue is out now.


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CD+Blu-ray

CD+DVD

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37 responses to Chalk dust! Is the Michael Jackson Off The Wall reissue a bad call?

  1. Richard says:

    “Off The Wall 30 in 2019″ I think you’ll find that’s the 40th anniversary. ;-)

  2. Andrew Mogford says:

    Great to see a video Paul, but regretfully will have to disagree. Looks a faff and don’t forget contains “mastered for iTunes” tracks. However, it’s really good to see it in the flesh and appreciate that! Thanks.

    • Kevin says:

      “Mastered for iTunes” is an unfortunate label that suggests the opposite of what you’d first think. Basically, instead of the typical 44.1 kHz/16-bit CD master, the process uses a high-definition master (the “ideal” is 96 kHz/24-bit) with peaks of -1 dB to prevent clipping during conversion to the AAC format.

  3. Friso Pas says:

    ….”the documentary will inevitably be coming to a TV channel near you at some point in the next 18 months, if not sooner.”
    Ehr….how about tonight on Dutch television??? I’m not kidding!

  4. Rob Wilcock says:

    With regard to the album, the earlier releases contain 2 early and original mixes of “Rock With You” and “Get On The Floor” not contained on later releases..

    Why didn’t Sony and Michael’s estate release the original? They could have added the 2 later remixes, the edited 12″ album version of Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough and remix of Off The Wall.

    Hopefully BBC 4 will show the dicumentary, it’s been on Showtime in the US already.

  5. Sylent Syd says:

    I bought this on release day. The documentary on Blu-Ray was worth the price of admission for me, but, gawd, that packaging is annoying. Binned it immediately, lol.

  6. Richard says:

    What kind of music buying adult would seriously enjoy having chalk packaged with the music? Who makes these ridiculous decisions?

    • Friso Pas says:

      Hey, luckily this idiot just decided to put some chalk with a cd/blu-ray. Some other idiots actually decide on throwing chemical waste into the ocean, or gambling whole pensionfunds down the drain.

    • Griffin says:

      The one(s) who made the decision for Cyndi’s doll with changing outfits :D

  7. Martin says:

    cheap rip off to cash in and nothing new except the chalk and a sycophantic talking head coming on repeat to a TV near you. Pass….

  8. Jack says:

    The release seemed half done… yeah I’m sure the DOC on BLU is a nice bonus… but honestly there should be a Blu-Ray audio disc with the album with multi channel 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options.

    If they ever get around to nice deluxe editions of 5.1 and 2.0 HD Audio Discs then I’ll bite.

    and yeah that chalk who was that aimed for ?

  9. RJSWinchester says:

    Gotta disagree. That packaging is so gimmicky. Great if you’re 13 years or under. I don’t know why they didn’t have the DVD as the headliner with the CD as a bonus.

    • Christophe says:

      That’s the way I see it indeed.

      This is NOT a new edition of “Off the Wall”, with the movie as the sole bonus.

      It IS the movie you buy, with the album as a bonus.

      (I already wrote it in a previous article on this site, but somehow my comment never made it to the board.)

  10. Kent says:

    For those in the US, the documentary has been airing on Showtime for the past month. As of today (March 8), there are at least 14 airings scheduled through at least March 24. While the documentary jumps around a little on chronology, it is quite entertaining and a must-see.

    Since I have now seen the doc, I will definitely be passing on this reissue.

  11. Richard says:

    Paul, the Spike Lee documentary .. it was already on dutch TV last week …

    Richard

  12. Mike the Fish says:

    I’m wondering if this is a trend within record companies – issue a new set, but not making the old one redundant as that can limit used sales of the previous issue. The A-ha 5 disc set does this, as (in a very minor way) does the Songs From The Big Chair set!

    • Julian H says:

      SFTBC included all the tracks from the previous deluxe, no? Are you referring to those three seconds at the beginning of “Mothers Talk (Alternate US Remix)”? Those were likely not even meant for inclusion…

  13. Ben Williams says:

    I like the design of the album cover and the documentary disc insert sleeve but the idea that Sony Legacy, a label that distributes the absolute best of their catologues would think the best way to serve a great artists’s legacy would be to release this album with a piece of chalk. A piece of chalk?!?

  14. Dave says:

    I read on a MJ website that there wasn’t much in the way of demos or rarities to make a 2 CD set so the record company decided to make it a one CD set.

    I think there’s enough that’s already been released that could have made a second CD including the 90’s remixes, some of which weren’t as bad as those Thriller duets with modern artists.

    An SACD or blu-ray audio release would have been nice.

  15. baward says:

    I suppose this will be a big seller with teachers across the world ;-)

    I would imagine that with MJ’s vast fanbase, its difficult to satisfy everyone. So a lot of people would love the chalk, and be indifferent to lots of bonus material.

    • Billy Dojcak says:

      Teachers now use smart boards. I was sad when I went into my wife’s classroom (she’s the teacher) and there is no longer pieces of chalk to jam in the erasures that leave lines on the blackboard.

  16. HS says:

    I already have the previous re-issue of this album so I bought it for the documentary. Yes, it may be shown on TV, but there is a difference in seeing something on TV or owning it on an official release. I still think there should have been SOME bonus audio on the CD though – and the chalk is a complete joke. Was it supposed to urge fans to write on the packaging and show pictures of it on social media??? I’m joking but still – in this day and age it wouldn’t surprise me…

  17. Rick E says:

    The documentary is entertaining for the most part and I bought the set for that, but had I known it would be shown on TV so soon, I would not have bothered getting it.

    Some major players were missing in the documentary like Rod Temperton, Patti Austin and Quincy Jones (only archival footage is shown), wehereas we get comments from The Weeknd (why?) and a bunch of people who know less about the album than I do! :-D

  18. AlexKx says:

    You all realize there is complaining with what is included and then when they don’t include anything? As far as unreleased stuff I would be willing to bet there are tons and tons of things in terms of demo, outtakes, instrumentals, new and old remixes, alternative versions, etc., etc. The idea and concept that that would not be the case with Michael Jackson during this time period is nothing less than obsured. I don’t know where that idea comes from or why it is accepted just because it was “seen on some website” official or not. Even if it came from someone official are you all not aware at this point in time that whoever could either be holding back information or just misinformed?!

  19. england says:

    First marbles, now chalk…. are we all 5 years old?!?!?

  20. Peter B says:

    I’m not familiar with Pitball’s work, but surely they can’t be as bad as Pitbull ;0)

  21. Fady says:

    For mine it is Jackson’s greatest album – and he has released some absolute stunners. But I just don’t get why you would release something which has so little in terms of its features. Yes, the album is superb and on its own it is certainly worth the price. But if you’re going to make an effort to repackage the album then I would think you would do more than simply add a documentary – even if it’s by the great Spike Lee. How difficult would it have been to add another disc of remixes or b-sides? I simply don’t understand why Sony would bother releasing something so threadbare for what is a landmark album. It just seems so weird to me.

  22. Rhinojack says:

    And to top it off, the actual CD comes loose in the gatefold sleeve, The booklet is tucked in there with it including its staples. Bad idea. The Blu-ray at least has its own sleeve inside the gatefold sleeve. . Would much rather have a sleeve than the excessive and stupid chalk container.

  23. Saad says:

    Should fans just chalk it down to experience?!

  24. Mr Tim says:

    Saturday 19th March bbc2, uk. 9pm.
    That said I’d still buy this if the price was right… Not the same not owning the material on disc.

  25. Lee3010 says:

    I think I criticised this when it was first announced – it seemed an truly awful idea, but …… now purchased, I adore it – yes the packaging is ‘fiddly’ at first but the design concept is great. I really enjoyed the documentary, it’s not really an era many fans/public (or may be just me) focus on, so it makes a nice change. I see this edition as the DVD/Blu ray, with the album thrown in, together with some originality in the packaging (I even enjoyed having a scribble with the chalk on the wall)!!! I would have loved some additional material (music) but i’m guessing this will appear on another edition, further down the line. It’s quirky, it’s original and I have to say, totally enjoyable

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