Michael Jackson – Off The Wall – Listening in Depth

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Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Off The Wall.

On the better copies the multi-tracked chorus and background vocals are as breathy, rich, sweet and Tubey Magical as any pop recording we know of. An extended top end opens up the space for the huge, dense production to occupy. There is Midrange Magic To Die For exceeding anything to be found on Thriller.

Track Commentary

Side One

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

The first single from the album was designed to go to Number One and it certainly met all expectations in that regard.

On the properly mastered and pressed copies the vocals and percussion will be a bit brighter than those on most of the tracks that follow. The percussion is often somewhat brittle on even the best copies; it’s surely on the tape that way.

It should be big, clear and lively right out of the gate.

 Rock With You

The balancing act to the first track, Rock With You has some of the richest, smoothest, sweetest, most ANALOG sound on the entire album. There is no track on Thriller that sounds as Tubey Magical, assuming you have a top quality pressing.

As is always the case with rich and smooth sound, transparency is key. The sound should not be thick and dark, it should be both rich and clear.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough gets hot in the higher frequencies with the volume cranked. Rock With You is just the opposite; the louder you play it the better — the more right — it sounds from top to bottom.

Working Day and Night
Get on the Floor

Side Two

Off the Wall

On the better copies the multi-tracked chorus and background vocals are as breathy, rich, sweet and Tubey Magical as any pop recording we know of. An extended top end opens up the space for the huge, dense production to occupy. There is Midrange Magic To Die For exceeding anything to be found on Thriller.

The top end at the start of a side is sometimes lacking so pay attention to see if more top end can be heard later on in the song.

Watch for smear on the horns. They are rich and smooth and on some copies their transient bite will get blurry.

Girlfriend

Girlfriend can achieve the status of a top Demo track on the better copies, no question about it. Turn it up to hear some of the biggest, tightest, most note-like bass on the album. The best copies pull off that monstrous bottom end without bloat, while maintaining some of the loveliest, most tubey rich mids on the album.

On the better copies the stage is wide and the vocals as breathy as on any track on the album. Potentially the Demo Disc track of side two.

She’s Out of My Life 
I Can’t Help It

Some of the richest, silkiest, breathiest vocals on the album can be found here, my personal favorite track from Off the Wall.

Nothing on Thriller — no matter how hot the stamper — has this sound. It is the rare recording from the ’80s, even the early ’80s, that can compete with the best of those from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. For those of us who play records by the thousands this is simply inarguable; the preponderance of evidence is so overwhelming that what might pass for a mere observation must rightly be seen as something much stronger, a fact.

One can only despair for the CD listeners of the world who will never experience a top quality pressing of this album in the original analog.

It’s the Falling in Love 
Burn This Disco Out



1979 – The Year in Music

1979 sure was an interesting year. The Wall, Breakfast in America, London Calling, Off the Wall, Get the Knack, Damn the Torpedoes, Armed Forces, Spirits Having Flown, Tusk, The B-52s, Rust Never Sleeps, Rickie Lee Jones, Candy-O — the variety is remarkable. Even more remarkable is the number of albums recorded in ’79 that sound fresh and engaging to this day, more than 35 years after they were released. I could sit down in front of my speakers today and play any one of them all the way through. Try that with ten favorite albums from ’89, ’99 or ’09.