The King of Pop faced a daunting task in following up his bazillion-selling “Thriller” album of 1982. While 1987’s “Bad” fell short of what came before it, including Jackson’s previous Quincy Jones collaboration “Off The Wall” (1979), it wasn’t, well, half bad.
The newly reissued deluxe 25th anniversary edition of “Bad” includes three CDs and one DVD. The set consists of a remastered version of the original album, a disc of rare and unreleased tracks, such as French and Spanish versions of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and the bizarre and controversial “Song Groove (aka Abortion Papers)” among others. It also includes the live CD/DVD from Jackson’s July 1988 Wembley concert, a pair of booklets, a sticker and a poster.
“Bad” opens with the title track, retaining the MJ-as-tough-guy spirit of “Beat It” from “Thriller.” The jubilant “The Way You Make Me Feel,” a well-deserved hit single, is a triumph, but “Speed Demon” demonstrates the hiccup singing style that Jackson unfortunately mined until his death. The gushy “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” also ranks among his best and the popular; preachy “Man in the Mirror” was Jackson at his most manipulative. The irony of the song was that Jackson desperately needed to take a look in the mirror.
The pissed-off and rocking “Leave Me Alone,” the final track, is the strongest on the disc and one of the best songs he ever wrote. It’s the declaration of independence that Jackson always needed to make for himself.
If Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, then R.E.M. was the King of College Radio, later known as alternative music. In a career spanning 30 years, the group from Athens, Ga., led by queer front man Michael Stipe, defined modern rock through its instrumentation and exotic lyrics. On early recordings, from the jangle pop roots of “Murmur” and “Reckoning” to the dark folk of “Fables of the Reconstruction” to the beginnings of R.E.M.’s mainstream pop breakthrough on “Life’s Rich Pageant,” the group paved the way for the multitude of imitators who followed.
The re-released, expanded, double-CD, 25th anniversary edition of “Document,” R.E.M.’s fifth album, could easily be the soundtrack for 2012. Stipe sings presciently about signs of the current times in the aptly titled “Exhuming McCarthy,” including being “Loyal to the Bank of America.” Lyrics such as “vested interest united ties, landed gentry rationalize” might have been written yesterday.
The list of cheerily delivered catastrophes in “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine),” including the eerie line “don’t get caught in foreign towers,” almost suggests there was a crystal ball present when this album was being written. “Document” also featured the modest hit “The One I Love” and a blistering electric edge in “Finest Worksong” and “Oddfellows Local 151.”
The attractively packaged anniversary set includes a 20-track live disc recorded in Holland, a large poster, booklet and postcards.