Friday, January 14, 2011

Gonzo Reviews Michael Jackson's "Vision"

For years, I've bemoaned something that Prince, MJ and Madonna all have in common: Each has at least one video collection on the market, but none of the 1980s triple crown of pop has a definitive collection. That tide appears to be shifting. While it's still not "complete," Madonna's 2009 collection Celebration is a fairly comprehensive 2 dvd set covering 1983-2009 (still no "Gambler?" For shame). Prince's incredibly slim The Hits Video Collection remains his only career-spanning collection, and lacks many of the Purple One's promo films (too many to bother listing).

And then there's Michael Jackson. The artist who rather early on redefined music video as an art form and MTV as a cultural force. 1992's HIStory collection gathered the hits, some in truncated form (on the VHS release anyway). The companion volume repeated some of the hits from volume 1, along with videos from the HIStory album. 2001's Number Ones DVD rehashes the big hits, most in their edited forms.

So despite it being an obvious effort to cash in on posthumous Michael Mania, I was excited to get wind of Vision, a 3-DVD career spanning set of MJ's videos in original, unedited form.

The set chronicles Michael's career as a visual artist from Off the Wall through Invincible. And to have the full-length, unedited versions is a treat, as I hadn't seen many of these since their original MTV premieres. The 18+ minute version of "Bad," for example. Or the 9+ minute cut of "The Way You Make Me Feel." Or the 9+ minute version of "Smooth Criminal."

There is one censored cut, however. While the full 11 minutes of "Black or White" is here (zipper pulling, crotch grabbing, Simpsons' outro and all!), it is not the originally aired version, which included some graffiti-ed racial slurs in the dance segment. I believe that version is still available on Dangerous: The Short Films, however, so chalk one up for cashing in on those with completest tendencies (moi?).

It's also great to see the lesser known cuts, like "Another Part of Me," "Liberian Girl," "Give in to Me" and "They Don't Care About Us." It seems they were really going for a definitive collection here.

So much so that the bonus disc includes 7 videos that don't strictly fall under the banner of Michael Jackson - "Enjoy Yourself," "Blame it on the Boogie" and "Can You Feel It" (all by the post-Motown Jacksons), "Say Say Say" (the so-cheesy-it's-good duet with Sir Paul), Spike Lee's alternate "prison" cut of "They Don't Care About Us," "Why" (with nephews 3T, though none of them are Jermajesty) and the previously unreleased "One More Chance."

It wasn't until this bonus disc that I recalled a few cuts that are in fact absent. If we're talking Jacksons videos, absent here is "Torture" (which is in fact, a pretty torturous cut) and "2300 Jackson Street." If I recall my Pop-Up Video correctly, MJ didn't actually appear in the "Torture" clip, but they borrowed a wax figure from Madame Tusseaud's (!). Wikipedia also claims video clips for "Dreamer," "Goin' Places," "Even Though You're Gone," "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" and "Body," though this is all news to me. My guess is most of these were clips from Bandstand and the like that aired on outlets like The Box.

Oh wow...there is definitely a video for "Body!" (Though again, no MJ.)

Thank god for YouTube. And of course, I had to check all of the others. There is a video for "Dreamer" [embedding disabled by request. BOOOOOO]

"Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" -

"Even Though You're Gone" -

"Goin' Places" -

Of course, some of these may actually be pulled from the Jacksons Variety Show.

Despite the absence of some of the Jacksons cuts, the collection is quite comprehensive (though I believe the video for "Gone Too Soon" is different than what I remembered).

It's a good thing that I bought this set over a semester break, because I ended up watching the bulk of it in one sitting. It does suck you in, particularly on the first disc. Sure, there's a dropoff point on disc 2, but if even the lesser videos weren't included, people like me would be quick to point out the omissions.

All told, this is the Michael Jackson video collection we've been waiting for. Given that it only touts 7 cuts, the bonus disc could have been padded with a number of other clips (the aforementioned Jacksons material, "We Are the World," etc.") But I'm splitting hairs here. Vision may be a bit of a rush job, but as the estate floods the market, this is one of the items that most fans actually want.

The sad thing is, I don't think we'll see anything like this from Prince until he dies, but that's another story altogether.


aisha said...
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Big said...

I didn't buy this. I've got too much Michael stuff and I've seen all the videos too many times. I might pick up a used copy somewhere down the line.

FYI, though: the graffiti in the "Black or White" video was edited in after the public outcry regarding the video's coda. It wasn't in the original cut. I guess they added it in to provide context for Michael's behavior. Nevertheless, the version of "BOW" on "Vision" appears to be the original.

Joe said...

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