Victory? A surprisingly listenable album. My Man Clif and I were talking about the Marlon Jackson opus, “Body” (“Girl, I want your body, you know I love your body; girl, I need your body, whywon’tyoucomehomewithmenow?!?!”) and the conversation led me to checking it out again. Y’know, Victory has actually become something of a running joke in my circle because of the cheesiness we’ve always assigned it and, yes, compared to The Jacksons, Triumph, Destiny and, quietly, the criminally underrated Goin’ Places, it certainly is a disappointment (Jacksons apologist that I am, even I like to pretend 2300 Jackson Street didn’t exist.) But I think its a mistake to completely dismiss the effort.
First of all, Victory represents a fascinating cultural snapshot of the Jackson family’s journey. Released in 1984, the family’s fifth album on Epic represented the first time that Jermaine-who had remained at Motown when his four brothers, Jackie, Tito, Marlon and Michael-worked with the modern incarnation of the group. Visually, there is something, well, victorious about seeing all six brothers, including Randy, on the cover. And while it’s certainly no, “I’ll Be There”, there is something aurally moving about hearing Michael and Jermaine sing together on “Torture.” So, just for recreating that dynamic, I think the album is important.
Then there’s the fact that, three years before Bad and a year before “We Are The World,” the 1984 release represents Michael Jackson’s first post-Thriller music. Although Michael was always the biggest fish in the Jackson pond, this dynamic whereas he’s the most popular artist in the world who’s almost slumming with his brothers played out in a fascinating manner. Besides “Torture,” Jackson sings lead on two other songs, “State of Shock” and “Be Not Always.” The former is noteworthy only for the bizarre spectacle of Jackson and Mick Jagger mugging and growling through a faux rock opus that should have been called, “State of Shock: Can We Recreate ‘Beat It’ And Appeal To That Rock Audience?” And, with its maudlin, over the top string arrangement and lyrics like, ” To have nothing, to dream something, then lose hoping. Is not life but lame?”, “Be Not Always” is embarrassing for all involved. But, y’know, 1984 Michael Jackson; who’s going to tell him his songs suck?
And that’s the great irony of Victory. The best songs on the album are the ones Michael Jackson had nothing to do with. My favorite, “One More Chance” a low key paean to that immortal theme of “I messed up but lemme fix it” displays a surprisingly vulnerable and expressive Randy on lead vocals and production and, while it’s not a great song, I’ve always found Randy’s “The Hurt” to work in a proto-electronica manner. Not to be outdone by the littlest Jackson brother, “Wait” is witty and fun in that way that the eighties did best; all synthesizers and soda pop rhythm held together by Jackie’s authorial tenor. And, to go back to the reason I cracked the CD open in the first place, Marlon is killin’ it on “Body.” You can’t tell that Negro a damn thing; he got swagger, he got sexuality, he wants that girl’s body and he wants her to come home with him now.
Again, not a great album but even the forgettable joints like “We Can Change The World” are okay. Like everyone else, I wish all six brothers would tour one last time and I’m a little frustrated with Michael not going along with it but, based on Victory, I don’t know if I would skip something that the other five did on their own.