It was the summer of 1972, and The Jackson 5 was still one of Motown’s biggest acts. Earlier in the year, second youngest brother Michael released his solo debut, Got to Be There. Following the release of the group The Jackson 5’s sixth album Lookin’ Through the Windows, the third eldest brother and co-lead singer of the group, Jermaine, released his self-titled debut.
As die-hard fans know, Jermaine sang substantial parts of “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “I’ll Be There,” “The Love You Save,” and “Dancing Machine,” among others. While I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mother’s eye during Jackson 5, I discovered just how strong Jermaine’s vocals were as a child through his hits “Do What You Do” and “Don’t Take It Personal.”
After Michael passed in 2009, I began to dig deep into The Jackson 5’s catalog and discovered the vocal vigor in Jermaine’s voice. Particularly on “Through Thick and Thin,” “I Found That Girl,” and “It All Begins and Ends with Love .”For Jermaine’s solo debut, Berry Gordy kept the production in-house with the legends David Van DePitte, James Anthony Carmichael, and The Corporation overseeing the bulk of production. In addition, outside producers H.B. Barnum and Gene Page provided some songs.
Jermaine came out the gate running with an elaborate cover version of Shep and the Limelite’s “Daddy’s Home .”Jackson was seventeen when he released his version of the song, and it’s better than the original as Jermaine brings a soulful vocal well beyond his years to the song. For whatever reason, Mr. Gory decided to have Jermaine cover five other songs for his debut.
The covers include Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeware Bound,” Motown alumna ‘Kim Weston’s “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While), and The Flamingo’s “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Jackson also covers his label mates Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar.” Regrettably, none of the covers reach the heights of Jackson’s version of ” Daddy’s Home.” Jackson has a fine singing voice. However, the production is overly honeyed.
Perhaps Gordy’s intent for Jackson was to turn the singer into a balladeer, given Jackson’s sex symbol status at the time. Jermaine’s blend of a high and low tenor wasn’t suited to songs with saccharine strings and shoddy arrangements. Jackson comes across better on the original songs “That’s How Love Goes,” “I’m in a Different World,” “I Let Love Pass Me By,” and “If You Were My Woman.”
Of the original selections, Jackson comes across the best on Holland–Dozier–Holland’s produced “I’m in a Different World .”Perhaps the response would’ve been more robust if that crew, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, had overseen Jermaine’s solo debut.
Nevertheless, Jermaine Jackson, at his worst, is still better than what some singers classify as R&B in 2022.
Final Grade: C
Jermaine is available on all streaming platforms.
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