The Ultimate Collection is at least the fourth way to repurchase songs from Michael Jackson’s Thriller: If you didn’t fall for the 1995 greatest-hits/new-material mishmash HIStory, the 2001 Thriller special edition or last year’s Number Ones anthology, here’s another, even more expensive choice. Collection offers a four-disc career overview plus a DVD of a Bucharest, Romania, concert from the early Nineties. Tucked between singles are unretouched demos (including a sketch of “We Are the World” with a fragile Jackson singing the whole song), the long-missing but little-missed Captain EO track “We Are Here to Change the World” and, naturally, a bloated new anti-war ode, “We’ve Had Enough.”
The good part: This is the first package to include Jackson’s early years — a few finger-poppin’ Jackson 5 hits; the Wiz duet with Diana Ross, “Ease On Down the Road”; and assorted Jacksons productions found on the delightful Disc One. Previously unreleased outtakes include an easy-listening version of Thriller’s “P.Y.T” that bears little resemblance to the original and a drop-dead-funky unreleased track left off 1991’s Dangerous: “Monkey Business.” Its dazzling, uncontrived exuberance makes you wonder about Jackson’s artistic judgment: If he rejected this, what else is sitting on the cutting-room floor?