The first two cuts on The Jacksons prepare one for a good, snappy time; “Enjoy Yourself” and “Think Happy” are fast R&B, made distinctive by Michael’s classic vocal in the first case and a smart use of rock guitar in the second. After this initial pair, however, producers Gamble and Huff channel the group into drab disco numbers and shabby ballads. The instrumentation, by various Jacksons and MFSB, is perfunctory. Implicit in their modified group-name is a new equality and solidarity, but The Jacksons only reemphasizes the centrality of Michael’s voice to the group’s success.
The sole Jackson to remain with Motown, Jermaine has a decent, workmanlike single in “Let’s Be Young Tonight,” even if its title and peculiar lyrics seem to describe a geriatric narrator: “Let’s wine and dine/While we still have time.” Or perhaps Jermaine is just predicting a premature death for disco music, though he stays almost exclusively within the genre on My Name. Its major weakness is the absence of any sort of musical personality in Jermaine; amidst the album’s peppy melodies, he is hard pressed to convey anything more than toothy good spirits, although “Faithful,” an atypical song of infidelity, hints at a pleasing moodiness. For the rest, My Name is very slight stuff.
Both of these albums cry out for an assertion of character and subject matter in the spirit of the early Jackson 5.