When the Jackson 5 hit the ground running with the undeniable classic "I Want You Back" as their debut single, they exploded into almost overnight worldwide popularity, immediately becoming the biggest act on the Motown label. Their hot streak of hits and immense renown would mutate upward more than it would really slow down, with Michael Jackson's solo career becoming one of the most commercially successful in the history of music. Things wouldn't be as bright for Tito
, and the rest as they were for Michael, but in those early days, they were all in it together and working together constantly. Come and Get It: The Rare Pearls
is both evidence to the staggering work ethic of the band and a picture of a young group on an electric creative roll, collecting almost three albums' worth of unreleased material from those early Motown days, circa 1969-1973. With 32 unreleased tracks, the collection gets into a few different bags without going all over the map. "If the Shoe Don't Fit" comes closest to the classic sound of the early band, but maybe a little too close for comfort. The instrumentation is identical to already similar hits like "The Love You Save" and "ABC," but the arrangement is busy, trying for a lot of different ideas over the song's three minutes. Triumphant soul-pop melodies in songs like "Come and Get It (Love's on the Fire)" and "If You Want Heaven" are as strong if not stronger than some of the 5's released material from that time. A larger than usual number of covers appears on the set as well, ranging from soul and doo wop hits like "Up on the Roof" to more surprising takes on rock & roll in the form of Traffic
's "Feelin' Alright" and Randy Newman
's "Mama Told Me Not to Come," where the Jackson boys remodel the sketchy psychedelic party tale into something a little more wholesome. The collection also shows how quickly the group was developing, with later tracks moving quickly from teen pop to disco and funk-flavored dance tracks like "Jumbo Sam" and "If I Can't Nobody Can." Perhaps what this collection reveals most is the superhuman pace at which the young Jackson 5 were being worked in those early days. Out of the gates they saturated the market with not just plentiful albums, but television appearances, live dates, and an enormous marketing campaign aimed at the expendable incomes of their predominantly early teenaged fan base. That they would have any time, energy, or creative juice left for the studio, let alone to record the volumes of unreleased songs represented here, is truly amazing. Most amazing, however, is that rather than a lackluster collection of understandably shelved duds, the songs here are by and large great. Nothing hits the impossible bubblegum soul heights of those early smash hits, but Rare Pearls
lives up to its name, with a colorful blend of coulda-been hits and fun distractions.