Saturday, April 22, 2017

70s Motown: Doctor My Eyes

Jackson Brown’s “Doctor My Eyes” is a staple: it’s his sound, one of his biggest hits, part of every live set he’s released. It’s a strange song, in a way: it’s about a world-weary, tired out soul, but the music is so upbeat—with that coursing piano line and the overdrive-tinged guitar—one can easily miss the point. Though, it’s more about accepting a certain numbness from seeing too much, the song evokes almost the exact opposite sensation.

Now, put little MJ—Michael Jackson—in front of the Jackson Five, and you’ve got an even stranger dichotomy: nothing the Jackson’s did in the ‘70s could ever sound downbeat. And their cover of Jackson Brown’s classic is one of my favorite cuts from their catalog.  Off their 1972 Looking Through the Windows, their take on the song is classic Motown to me.

Starting off with a chirping bird choir of doowoops, their take on the song churns through a great Motown styled strings and bashing drums soundtrack, while MJ trades off vocal duties with Jermaine, but providing his inimitable vocal harmony as a backing track
. This is Motown in the best way that Motown sound was its own unique entity, so self-evident of its perfection, vibrant and church choir worthy. I’ve always thought of that sound as something akin to the spiritual, rendered so perfectly and a part of nothing other than its own mythos and origins. A good cover, done on the Motown label, seems to do what a good cover should: reinvent and create anew from what we thought we knew.

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