A Great Dance Record From the King of Pop – Disguised in a Halloween Theme

Michael Jackson – Scream (Epic / Legacy Recordings)

Can there be a better Halloween party song than “Thriller”? (it’s certainly NOT “Monster Mash”).

Michael Jackson was definitely a fan of the spooky holiday, even fashioning the groundbreaking video to the song as an homage. So, it makes sense that the Estate of the late singer has assembled a Halloween-themed album, called Scream. But, don’t be fooled – this is actually a fantastic dance record in disguise.

Jackson is the rare figure that still enjoys massive success, even though he passed away in 2009. Because of this, it can be tempting to cash in by constantly rehashing his old material. Yet, that isn’t the case at all with Scream.

The first thing you notice is that the track selection pulls from a surprisingly wide range, kicking off with the seldom-heard “This Place Hotel” from the Jacksons album Triumph from 1980. Another shocker is the inclusion of Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” bolstered by a guest vocal from Jackson – not sure this has ever been featured on a Michael Jackson release before. The other thing is, this isn’t an attempt to put a “greatest hits” together – that’s already been done. Instead, the focus is on danceable material from Jackson’s wide catalog.

You get the ubiquitous “Thriller,” featured in its full-length, album version, including the fantastic rap from Vincent Price; the slinky, #1 hit “Dirty Diana,” and the angry duet with sister Janet on “Scream.” Yet, this album offers a chance to spotlight lesser-known Jackson tracks, like the funky “Blood on the Dance Floor,” and the grinding “Threatened” (kudos for sampling Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone).

There’s also a bonus track, “Blood on the Dance Floor X Dangerous (The White Panda Mash-Up),” which features a clever mix of several of the tracks on the album. But, the real treat is the inclusion of “Alternate Reality” content. Use the Shazam app on your mobile device to scan a card inside the jewel case, then point your camera at the poster on the backside of the CD booklet to experience something pretty cool (I won’t spoil it for you). And, actually, the poster is nice to have by itself.

The problem with most Halloween-themed albums is that you really only want to hear them one month out of the year. By using the late October theme in only a loose sense, Scream is actually a better party album than anything – meaning that you can enjoy it throughout the year. It’s also a refreshing look at Michael Jackson’s career. —Tony Peters