Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jermaine Jackson Gets Funky On The Arsenio Hall Show

Jermaine Jackson doesn’t seem to get a lot of love these days. He’s been really underrated and underappreciated of late and is frequently overshadowed by his two superstar younger siblings, Michael and Janet. People sometimes forget what a talented artist Jermaine really is. And that’s a shame because dude can put it down on the bass and is a stellar vocalist and performer. And contrary to popular belief, he’s had quite a successful career as a solo artist in his own right. He’s recorded some great music over the years as a solo artist and had several top ten hits on the R&B charts, and a few on the pop charts as well.

One of my favorite Jermaine tracks is “Let’s Get Serious,” which was the title cut from his 1980 million-selling album Let’s Get Serious.  The funky, high-energy dance track was written by his Motown labelmate Stevie Wonder and singer/songwriter Lee Garrett.  Stevie also produced and arranged the track as well as sang the vocal part on the bridge. And he played several instruments on the song, including synthesizer, piano, drums, electric piano (Fender Rhodes) and Celesta.  The track performed extremely well on the charts and was Jermaine’s first #1 R&B single as a solo artist. It also fared well on the pop and dance charts, peaking at #9 and #2, respectively. And the song had an impressive showing on the UK charts, rising to #8.

Jermaine brought the house down when he performed the song on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1989. The singer/bassist turned in a killer performance, which reminded everyone what a charismatic and consummate live performer he was and why he was the second most popular member of the Jackson 5. He was plucking up a storm on the bass while delivering a smooth, soulful vocal performance, and he made it all look so effortless. And with the help of his background singers, he did a terrific job singing Stevie’s part on the bridge. Jermaine also performed the song on the Jacksons’ Victory Tour in 1984.

What I never understood is why Jermaine didn’t play the bass line himself on the original studio recording of the track.  (Session bassist Nathan Watts played bass on the original recording.)  Jermaine was clearly capable of playing it well himself, as evidenced by his performance on The Arsenio Hall Show and on the Victory Tour stops. Perhaps he just wanted to focus on delivering the best vocal performance he could and left the bass work in the very skilled hands of Watts. Or maybe it was Stevie who wanted Watts to play on the track, because he had been laying down the bottom on many of Stevie’s recordings since the mid-70s, including the classics “I Wish” and “Sir Duke.”

I guess it's not really all that important who played the bass on the studio recording of the "Let's Get Serious." But what is significant is that it's one of Jermaine’s most funky and memorable tracks. It’s just an irresistible groove highlighted by a dynamite vocal performance.

Lets Get Serious at Amazon

Related blog entry: Jermaine Jackson's Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming (Too Good To Be True), Featuring Michael Jackson

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