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on 19 October 2011
Scholars, fans, and even on-the-fence doubters will find Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson by Huffington Post writer Joseph Vogel, not only an enthralling read, but a gateway into a revised and truer perception of one of the most mysterious and massively influential artists of our time.

Vogel skillfully guides the reader through the remarkable chapters of Jackson's professional career, fully capturing the cultural vibe of the `80s and `90s, while analyzing the particularities of Jackson's creative process from inception to aesthetic fulfillment. It seems the author desires to move beyond exclusively "preaching to the choir" of Jackson's loyal fan base, and has an even more expansive and restorative intention in mind.

Vogel's narrative unfolds in a unique album-by-album mode, so Jackson's career is revealed through intricately woven stories that are chronologically linked with the creation of his music. This odyssey reminds one of a mythic "hero's journey," as it evokes the visceral emotion of artistic conquest. Throughout the process, Vogel explicates Jackson's music, performance art, cinematic short films, and aesthetic incarnations, as well as exploring Jackson's myriad eclectic influences.

The book's success is due, in large part, to a trilogy of strengths the author possesses as an academic scholar and also a writer on popular culture. Vogel manages to fuse a penchant for research with an engaging gift of journalistic storytelling. Rare, however, is the sense of spiritual exegesis he also provides. This literary alchemy gives the reader an entirely fresh and valuable comprehension of Jackson as a culturally transformative artist. Vogel's book also illuminates the voluminous breadth, depth and influence of his artistic oeuvre.

The reader experiences firsthand the gentle singer-songwriter's coming of age, his groundbreaking musical prowess, and his emergence as a humanitarian emissary for the disadvantaged and alienated. We are reminded that Jackson (a voracious reader of Emerson) was a transcendental visionary who called for healing the world through compassion, community, and environmental stewardship.

The author offers a Joycean sensibility as he paints his archetypal "portrait of the artist as a young man" with a discerning eye. Vogel irrevocably raises the bar for future critical analysis of Jackson's art and cultural import, as he portrays his subject as an artist of stature amidst a constituency of the most influential and prescient artists of all time. One hopes the sincerity of Vogel's efforts will prompt inchoate scholarship on this subject to burgeon.

Vogel's interviews document the rich and sundry details offered by a plethora of Jackson's musical collaborators, technical producers, and artistic associates. These remembrances add surprise and synchronicity to the more familiar aspects of Jackson's complex life history. Included among the recollections are those of musical giants Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, Teddy Riley, Bruce Swedien, Rodney Jerkins, Buz Kohan, Brad Buxer and many others.

Vogel, a Huffington Post writer on politics and popular culture, is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester where his scholarship focuses on 18th century poets Blake and Wordsworth. Since he emerges out of an academic perspective on the history of literature and the arts, he is able to credibly position Jackson amidst a much broader contextual background than the many apocryphal works by authors who leapt too eagerly onto the greed-bandwagon following the artist's untimely death.

It is interesting to note that Vogel began research for this book almost six years ago. This was during a time when Jackson was often treated by publishers and much of the public as a social leper. Vogel wanted to correct what he perceived as a terrible injustice and return the conversation to the genius of Jackson's art and his global transformative cultural import.

Vogel later made a conscious choice to refrain from publishing his material immediately following Jackson's death. Hence, his biography includes analysis of Jackson's posthumously released works, as well as reflections on the nature of the artist's ultimate legacy. Vogel's insight and impeccable research do much to relieve the ignominy this artist suffered in life from a rapacious media.

Vogel utilizes a Picasso-like construct in his ability to see his subject from multiple angles simultaneously, thereby rendering a multidimensional portrait. Formulaic tabloid stereotyping and long-standing racial binaries are finally exploded and cast aside.

Vogel's readers will experience Jackson anew as a fine artist, cultural troubadour, and shamanic performer, because he is perceived through a lens that clarifies instead of mystifies.

Perceptive, metaphoric, and humane, Vogel's Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson is certainly the defining biographical work to date regarding this artist. The revelatory nature of Jackson's art, and his under reported international initiatives for social justice, surely deserve this long over due literary retrospective. It is meaningful to note the author has dedicated his book to Jackson's three children. One imagines they will be grateful, for Vogel offers respect and appreciation to the father they loved.

Constance Pierce' ~ New York ~ October 2011
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on 11 October 2011
I haven't yet finished reading this,but it's clear this is the book i was hoping for. It's a great in depth look at the man's music,his albums and the tracks on them. There's a fair bit of talk at the start of the book to remind us of how important he was,not just to his fans,but to the world of music. This really would be a different shaped world without his impact on it,the imprint he left behind is indelible. After giving a decent take on each album,the author goes into each track and gives us his view on what makes this particular track worthy of the praise fans heap upon it. When i heard about this as an upcoming book,i considered it a really exciting idea,not only is it not just another book on MICHAEL JACKSON,it is a book on his music and why it touched so many,not just that it did.
Each track's detailed look not only goes into the lyrical side of it,but the musical side too,pointing out just what was achieved. MICHAEL didn't just make music,he perfected it.
This book really isn't strctly for fans,where as the auther is clearly a great lover of his music,it's written is such a style as to include everyone's interest rather than just that of his millions of fans.
So finally a book that takes a closer look inside the music that came from unquestionably a genius in his own right,someone who earned the title KING OF POP. If you want a book that takes a close look at the man,i recommend JERMAINE's book,if however you want a book that takes a fair insight into what each much loved track actually gives it's listeners,this is it!
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on 24 October 2011
Joe Vogel has achieved something Michael Jackson would be proud of and would have endorsed had he still been with us. In many interviews Michael Jackson was at a loss as to why the interviewer was more interested in tittle tattle than the content of his music. Well here we have it.

This is a book for all music lovers, Michael Jackson fans and those who want to understand the intricate nature of popular music. Michael Jackson's talents are undisputed. This book explains these talents in terms anyone can understand without being the least bit patronising. It takes the reader on a journey through Michael Jacksons albums, track by track discussing their content, developing a clear and logical argument about the quality of his body of work.

It has been all too easy to dismiss Michael Jacksons work as simple pop. No more. This reminds us of Michael's intelligence, dedication and genius.

Thank you Joe for this amazing book.
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on 3 March 2012
It's nothing short of ridiculous & tragic that it took Michael Jackson to pass away to finally see credible books released about his art. Considering his genius, sales figures & cultural impact there was scant material available up until 2009 - now it seems not a month goes by when a new book of some variety is released that focuses on Michael Jackson - from the incredibly lavish Opus to Jermaine's autobiography, from the re-release of Moonwalk to a graphic novel, if you want to read all about Michael Jackson, you've now got plenty of choice. The sole focus of this particular book however is what made Michael Jackson famous in the first place, his music. With this in mind & as a fan of over 25 years I was really looking forward to Joseph Vogel's account of MJJ's creative life however I'm sorry to say that it's someway short of what I'd hoped but that's not to say that's not a decent read.

The intentions of the author are on-the-money. Vogel should be applauded for looking beyond the headlines & heaping praise on Michael Jackson the musician. The book is also very nicely laid out, generally very well written & has a nice balance of facts, figures, narratives & photographs (several of which are incredibly rare & fascinating). The thing that ultimately lets the book down somewhat is Vogel's text when it comes to much of the track-by-track listings. Far too much of this is simply lifted from a number of media reviews & it's clear that Vogel has managed to locate plenty of old copies of Rolling Stone, etc & simply slipped in the most positive reviews that relates to any given song. There's also a lot of direct lifting from past interviews & whilst the Author has managed to interview several of Michael's key players when it came to recording, the book is ultimately a professional study-by-numbers as opposed to a genuine work of something special. Considering the type of book & fact that's it's over 300 pages, I learnt very little new information which is the acid test when it comes to the fans.

Desite the above criticism it's still a worthy addition to any fans collection & it's lovely to read the thoughts of a like-minded individual who recognises MJJ's talent & isn't afraid to share it. Reverting back to the start of this review, it's just a shame this kind of book wasn't out when Michael was still with us.
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on 15 November 2011
I had waited for this book to come out and had very high expectations for it, and the book fully lived up to them. Amid the rough developments of the doctor trial, it has become my blissful place to escape to. It was a treat - from the wealth of facts about Michael Jackson's albums to insightful quotes that paint a portrait of the Master to the professional yet so subtly affectionate tone of the narrative. I loved how carefully the photos were selected - not just for the sake of having some pictures, but actually illustrating the story. The book itself is printed on coated paper - it's beautiful almost like a photobook, a gift edition, but the most valuable part is the information it gives. A lot has been said and written about Michael's career from Motown years to the "Thriller" album, but Joe Vogel is the first one who seriously takes on the subject of his later, in many ways more creative work. Album by album, song by song Joe goes though Michael's music from "Off the Wall" to the unreleased material of the final years sharing secrets of production, uncovering gems of sound and meaning. I haven't had such a feeling of being immersed in a celebration of Michael Jackson the Artist since "This Is It" movie came out. It's a great feeling, and I'm going to miss it.

"Man In the Music" is not only the best and most well-researched book about Michael's music that has been written to date, but I'm pretty sure it's the best there is going to be in the coming decades. So if you want one ultimate book in your collection that reveals the depths of the King of Pop's creative work and does justice to it - for you, your children, or your grandchildren, - "Man In the Music" is the one you should get.
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on 9 November 2011
Since Michael died I have purchased almost every single book written about him.This book is by far the best. It is so well researched and has taken Joe Vogel many years to produce. It is not one of the books written to make a quick buck (as so many of them have been )It is informative and covers every album and every single track.It also includes information on many unreleased tracks. It shows where Michael was personally at the time of each new album release. With information given by many of Michaels sound engineers and producers who have never spoken before it gives true insight into Michaels genius and the artistry he bought to everything he did.This includes looking at the dance and his short films.It follows Michaels career from "Off the Wall" to the day he died and continues with a review and indepth look at the posthumous album "Michael" I was surprised to see where Michaels work was taking him in his last few years.Michael worked hard to perfect his art and this is a major look into that work.It is tragic that his life was cut short as he was about to embark on taking his art further.I cannot praise this book enough.Joe Vogel has produced an excellent book that goes far beyond all the sensationalism that so many want to write about.I am sure this book will be on the best selling lists for a long time.I can't recommend it enough.
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on 18 October 2011
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. When I sit back and reflect on all that Michael Jackson accomplished in his life I find it astonishing. Michael wanted his music to live forever and it is wonderful that this book is supporting his legacy as a totally unique artist.
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on 10 January 2012
This is a great read for any fan of Michael Jackson and his music or indeed anyone who loves and appreciates the slightly more technical aspect of music production.

Vogel critically evaluates the main output of Michael's solo recording work, breaking down each album track by track. Through his own research and interviews with professionals such as co-producers, sound recordists and musicians that worked with M.J., the author gives a great insight into how each song was written, recorded and mixed.

What is interesting is how Vogel contextualises each album by reviewing the different music scenes that existed at the time e.g. Glam Rock, Hip Hop and Grunge and how Michael Jackson's music fitted into them. He analyses how Jackson reinvented his image throughout his career and used the media and pioneering videos or "short films" as he himself called them, to help him promote each album and in doing so, managed to make his music globally successful, despite what was perceived to be 'cool' or acceptable at the time.

With glossy pictures throughout, this is a fantastic book and I would definitely recommend it.
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on 14 November 2011
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book, as this is much more than just a fan book. In a project started long before Jackson's death, Joe Vogel, leaves sentiment at the door and explores Michael Jackson through his music, resulting in an objective and insightful resume of his musical life . More than just a coffee-table book, this will be of interest not only to the die-hard fans, but also to anyone mildly interested in Jackson's musicality and his impact on modern culture. With so many "tell-all" tomes being published by so-called friends and family, it's refreshing to find a book which is not telling more stories about Jackson, but simply appreciating him as an artist who undoubtedly was in a class of his own. Recommended!
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on 18 January 2015
A well-presented, but otherwise resounding failure of an attempt to take a more analytical/academic approach to Michael Jackson's art.

The intention is certainly an honourable one - to draw attention to Jackson's autonomy as an artist, far from the puppet 'song and dance man' image that prevails among many of his more casual admirers and non-fans. Sadly, pretty much the whole thing reads as if Vogel has stitched together all of the existing Wikipedia articles about Jackson's albums and singles, reworded them, wrapped them up in hardback and announced "ta-da!" as if he was presenting revelatory new information. I was shocked at the huge overuse of already well-known quotes from such obvious sources as Rolling Stone reviews and even Quincy Jones' autobiography.

It doesn't help that mere lip service is paid to the Motown and Jacksons eras of Michael's career that had such a profound influence on his development as a writer and producer, even if he only made major creative contributions to his solo or group projects from the late '70s onwards. Yet, Vogel only makes passing references to Michael's early solo or group work, while dedicating an entire detailed chapter to 1979's Off The Wall, where - given Jackson's co-production and authorship of only two and a half of the 10 tracks - Jones and his wider team (including Bruce Swedien and Rod Temperton) were the dominant creative force.

It's a shame, as with genuinely independent research, this could have been the definitive MJ book from an academic/artistic perspective. As it is, if you're a relatively new fan, you'll learn just as much simply by browsing idly online in the most obvious places, while if you are (like me) a more concerted fan who has been following Jackson's music for some years and been active on fan forums, you'll probably learn next to nothing.

It's a sharp contrast to my experience with Chris Cadman's superbly-researched For The Record and Maestro books, which I continue to learn new things from to this day. Unlike Vogel's effort, Cadman also gives the Motown and Jacksons eras of Michael's career their fair (heavy) emphasis. It all leaves Vogel's book with no obvious niche to fill.
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