The good news for Jacko fans is that it’s set to be more than a mere collection of studio scrapings.
Rob Stringer, chairman of Sony Music’s Columbia Epic Group, who is overseeing the King of Pop’s legacy, is believed to have been hugely impressed by the quality of material when he first heard the tracks.
There are around 100 completed and unreleased songs in the archive. Songs earmarked for the first album in a seven-year deal worth £125 million with the Jackson estate, date from the period after 2005, when Jackson moved to Bahrain after his acquittal on child molestation charges.
An album, funded by Bahrain royal family member Abdulla Hamad Al-Khalifa, was shelved when the pair’s business relationship collapsed.
Reports emerged last week that the album has been delayed because Jackson’s family believe that he did not sing on all the tracks. Jackson’s children were said to have been questioned over their father’s whereabouts when the tracks were recorded.
However Howard Weitzman, lawyer for the estate, said he had experts listen to the tracks and all of the experts concluded it’s Jackson’s voice on all the tracks.
Jackson also recorded tracks in 2007 with Eddie Cascio, a New Jersey-based family friend. Producers including Teddy Riley have polished the tracks for release.
But there is believed to be a disagreement between some executors of Jackson’s estate and Sony over the quality of the tracks and control over the project.
Beehive understands that another reason the album has yet to be given a release date is because Sony is trying to track down all the musicians and collaborators who need crediting. The music giant needs to avoid the kind of litigation that marked Jackson’s final years.
Sources say the melodies and hooks on the songs are strong and show a maturity in Jackson, who was nervous about letting the world hear his work and worried that unfinished tracks would leak.
The singer left vocal ideas as voicemail messages to trusted associates who would piece the tracks together.
Sony is set on getting the record out for Christmas. The company’s revenue dropped 11% in the last fiscal quarter, a figure which demonstrated the impact of the Jackson CD & DVD sales boom that followed his death from a drug overdose in June 2009.
Forbes magazine named Jackson the year’s top-earning dead celebrity, raking in $275m (£175m) in licensing and sales revenue. Marketing and shipping millions of copies of a new Jacko record, when the company already has SuBo, X Factor and other big ticket releases primed for Xmas will be a huge test for Sony.
Is This It? Hardly. There’s a new “Michael Jackson The Experience” Nintendo Wii game out this month, allowing fans to Moonwalk with their idol, and there’ll be eight more new Jackson album/DVD projects before the currrent Sony deal expires.