One of the lesser-known Jacksons gives us a bluesy album to remember


Tito Jackson. Gulf Coast Records.

Who gets George Benson, Joe Bonamassa, Marlon Jackson, Eddie Levert, Kenny Neal, Bobby Rush, and Stevie Wonder to appear on their record label debut?

Tito Jackson, that's who.

Tito Jackson is one of pop legend Michael Jackson's older brothers, and was a founding member of the Jackson 5.

As the story goes, Tito — at age 10 in the early 1960s — thought he'd get in trouble when his father, Joe Jackson, caught him playing his guitar. After fixing a broken string, Joe demanded that Tito play the guitar for him. Impressed by his son's potential, he bought him his own guitar and convinced two of his other brothers, Jackie and Jermaine to form a singing group which eventually included Michael and became known as the Jackson 5.

Tito Jackson turns 68 this Oct. 15.

Under Your Spell is his first album on the Gulf Coast Records label and apparently only his second solo album, the other one being 2016's Tito Time on the Epic label. He launched his solo career in 2003.

His new album is being released Friday.

Honestly, I hope he does several more.

Put your thoughts about Michael, Janet, and others on pause for a moment and think of Tito as a solid bluesman, because that's what he is.

Yes, you can hear a pop influence in his songs. But he's steeped in the blues.

Songs such as the opening number, "Wheels Keep Turning," have catchy riffs and fun lyrics that explore the passion of longing for a love interest as the music cycles around with fist-pumping enthusiasm.

Tito jams out a great solo on an alluring song called "Big Leg Woman."

He offers a fine rendition, with an assist by legendary jazz guitarist George Benson, of B.B. King's 1964 classic, "Rock Me Baby," stretching it out and providing a slightly different dimension.

Songwriting duo and Hall of Famers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who wrote hits for The Jacksons and The O'Jays, came out of retirement to write "All in the Family Blues" for Tito. The track features another Hall of Famer, Eddie Levert.

And there's a message of hope in a single called, "Love One Another," with its inspiring message for our troubled times. Performers on that song include Marlon Jackson, Bobby Rush, and Kenny Neal on vocals with Tito Jackson, with Stevie Wonder contributing his trademark harmonica in the background.

Under Your Spell is not a traditional blues album, but it's not overtly pop, either.

It's fun. It's something worth listening to over and over.

Tito, you passed the test.

First Published August 3, 2021, 10:00am