The Jackson 5 were one of the biggest phenomenons in pop music during the early '70s, and the last great group to come out of the Motown hitmaking machine before Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder shifted the label's focus to more individual visions. The Jackson 5's infectious brand of funky pop-soul was a definite departure from the typically smooth, elegant Motown sound, as befitting the group's youth and the dawn of a new decade. That youth, coupled with the merchandising juggernaut that sprang up behind them, inevitably got them tagged a bubblegum group. But they were far more talented musically than that label would suggest, especially lead singer Michael, and their material, while sunny and upbeat, didn't pander to its audience. Solo careers and overexposure gradually weakened the Jackson 5, but their best music still holds up surprisingly well as some of the most vibrant mainstream pop/R&B of its era.
The Manfreds – which is to say, the reunited Manfred lineup sans Manfred Mann himself – have been performing to enthusiastic audiences in Europe since the 1990s, and 5-4-3-2-1 is a studio document of their sound, which is very close to their original sound, only a bit slicker. Paul Jones and Mike d'Abo split the vocal chores between them, each picking up his own repertory, and Mike Vickers, Mike Hugg, and Tom McGuinness from the original band are here, with Benny Gallagher (bass, guitar, vocals) and Rob Townsend (drums) filling out the line-up. D'Abo's "Handbags and Gladrags" is also represented, but, surprisingly, not Jones' "High Time." The sound is excellent and the group does try to add some modern inflections to some of the songs, but one suspects that they were more of an improvisatory group than this back in their prime years./quote]