It’s been ten years since George Michael released his fifth studio album Patience. It was geared to be his “comeback,” considering he hadn’t created any original music in almost ten years prior to Patience. A lot has happened since then. He’s toured, and toured some more, continued his activism, randomly dropped a track called “December Song” (but that was all the way in 2009) and then embarked on a Symphonica Tour in 2011.
Michael’s latest album of the same name is merely a collection of the live material during his 2011-2012 tour with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, and the swan song of production from the late Phil Ramone, who passed away in 2013. George Michael had his own brush(es) with death when he fell incredibly ill due to pneumonia a few years back, had a tracheotomy and then fell from a moving vehicle last Summer. All of that could have destroyed someone’s vocals, but in the case of George Michael, his live CD Symphonica (out today, proves that he hasn’t local his sonic touch.
For fans of George who were expecting a brand-spanking-new album, this isn’t it. This also isn’t a return to dance-dipped singles from Michael’s storied past. This is the product of his healthy transition into the adult contemporary realm, and that’s just fine for the Wham! alum. The audience roars that open the album signify his followers are fine with the switch as well, as the records starts off with a delicate performance of “Through.” He goes full-on Michael Buble for a Nina Simone cover of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” just before tackling Wham! classic “A Different Corner.” “Praying For Time” follows, continuing with recent Terence Trent D’Arby remake “Let Her Down Easy.”
The covers continue with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and the breathy “Feeling Good,” that erupts into a neatly dirty Broadway-esque rendition. Michael’s Patience cut “John And Elvis Are Dead” brings a less “dated” feel to the CD, but he continues the Throwback Thursdays with “One More Try” and “Cowboys And Angels.” His cover of Nina Simone’s “Wild Is The Wind” will have you wanting David Bowie‘s version, but his closer of “You’ve Changed” is just a reminder that George Michael has become painfully good at showing the beautiful range of his voice.
There was a time when the British singer’s music was the soundtrack to your wildest memories fueled by shaking asses and supermodels hanging upside down or foaming up a hot tub. Symphonica is the album you play when you invite your parents over for dinner. It’s an inevitable move for anyone becoming an adult, and true school George Michael fans will know that he’s been on this path for years. While this project aims to more or less prove that despite a number of heath-related issues, George Michael can still belt it out, it would have been great to have one or two upbeat songs tacked on, to bring us back to his seedy night club days. C’est la vie.
Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: George Michael’s flawless cover of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” It’s delicate, romantic, and pleasantly sensual.
Best Listened To: While either reading a Nicholas Sparks novel or watching one of his film adaptations on mute, just as God intended.
— Kathy Iandoli
What do you think of George Michael’s live CD? Let us know in the comments below, or hit us up on Facebook and Twitter!