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George Michael - Twenty Five

George Michael, Twenty Five

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

GEORGE Michael celebrates 25 years in the industry with the release of greatest hits compilation Twenty Five, a two or three-CD package that takes in everything from Wham! hits to the Faith era and his most recent material (depending on how long you want to spend with him).

No matter what you might think of him in terms of his media depiction, George Michael remains one of the most successful and prolific artists of our generation, and an iconic music industry figure since the 1980s.

He has been a solo star for over 20 years, during which time he has achieved international success and sold over 85 million albums worldwide. There have also been six US No.1 singles, 11 British No.1s and the title of “most played artist on British radio” in the past 20 years (Will Young eat your heart out!).

Of the two formats of Twenty Five, the 3CD version is arguably the most rewarding, given that the third CD features some rarer tracks, the occasional cover and a solid version of Brother Can You Spare A Dime? that was recorded as part of Pavarotti and friends. It’s mostly for the die-hard fans but succeeds in showcasing a side to George Michael that isn’t always featured on the radio.

The remaining two CDs are packed with some fairly obvious choices – the best of which pick themselves. For the shamelessly nostalgic, there’s the cheesy Wham! hits Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, which has to be filed under ‘so bad, it’s fun’ and the equally shameless Freedom (which those of a certain generation will probably remember singing or bopping along to). Last Christmas and Careless Whisper also feature (as they do at countless wedding ceremonies).

Early solo material such as the breezy pop classic Faith still sound fresh today and retain a timeless quality. Faith, in particular, is arguably one of George Michael’s finest creations and is similar in feel-good value to U2’s Desire or OutKast’s more recent Hey Ya – ie, no matter how many times you hear it, you’ll still feel like dancing.

The deeper and more sombre style of George Michael is best exemplified in heartfelt songs such as Father Figure and Jesus To A Child, while there’s a brilliant reworking of Heal The Pain which is performed with Sir Paul McCartney (and never has a song title seemed so appropriate!).

And efforts like Too Funky and Freeek capably show how the artist has consistently been able to mix the ballads with funkier offerings that ensure he retains a place on the dancefloor.

But not everything George Michael has done – or still does – reaches such high standards. In fact, some tracks are downright grating. Whether it’s over-earnest and even drippy ballads such as Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (with Sir Elton John) or new track This Is Not Real Love, a wretched, ponderous duet with ex-Sugababe Mutya Buena, they seem to be striving a little too hard to pull at your emotions.

On the other side of the coin, Flawless is a fairly non-descript pop offering that is bland in the same way that so many chart hits are – it feels like a desperate attempt to appeal to younger listeners that marked a lowpoint in his career.

That said, there’s still plenty to appeal to his diehard fanbase, or even more recent fans, on Twenty Five, making this career retrospective a fascinating journey that serves to show why George Michael has remained at the top of his profession for so long.

Track listing:
Disc One – For Living

  1. Everything She Wants – Wham!
  2. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – Wham!
  3. Freedom – Wham!
  4. Faith
  5. Too Funky
  6. Fastlove
  7. Freedom ’90
  8. Spinning The Wheel
  9. Outside
  10. As – With Mary J. Blige
  11. Freeek!
  12. Shoot The Dog
  13. Amazing
  14. Flawless
  15. An Easier Affair

Disc Two – For Loving

  1. Careless Whisper
  2. Last Christmas – Wham!
  3. A Different Corner
  4. Father Figure
  5. One More Try
  6. Praying For Time
  7. Heal The Pain – With Paul McCartney
  8. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – With Elton John
  9. Jesus To A Child
  10. Older
  11. Round Here
  12. You Have Been Loved
  13. John And Elvis Are Dead
  14. This Is Not Real Love – With Mutya

Disc Three – For The Loyal

  1. Understand
  2. Precious Box
  3. Roxanne
  4. Fantasy
  5. Cars And Trains
  6. Patience
  7. You Know That I Want To
  8. My Mother Had A Brother
  9. If You Were There – Wham!
  10. Safe
  11. American Angel
  12. My Baby Just Cares For Me
  13. Brother Can You Spare A Dime? [Performed At Pavarotti & Friends]
  14. Please Send Me Someone (Anselmo’s Song)
  15. Through

  1. This man is the most and best writer and vocalist we have today, the fact that he seems to hide away and now he knows where he is coming from with his sexuality there is no stopping the man. I have been lucky to have a ticket to his show in Birmingham and I know it will be fantastic, can anyone tell me an artist from this country who is so in contact with his fans I dont think so... Elton just go away

    Tony    Dec 3    #