Excellent Reviews for George Michael’s Symphonica

The reviews for George Michael’s Symphonica are coming in, and most of them are good.

The Daily Mail gives Symphonica 4 out of 5 stars with the following verdict: poignant and polished.

As befits a man of 50, this record is more refined. With elegant strings and horns adding colour without being intrusive, it places the onus firmly on a smooth, expressive voice that is still in magnificent fettle.

The Telegraph gives Symphonica 4 out of 5 stars as well, saying:

An unadventurous set list reworks some of his most thoughtful and sombre songs with a selection of classic covers, all given a lush production gloss by the late Phil Ramone. What lifts it to a higher plane is Michael’s smooth and expressive singing. He has gorgeous tone and timbre and an instinct for when to introduce a breathy intimacy and when to raise the roof.

The Associated Press headline raves: ‘Symphonica’ Review: George Michael Is As Good As Ever,” saying:

Michael avoids a number of traps on this album, which was produced by the late Phil Ramone, who also teamed with the singer in 1999 on “Songs From the Last Century.” Michael deserves credit for moving deftly into big band and orchestral territory without in any way trying to imitate the master, Frank Sinatra, or taking on the vocal tics of the many other artists who have turned to American standards as a mid-career tonic. The style and phrasings are all his own, confident and understated, and the sparse arrangements allow ample room for his hypnotic voice to soar. By instinct, he shies way from self-dramatizing vocal pyrotechnics, letting the melodies and lyrics carry the day.

 Rolling Stone gives Symphonica 3 out of 5 stars, saying:

Mr. Explore Monogamy lounges it up on “One More Try” and “Praying for Time”; best of all is when he torches up the Wham!-era oldie “A Different Corner,” giving it a touch of autumnal wisdom.

The negative reviews are coming from the U.S., which is not surprising.

The Washington Post has one of the most negative reviews, saying:

Song selection also plagues Michael’s “Symphonica,” which is an unaccountably strange creature — a not-entirely-live collection of covers and little-known originals, many of them drawn from his 1999 release, “Songs From the Last Century.” The last album produced by the legendary Phil Ramone before his death last year, “Symphonica” appears to have undergone more than the standard amount of studio sweetening, with Michael’s 2012 orchestral tour serving as a foundation.

 The New York Daily News has another negative review with a 2 star rating:

George Michael hasn’t put out a new album in seven years — and he hasn’t issued one with a spark of vim or an ounce of vigor in more than 20.

The San Francisco Gate has some positive and negative points, saying:

Let’s not get too excited about “Symphonica,” the first new George Michael album in seven years, because the live recording is made up of well-worn material.

Reviews of Faith Remastered

Rolling Stones gives Faith: Special Edition four stars.

Why wasn’t George Michael’s “Hard Day” one of the biggest hits of 1988? Because every other song on his album already seemed to be on the charts. Faith — which produced six Top Five singles — established Michael as a full-grown Brit-funk stud, with “I Want Your Sex” setting up his female fans for years of disappointment. The album holds up as one of the Eighties’ smartest megapop statements, full of passion and surefire hooks. This edition adds a CD of 12-inch mixes and B sides (check out Shep Pettibone’s nine-minute “Hard Day” mix) and a DVD of videos, so you can see George write “Explore Monogamy” on some lucky lady’s bare flesh in lipstick.

The Washington Post also has a review:

Twenty-four years on, “Faith” still represents the apotheosis of Michael’s career, the moment when everything was just right: He was newly soulful, but still interested in crafting mammoth pop melodies. He was serious, but not yet insufferable. Now stricken with what the British tabloids are calling “creative malaise,” Michael hasn’t released an album of new material in almost seven years, and an album of good material in going on 15.

Faith Remastered, A Short Review from a Long-time Fan

I have to admit that I haven’t had the kindest thoughts about the remastered Faith collections coming out on February 1.  Don’t get me wrong … I love Faith and my memories of 1987-1988 are filled with the joy of being a George Michael fan and seeing and hearing him everywhere.  You’d turn on MTV, and it was always premiering the newest George Michael video or giving news of the Faith tour. It was the best time to be a George Michael fan, at least for me.

When I heard about this remastered Faith, I felt a little jaded.  Perhaps if it had been released in 2012, which would have been the 25th anniversary of Faith, I wouldn’t have felt like they were trying to profit off of Faith, while the faithful fans wait for a new George Michael CD. Yeah, it’s fun that GeorgeMichael.com looks like a George Michael web site in 1987 would have looked. But I lived Faith. It’s funny now to get press information that Faith was released in November 1987 … yeah, on November 2, 1987, in the U.S. I still remember.

I have Faith on CD, cassette, and LP.  At first, I wasn’t even going to buy this remastered collection. Faith always sounded great, and I’m not sure I would be able to tell the difference with the remastered CD.  However, when I looked at the song list of the B sides, I knew why this collection was something a George Michael fan, even one who thought she had every Faith-related thing, would want.

Yes, you can get “Fantasy” (one of my all-time favorites) on other George Michael CDs. Yes, the instrumentals of “Faith” and “Kissing a Fool” are nice to have, but it’s George Michael’s voice that I want to listen to.  And, yes, it’s nice to have the remixes for “Hard Day” (a song I always thought deserved to be released from the album) and “Monkey.”

Ultimately, it’s the song, “I Believe When I Fall in Love,” that changed my mind about this collection. I used to listen to this song all the time on my cassette single—or cassingle—as we used to call them. And since my pink boom box long ago started eating my cassettes, having this little gem alone on CD is why any long-time fan would want to buy one of the remastered Faith collections. I’m sure many George Michael fans, especially if you became a George Michael fan later, may have missed out on this song and “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” 

Since I wasn’t privy to some of the cool stuff from the deluxe edition, I can’t recommend shelling out $141, unless you’re a real collector.  If you’re like me and the music is why you continue to be a George Michael fan, then the special edition or remastered edition should make you happy.

The year 2011 marks my 26th year as a George Michael fan and my 14th year running this George Michael fan site.  This new collection reminds me of just why I’ve been a George Michael for as long as I have. Yes, I still have faith in George Michael’s music.

Webmaster of Yours Only George

Rating the Pop Hits of ’88: George Michael’s “Faith” A-

Entertainment Weekly has an article on the pop hits of 1988.  The page on George Michael’s “Faith” ends with an A- rating. In part, it says:

“I don’t want to give the pipe organ too much credit, but I do enjoy it. And those snappy, biting lyrics are just a blast to sing, and — there! — such lovely but not overwhelming harmonies pop up from time to time. Listen real close now and discover that bass line working overtime. There is so much to hear, and I guess that’s it: Unlike the chucka-chucka sameness of Harrison’s upcoming contribution, everything in ”Faith” just moves around and lights up more, like the inside of a super-fun pinball machine. With a giant round ass shaking on top.”