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I am not the greatest fan of George Michael. His ego far outweighs his talent. I remember him being interviewed and stating factually that he and Madonna were the only straight forward pop stars left. Talk about idea's about your station. He's a man whose music is now so boring he makes Cliff Richard look like an up and coming rock star. You only had to listen to that dreaded Christmas song he is plugging this year to know that he's completely lost the plot. However, that doesn't mean that we cant enjoy a certain amount of reflection on one of the most promising pop stars to come from the terrible 80s.
25 largely comprises of his biggest hits from the previous twenty five years of his career, starting when he first graced the charts with Wham's unique brand of 80's pop. For the first time here, George releases a compilation that incorporates the pop magic of those days with his own tamer brand of adult pop. And as great a pop star as George Michael might have once been, you are left wondering why.
Between this album and his last Greatest Hits collection, there was only a very tedious studio album of new material. I would have no objection to a 25 year celebration if the pickings weren't so slim. The problem is that it mainly treads waters already crossed by Wham's Greatest Hits released just a few years ago and Goorge's own Ladies & Gentlemen. Both those albums were comprehensive enough, here the only addition to the singles already available are the "Patience" singles and a couple of new tracks.
Much like Ladies & Gentlemen, the songs are divided into a night and day style setting, the first cd giving us the faster tracks, whilst the second cd gives us the more downbeat of George's material. It may be an interesting concept, but one already explored on the aforementioned album, and certainly let down by the fact that many of his faster songs play second fiddle to the ballads.
The songs are mostly no great surprise, most of us will already know them. Wham at their best gave us such party classics as Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Freedom and the ever present Last Christmas, whilst George has only given us a couple of tracks that come close the brilliance that so many seem to claim he has. At his best, the "Older" selection of singles were superb. You Have Been Loved is a haunting tale of a mother losing a child that still sends shivers down my spine a decade on.
Among the other tracks, the already released tracks are the best of the material, with the new material sounded bland and cobbled together. Mutya guests on This Is Not Real Love and its pleasant enough on the ear, but she doesn't have the best voice and seems a bit overshadowed by George's gruff but lilting voice.
The best of his tracks comes long before the ego took over and made him more famous for his media antics. Jesus To A Child, One More Try and Praying For Time are all testimony to a potentially great songwriter who spends far too much time away from the recording studio these days, and Freedom is a belter of a guitar laden pop track that still sounds perfect to this day.
George is also let down in latter day form when he attempts to promote politics through his music. Politics should be left to the experts, and as insightful and thought provoking as George's lyrics might be to music fans, it doesn't exactly take on the problems of world poverty, war and pollution. My other gripe with George's music is that it can be a tad self indulgent, and that at times can weigh heavy on the melodies.
George may be a bit of a conundrum these days, but he's not a very interesting one. He should stick to what he does best, and thats making music. Maybe then, he can offer us a more complete and worthwhile package than the one on offer here. Even the sleeve smacks of corporate boredom, with little or no input from George Michael. The CD is a double CD package, but is also available with a third bonus CD of other unreleased and rare material that I haven't had the chance to hear yet. So I cant comment on whether buying the 3 set is more worthwhile than just the two CD set.
The tracklist is as follows:
Disc 1/For Living
Everything She Wants / Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go / Freedom / Faith / Too Funky / Fastlove / Freedom / Spinning The Wheel / Outside / As / Freeeek! / Shoot The Dog / Amazing / Flawless / An Easier Affair
Disc 2/For Loving
Careless Whisper / Last Christmas / A Different Corner / Father Figure / One More Try / Praying For Time / Heal The Pain / Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me / Jesus To A Child / Older / Round Here / You Have Been Loved / John And Elvis Are Dead / This Is Not Real Love
The Limited Edition Disc is also available and is entitled For The Loyal. I think most of this material is available on his covers album and his own studio albums. However, if it is of interest, the disc consists of the following tracks:
Understand / Precious Box / Roxanne / Fantasy / Cars and Trains / Patience / You Know That I Want To / My Mother Had a Brother / If You Were There / Safe / American Angel / My Baby Just Cares For Me / Brother Can You Spare A Time / Please Send Me Someone / Through
The album was released on 13 November 2006 and reached number 1 in the UK. You can buy the standard version from amazon brand new for £4.48, or from £3 if you are happy to receive a reasonably good condition used version. You can also download the entire album for £4.48 if you are one of those digital music types who doesn't want the cd box clogging up your shelves.
The man who can melt a thousand hearts with that voice. For all his personal troubles, you cannot deny that George Michael has given the music industry some truly memorable moments. This is a collection of some of his biggest hits, spread over two discs.
'Faith' is always a track I return to thanks to his husky and sexy vocals. The track seems to ooze sex appeal and the guitar on this is just brilliant. The lyrics get a little racey at times, so it is wise to play the song at a low volume! After the acoustic feel of this, dip into his slick and sensual 'Fast Love' which is quite a long track, but worth every minute. George plays with some smart lyrics and samples 'Forget Me Nots' on the chorus to great effect. He seems to effortlessly deliver on this song.
Another must hear is 'Spinning The Wheel' which has a wonderful haunting riff in it and some truly refined and controlled vocals from George. It is not the most widely discussed song, but it should be given more airplay.
His duet with Mary J Blige on 'As' is superb, as gospel, pop and soul blend together to create a smooth duet which builds and builds. Mary does the track proud, lending her usual high quality soulful voice to great ends.
The second disc has the slower numbers, 'Jesus To A Child' never fails to move, finding George in a pensive frame of mind. 'A Different Corner' is ever so sad and bleak and will bring a tear to the eye. One to play when you have experienced loss or death I feel.
I also love 'Father Figure' which is methodical in its delivery, yet also catchy and relaxing. I am still unsure who the song is directed at though.
There are few weak moments, but if I had to single any out, it would be 'Freek' which sounds too cluttered and industrial for me.
You get 29 tracks and some rather suspect cover artwork of George in shades. Worth checking out though
I received this as a present Christmas 2008 from my fiance and was really surprised with his choice of gift as although he knew I like George Michael I hadn't mentioned it or dropped any hints for it so was very pleasantly surprised.
Anyway, on with the review, I have tried to provide background history, chart information, my personal review of each of the songs and a rating out of 5. This might mean that the review is a lot longer than my normal 'concise' reviews so thanks in advance for reading, hopefully rating and most of all for bearing with me!
There are two versions of this album, a two disc and a three disc, my review is based on the two disc edition.
George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou on June 25, 1963 in East Finchley, North London. He first became famous in the U.K by teaming up with Andrew Ridgeley in 1982 as part of duo Wham!, by the time they split in 1986 George had already become very successful as a solo artist and was known for his amazing song-writing abilities. He has had many hit singles over the last 25 years and has regularly been in and out of the press, some of his songs are based on true stories from his life and incidents involving the press ('Outside'), also politics such as 'Shoot The Dog'.
This album was released in November 2006 to coincide with the '25' tour by George Michael celebrating 25 years of his music.
CD One - For Living:
1. Everything She Wants - Wham!
This song was released by Wham! in 1984 and reached Number 2 in the UK charts.
The lyrics talk about a man who is increasingly stressed by the constant demands of a partner and goes on to talk about her being pregnant and if he's not good enough for her how can he be good enough for her and a baby?
This has a very funky beat to it, very 80's (which I love!) and a song that you can definitely croon along to. My first memories of this song must have been early 90's and my Mum used to listen to this whilst doing her housework. A song that has stayed with me all these years which I absolutely adore.
2. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go - Wham!
This song was released by Wham! in 1984 and reached Number 1 in the UK charts, it was their first number 1 as a duo.
The lyrics are very playful and cheesy, ironically it also sings about not wanting to go solo, George clearly didn't mean that literally.
This song is very vibrant and will make pretty much anyone want to dance, it's got a fantastic beat in the background which builds in to a slight crescendo to the chorus. It really begun to show George's vocal range too with those high notes!
3. Freedom - Wham!
This song was released by Wham! in 1984 and reached Number 1 in the UK charts, giving them their second Number 1 of an already successful year for them.
The lyrics are singing about being in love and what you would and wouldn't do. Nothing matters as long as you're together with the one you love, it's not about taking away their freedom or playing games.
This is my least favourite hit by Wham! and gets quite repetitive after a few minutes, it also sounds quite familiar, like the backing music belongs to another song (perhaps by someone before or after Wham! released this, I'm really not sure).
This song was released by George in 1987 and reached Number 1 in the UK charts, giving George his first number one as a solo artist.
The lyrics are about having faith and not being swayed away from a relationship by an attractive third person or thing.
It starts off very church like with an organ playing and then breaks in to someone playing a guitar (supposed to be George in the video but I do doubt that, he's having enough trouble focusing on staying in those leather pants!). It's got quite a simple tune all the way through that's very easy to get carried along with and I find myself swaying in time to the beat.
The song is very short and simple, I like it but there could really be more to it.
5. Too Funky
This song was released by George in 1992 and reached Number 4 in the UK charts.
The lyrics are quite sexual, talking about wanting to see somebody naked and them being his goal and that goal being in sight tonight.
It really is a funky song, it's very upbeat and lively, quite different to some of his other earlier material.
This song was released by George in 1996 and reached Number 1 in the UK charts.
The lyrics are singing about relationships, having fun and looking for some Fastlove.
The song is very dancy and has an almost club like feel to it, it sounds a little grainy and almost LP like on my headphones which is odd as I haven't noticed this before when listening to the phone. George shows his vocal range on this song once again and it is yet another classic song that pretty much anyone who was in to music in the 90's will remember. When you listen on headphones you can really hear all of the extra spoken words in the background which gives the song a whole new depth.
7. Freedom '90
This song was released by George in 1990 and reached Number 28 in the UK charts.
The lyrics seem to describe the struggle of being a homosexual but not being able to 'come out' and admit who you really are, this was only really made clear in years to come when George was arrested for an 'incident' in a restroom in 1998. George is now open about who he is and is certainly out and proud (which is the way to be!).
The song has a great beat to it and has a '90' added to the end to ensure there is no confusion between this and the Wham! song released in 1984, it's really dancy, the lyrics are definitely what makes the song, anybody who is hiding who they are for whatever reason can really enjoy singing along with this song and being proud of themselves, even if only for a few moments of joy.
8. Spinning The Wheel
This song was released by George in 1996 and reached Number 2 in the UK charts.
The lyrics seem to describe the torment of being with somebody when they are clearly being unfaithful to you, all the angst that you would go through wondering where they are at 5am and just what they are bringing home to you. George also sings about the plight of somebody spinning the wheel and pretending that all is well and fine when clearly it isn't.
The song is quite a slow song with great instruments on it (including a saxophone), George's voice is melodic and almost hypnotic, I could find myself listening to this song on repeat and never getting bored of it, maybe it's because at one point in my life the lyrics really made sense to me and my life at the time. This song is a true classic by George and I'll never tire of hearing it.
This song was released by George in 1998 and reached Number 2 in the UK charts.
The lyrics talk about George's arrest for an 'incident' in a restroom in 1998 and was seen as quite a publicity stunt to help him get back in the charts. It talks about going outside and getting back to nature etc.
The song is very funky and George's voice is pretty gruff and sexy on this song, I guess just to keep up with the image of the whole new nitty gritty George who gets down and dirty outside. It's not really anything special, it's certainly easily listenable but it's just a bit too cheesy in my opinion talking about it all and being bored of having sex everywhere else.
10. As - with Mary J. Blige
This song was released by George in 1999 and reached Number 4 in the UK charts, it is a cover of a Stevie Wonder song.
The lyrics are talking about loving someone forever (until the oceans cover every mountain high).
Mary J Blige helps to make this song what it is, they just sound fantastic together and their voices go together fantastically. The music is nothing special, quite plain really until the gospel choir chip in and are then followed by Mary J. Blige.
This song was released by George in 2002 and reached Number 1 in the UK charts.
The lyrics are quite sexual and talk about being somebodies sexual freak.
The music is quite sexy sounding with some weird noises in the background, some grunting and moaning and an old dial-up sounding tone, it's not anything special in my opinion and one of my least favourite George songs.
12. Shoot The Dog
This song was released by George in 2002 and reached the top 40 in the UK charts although I am unsure of the chart placing.
The lyrics are very political and are talking about Shooting the dog, the UK being the dog and the USA being the people who are shooting us, talking about us rolling over like a good dog and taking what we are given. The lyrics are quite controversial, a fair few expletives in this song too. The video shows Tony Blair as a poodle on the white house lawn and is an absolutely fantastic video although you won't find it on many music channels!
The music is very fast and furious, quite techno in places, it's got a great vibe to this song, George is very gruff and sexy again. I really enjoy singing along to this song and liked it even when I was a 14 year old too immature and naive to understand what the lyrics were about!
This song was released by George in 2004 and reached Number 4 in the UK charts.
The lyrics talk about thinking someone is amazing and them being mixed up and confused with who they are and what they want to be and helping to bring that person out of themselves and change who they are.
This song reminds me very music of 2004, I used to listen to this CD religiously in the car, especially during the summer of 2004, it's got a very positive, upbeat, happy vibe to it and I still enjoy singing along to this now.
14. Flawless (Go To The City) - Radio Edition
This song was released by George in 2004 and reached number 10 in the UK charts.
The lyrics are quite repetitive (like the sample in the background), they sing about going to the city, how things are always the same there.
The music is very fast, dance/techno style, it makes you want to shake what you momma gave you and this song has always been very popular in clubs, I believe the sample is by 'The One'.
15. An Easier Affair
This song was released by George in 2007 and reached number 13 in the UK charts.
The lyrics talk about what I guess is George's life and how it's actually easier not to be him because of all the pressures and problems that come with being in the public eye and having to pretend that you are someone you are not for years (his 'straight' years).
The music is very upbeat, it's got a great beat in the background, this is definitely a song for dancing too, it's quite a simple song really, nothing too complex, it builds in to a great crescendo before the chorus kicks in.
CD Two - For Loving:
1. Careless Whisper
This song was released by George in 1984 and reached number 1 in the UK charts.
The lyrics talk about being unsure as you dance with somebody and wanting it to be just you and them on the dancefloor and how you'll never dance again the way you did before you felt guilty about things you have done.
The music is lovely, so soft and slow with an absolutely beautiful saxophone riff which is then joined by George's gorgeous voice.
2. Last Christmas - Wham!
This song was released by Wham! in 1984 as a double A-side with 'Everything She Wants' and reached number 2 in the UK charts.
The lyrics to this song are probably so well known all over the world by people of so many different ages and backgrounds. It sings about giving somebody your heart for Christmas and them giving it away the very next day and how this year you'll make sure you give it to someone special.
The music is very festive, it is always a song that gets me in the mood for Christmas and even though it is now March and it's ages until Christmas I still can't wait to be bombarded with this song all the time over the festive period (which seems to start in November these days!).
3. A Different Corner
This song was released by George in 1986 and reached number 1 in the UK charts.
The lyrics of this song are rumoured to be about an ex-girlfriend that George had and they are beautiful, singing of how love is a magical thing and how that special person can be the only one who can stop your tears and how you might never come close to having love that again.
The music is quite simple but suits this powerful song so well, it's soft and gentle all the way through with a little light guitar playing and some quiet percussion in the background.
4. Father Figure
This song was released by George in 1987 and reached number 11 in the UK charts.
The lyrics of this song are a sensual tale of seduction and sum up perfectly the nature of George's writing in the short time since Wham! had split.
The music is calm and soothing all the way through, a rhymytic beat in the background to keep the song going along.
5. One More Try
This song was released by George in 1988 and reached number 8 in the UK charts.
The lyrics talk of reluctance to enter a new relationship because of being emotionally hurt in previous ones, by the end of the song George sings of temptation taking over and giving in.
The music definitely sounds like it comes from the 80's, it's slow once again (as are most of the songs on this album) and is a fantastic love song, it's even more amazing live.
6. Praying For Time
This song was released by George in 1990 and reached number 6 in the UK charts.
The lyrics are fairly political and talk about social ills and injustice in the world, the vocals sound very echoey and this is quite different to his usual vocals of the time.
The song is quite dark and sombre, George's vocals are really monopolising the music but it goes so well together with the echoey effect of the song.
7. Heal The Pain - with Paul McCartney - Previously Unreleased
The original version of this song was released in 1991 but this version is previously unreleased in the UK having been released in the U.S in 2008.
The lyrics are sung beautifully by Paul & George, they sound fantastic together, the song sings about being good to yourself and making the world a better place for all.
The song is quite Paul McCartneyesque and definitely sounds like something Paul himself could have written, it's quite melodic and happy-go-lucky in it's style.
8. Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - with Sir Elton John
The original version of this song was released by Elton John in 1974 and this version was released by George & Sir Elton in 1991 and reached number 1 in the UK chart.
The lyrics sing of helping somebody and them then rejecting you.
The music is amazing, Elton on the piano and is just filled with emotion and is very soulful.
9. Jesus To A Child
This song was released by George in 1996 and reached number 1 in the UK charts.
The lyrics are dedicated to Michael's friend and lover, Anselmo Feleppa, who died from an Aids related illness just two years after George met him in 1991 in Rio de Janeiro, after he died George was unable to write for two years and then went on to pen this song in just an hour, remarkable.
The music is very melancholy and is beautiful, this song is a very fitting tribute to somebody that George loved and lost.
This song was released by George in 1997 and reached number 3 in the UK charts.
The lyrics are singing about becoming older (as the title might suggest).
The music is very soulful, being joined by a saxophone in parts, very melodic.
11. Round Here
This song was released by George in 2004 and reached number 32 in the UK charts.
The lyrics of this song are about where George grew up and how life came to be how it is now.
This song has a great beat to it, it's nothing too fast, just fits the lyrics perfectly.
12. You Have Been Loved
This song was released by George in 1997 and reached number 2 in the UK charts.
The lyrics talk of the past and loving somebody (a son) and all of the memories that you have and all of the trials and tribulations you go through to help love somebody and make them who they are.
The music is very slow and soothing, a light beat in the background but nothing truly special.
13. John And Elvis Are Dead
This song was released by George in 2005 and did not chart as it was released as download-only and downloads could not contribute to the singles chart at the time.
The lyrics talk about people that have passed on and depression.
The music is quite techno-esque but very slow at the same time, with lots of percussion instruments.
14. This Is Not Real Love - with Mutya Buena [ex-Sugababes] - Previously Unreleased
This song was released by George in 2006 but I am unsure if or where this charted in the UK.
The title of this song is quite self explanatory with regards to what the song is about.
The music is quite upbeat and sweeps you along with the song.
I can't really fault a single song on either of the CDs, I adore both CDs and the songs are fantastic, my only real complaint is that 'I can't make you love me' isn't included on the 'For Loving' album as I think this would just complete the album so much better.
I would highly recommend buying this album for any fans of Wham! and/or George Michael, the songs are amazing, there is something for pretty much anyone on this album.
The two disc version of this CD is available on Amazon.co.uk for around £8.00 and is an absolute bargain in my opinion!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Everything She Wants
2 Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
5 Too Funky
7 Freedom ?90
8 Spinning the Wheel
10 As (with Mary J. Blige)
12 Shoot The Dog
14 Flawless (Radio Edition)
15 An Easier Affair
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Careless Whisper
2 Last Christmas
3 A Different Corner
4 Father Figure
5 One More Try
6 Praying For Time
7 Heal The Pain (with Sir Paul McCartney)
8 Don?t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (with Sir Elton John)
9 Jesus To A Child
11 Round Here
12 You Have Been Loved
13 John and Elvis Are Dead
14 This Is Not Real Love (with Mutya)