Ten years after his last studio album, Patience, George Michael is back with Symphonica. It isn’t exactly the buoyant return to bouncy, slightly-sleazy pop we’d all been hoping for; rather, George worked with late, famed producer Phil Ramone to transform his orchestral 2011-12 tour of the same name into a consumer-worthy package.
In the UK, the results seem to have paid off, as Symphonica and fellow pop legend Kylie Minogue‘s Kiss Me Once are currently duking it out for the #1 position on next week’s album chart. But what did critics have to say about Michael’s latest release? Head below for our roundup of reviews on Symphonica, and then let us know your own thoughts on the record.
:: The Huffington Post (by way of the Associated Press) raves, “Time has not taken a toll on Michael’s voice, which if anything sounds more supple and emotive than during his earlier pop incarnations. Gone is the swagger and blatant ‘come and get it’ sexuality, replaced by a more subtle singer happy to pay homage to Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye and other giants as the album unfolds.”
:: Rolling Stone says, “For his first album in 10 years, produced by the late Phil Ramone, the man who invented stubble teams up with an orchestra full of sexy people for a swank live set of classic makeout ballads… best of all is when he torches up the Wham!-era oldie ‘A Different Corner,’ giving it a touch of autumnal wisdom.”
:: On the flip side, The Independent notes, “Competently organised and confidently delivered, it’s an engaging set, but ultimately, like all live albums, essentially a souvenir. And the reliance on cover versions rather than the opportunity to unveil new material, as is customary, does nothing to scotch rumours that the singer has finally hung up his microphone for good.”
:: And then there’s Kate Moss, who selected Symphonica when writing her first ever music review, for Vogue: “George’s ability to communicate as a performer and make you feel part of a journey is a rare gift. It’s an ability that defines the musical greats and, for me, it also defines what makes Symphonica such a beautiful album. Everyone should experience this. I LOVE YOU GEORGE!”
:: Metro Weekly isn’t as enthusiastic as Kate: “George Michael hasn’t released a new studio album in a decade, and it seems fans yearning for one will need yet a little more patience. Michael’s new album Symphonica, out this week, is a document of his 2011-2012 tour in which he performed a mixture of covers, jazz standards and selected nuggets from his own back catalog with an orchestral backing. Michael’s voice sounds as good as ever, and the album has the sadly nostalgic element of being famed producer Phil Ramone’s final work before his untimely passing — but, unfortunately, Symphonica is a long, slow slog of a listen.”
:: The San Francisco Chronicle echoes that sentiment: “The singer, whose voice still sounds sublime, soars through his ’90s classics, including “Praying for Time” and “Cowboys and Angels.” His supper-club takes on standards such as ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’ and ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime’ present a harder slog, with an overwrought reading of ‘Wild Is the Wind’ best serving as a reminder to listen to David Bowie’s version. Would it have been too much to ask to give that space over to a fresh run through ‘Careless Whisper’?”
:: We’ll end on this note, from Female First: “While the collection could have excelled with another couple of songs a little more like ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ and ‘Feeling Good’, where George could have shown off a different side to his personality, this is an extremely strong offering and the proof if ever we needed it that he could do this forever. Leave the curtain up. George Michael has well and truly returned.”
What are your own thoughts on George’s live album? Let us know below!
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