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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > George Michael

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George Michael Faith - Remastered Edition (Epic/Legacy)

It's a bit easy to forget how huge George Michael was in the mid-80s with two decades in which he has been most in the public eye for unfortunate hairstyles, record-label lawsuits, self-parodying television appearances on long-forgotten series like Eli Stone and drug-possession and men's room indecency arrests.  Also, in the two-plus decades since this album was released, Michael has only recorded four albums of original material - one of those an all-covers album - as well as two hits compilations.

However in 1987, for a white-hot pop-culture moment, Michael was arguably the biggest pop star in the world.  And listening to the newly remastered re-release of Faith with 24 years of hindsight, it is still easy to see why he became so big.

Faith ended up spawning an astonishing six top ten singles (second at the time only to Michael Jackson's Thriller, which had seven) including four number ones.

Not that Michael came from nowhere, he had been the main songwriter and lead singer of popular British duo Wham! (known as Wham! UK in their homeland).  In the band, Michael was the voice behind such singles as "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," "Careless Whisper," "Freedom," "Everything She Wants" and "Last Christmas."  In fact Michael was arguably the entirety of the band - no one ever ever knew for sure what bandmate Andrew Ridgeley added to the mix.

He wasn't even completely unknown as a solo artist.  The year before he'd topped the charts with his Roy Orbison-referencing solo single "A Different Corner" (which, honestly sounded musically so much like "Blue Bayou" that it tread the fuzzy line between tribute and plagiarism.)  Also, arguably Wham's biggest single "Careless Whisper" was actually a Michael solo single in his native Britain that was released in the US as being recorded by Wham! featuring George Michael.

However, Faith was Michael's artistic statement of independence and as such was a complete success - commercially, but also artistically.

The most impressive part of Faith's palette is how varied it is.  Michael was able to take dance beats, quiet storm r&b, cocktail jazz and rockabilly to make a wondrous state of the musical art for 1987.  From the church organ and Bo Diddley beats of the title track to the breathtaking balladry of "Father Figure" and "One More Try" to the more adventurous, hard-hitting rock and soul of "Hard Day" and "Look At Your Hands," Michael hits on all cylinders.

"Kissing A Fool" is just a stunningly gorgeous old school-heartbreak cocktail torch ballad, touching and sad and timeless enough that it sounds like it might have been recorded in the 1940s as well as the 80s - and just safe enough that years later it would be covered by Michael Bublé.

Most of the songs hold this agelessness.  While many of Faith's contemporary albums feel straight-jacketed by mid-80s synth beats, most of these songs feel wonderfully current to this day.  In fact, songs from this album have been covered by a musically diverse group of artists from cocktail jazz crooner Bublé to soul sisters Divine to nu-metal rockers Limp Bizkit.

Ironically, the song that has probably aged the worst is "I Want Your Sex (Parts 1 & 2)" the original centerpiece of the album, the first single (actually it was released before the album).  While the song is fine, it is the song that feels most bound to its time - and of course the "naughty" lyrics now feel a tiny bit desperate to make a splash as Michael was cutting his ties with Wham!.  That said, the album closer "A Last Request (I Want Your Sex Part 3)" is a truly stunning piece of quiet storm seduction.

The second disk in this special edition - made up of b-sides, remixes and instrumental versions - is mostly pretty inessential listening.  Of the three non-album tracks, "Fantasy" is a fine-but-inconsequential dance jam, and "I Believe When I Fall In Love" and "Love Is In Need of Love Today" are both pretty enough live ballads.  None of the remixes really outdoes the original album mixes and the instrumentals are only really necessary if you're planning a karaoke party.

However, if the extras are pretty disposable, the actual Faith album is pretty close to flawless and absolutely necessary for any musical collection in which 80s music matters.

Soon enough George Michael would be slipping into the Roman Gladiator hairstyle and depressive "artistic" musical mood of Listen Without Prejudice, but Faith is a foolproof reminder that when he was on his game, George Michael was as flawless a composer of popular music as there comes.

Jay S.  Jacobs

Copyright © 2011 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 5, 2011.

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Copyright © 2011 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 5, 2011.

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