Mike Atkinson

George Michael – Twenty Five

Posted in album reviews, Nottingham Post by Mike A on November 1, 2006

Hmm, is it really time for another “greatest hits” collection from George Michael? After all, he has only released one album of original material (2004’s under-performing Patience) since the last collection, 1998’s Ladies and Gentlemen. Come to think of it, there have only been two original albums in the past sixteen years – but presumably true art can’t be rushed.

The reason is simple. As George is touring for the first time in fifteen years, he needs new product to shift. So why not bundle up a representative sample of the man’s work over the past quarter century – both with Wham! and as a soloist – and bung it out in good time for Christmas?

This would have been fine, if Twenty Five really was a “greatest hits” package – but without the likes of I’m Your Man, I Want Your Sex and I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), we can’t really call it that. Or is it a “best of” collection? Hardly, if the awful “protest song” Shoot The Dog can make the grade, at the expense of classics such as I Can’t Make You Love Me – and do we really need to be burdened with Last Christmas all the way through the rest of the year? OK, so maybe it’s a concert souvenir, containing all the songs from the tour? Wrong again: large chunks of George’s current set list are absent from these two CDs.

Instead, what we have is a hastily conceived cash-in, seemingly compiled by people with scant knowledge of George’s music, and even less respect for his long-suffering fans. Why else would fifteen songs from Ladies and Gentlemen crop up again on Twenty Five? Once again, all the ballads are on one disc (For The Loving), with the livelier stuff on the second disc. (For The Living – clever, huh?). Someone has tried to arrange the tracks chronologically – but even this simple task is carelessly botched.

Worst of all, an attempt has been made to lure the fans with a limited edition bonus disc (For The Loyal), which will set you back another few quid. However, instead of the expected hard-to-find rarities for the connoisseur, there’s just one new song (a pleasant ballad calledUnderstand), and no less than seven selections from Patience. Add these to the six tracks from Patience on the other discs, and you have virtually a full reissue. It’s a strange way of rewarding the “loyal”, to put it mildly.

Still, there are always the other three “exclusives”: An Easier Affair (one of George’s weakest singles, Outside having already covered the “gay pride” angle so much better), a re-recorded Heal The Pain (featuring fellow tabloid target Paul McCartney), and a rather lovely collaboration with ex-Sugababe Mutya, This Is Not Real Love. All three can be legally downloaded from the usual places, at a fraction of the cost.

If you’ve never owned a George Michael album, then this is a passable introduction. For everyone else, Twenty Five is a sad reminder of wasted talents and diminishing returns.

**

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