Ladies And Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael
Sony Music, 1998
REVIEW BY: Alison Bellach
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/26/1999
When I was in high school, I found Listen Without Prejudice: Vol. I, George Michael's 1990 release, in the back of a van on the way to a basketball tournament. I listened to it devoutly for months (until it was stolen), all the while thinking, "Dang! This tape is awesome! And not one mention of sex. My mom will be so happy."
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best Of George Michael is the newest "best of" collection by Michael, and after listening to it, I wonder two things: where was I when all of these songs made themselves known as his "best" work, and who took my tape?
The album is split into two sections: "For The Heart" and "For The Feet", one containing more thoughtful/romantic tunes and the other containing more dance-esque songs. They are both excellent; the splitting of the CDs makes it easy to pop one in for "mood music." I don't know that "Father Figure" would be a more romantic song, though; it's a little Oedipal for my tastes. There are two lyric books, containing a picture from the era each song is from. (Those are entertaining! The 80s hairstyles were cool!)
I was especially pleased to note that the album included "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me", a duet with Elton John recorded for the Duets album; I love Elton John, but I find this duet superior to the original recording of the song. I am confused, though, as to why many songs, especially some of those on the first CD, were considered to be "best of" material. I know that I haven't heard "I Can't Make You Love Me" on any radio station, save that by version Bonnie Rait; "Desafinado", a duet with Astrud Gilberto in Spanish, hasn't been making any plays on VH-1 that I can remember; and where did "Star People 97" come from?
That is not to say, though, that these songs aren't excellent. "Jesus To A Child," the first song on CD one, is amazing in it's ability to set the mood for the rest of the disc. And then, there are those stand-by Michael tunes: "Careless Whisper" (from the Wham! Era), "Heal The Pain", "Cowboys And Angels", "Too Funky", "Freedom 90", "Monkey", "Faith", etc., etc.
The one major gripe I would have with this collection is the version of "I Want Your Sex" that was chosen. I know that Michael, long ago, made a major move away from the shock-driven commercial direction his music had been taking; that is what the entire Listen Without Prejudice album was about. That doesn't change the fact, though, that the original version of "I Want Your Sex" threw him into the public spotlight. Whether or not this was desirable at the time doesn't change history; that is why I think it is positively annoying that the version included on the album was the lyrically sparse, saxophone-driven "I Want Your Sex (Pt II)." I don't even like this song. It sounds like something I would hear on a bad television expose on sex cults in southern California. At least the original was something I could laugh at or snicker about; this version doesn't even afford the listener a standard melody.
Other than that, I think the collection is amazing. I never realized there were so many great Michael tunes. He has worked really hard through the years to create an image that the public took seriously; even though that image is somewhat tarnished by the offhand news article, he has created a sizeable collection of amazing songs and covers. The reason that he chose to both dedicate the album to his mother, and to end the last CD with a cover of "Somebody To Love" (with Queen, as a tribute to Freddy Mercury) is not lost; he has grown as both a songwriter and performer, something this collection makes clear, and now it is time for a round of applause.