Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop, Vocal, Pop/Rock, American Popular Song, Vocal Pop
There’s a certain sadness surrounding George “Yog” Michael’s first live album Symphonica. It’s not just that the material – a mix of classy covers n’ originals – is predominantly reflective or downbeat in tone as much as the circumstances in which it arrives. Back in 1998 George’s “Extra-curricular” shenanigans could be brilliantly shrugged off as mere afternoon delight merriment via “Outside”‘s amusing video of cops dancing in front of a discorama urinal, but “Mr.
Gestating for a long time -- at least two years, although George Michael hasn't released an album for a decade -- Symphonica is a curious way for the pop singer to return to action. A live album recorded on his 2011-2012 tour, Symphonica showcases a singer on the supper club circuit, trading in a few of his big hits, all middle-brow favorites ("Praying for Time," "One More Try," "A Different Corner") and spending a lot of time on songs the audience knows and love, whether it's Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Anthony Newley's "Feeling Good," or the American Popular Songbook standard "My Baby Just Cares for Me. " Michael does indulge in some personal favorites -- —he tackles Terence Trent D'Arby's "Let Her Down Easy" and the deep Elton John track "Idol" -- but the context is something familiar: a popular singer luxuriating in a symphonic setting.
George Michael crooning "Wild Is the Wind"? With a full orchestra? Now there's a concept. 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. Some are vintage – the jazz standard "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" – and some come from his own songbook.
Though it's being marketed as a new album, Symphonica is really a placeholder, recorded live on his 2011/12 orchestral tour and released to keep fans going until Michael's fifth studio album (scheduled for this year, a full 10 years after his fourth). For a live record, though, this collection of 10 covers and seven originals has an oddly manicured feel, with a lack of the mistakes and ad-libs that pump oxygen into live recordings. Despite the applause and sporadic bits of improvisation (he changes the lyric to Praying for Time and banters on Feeling Good: "It's too much to expect a white man to do it like Nina"), these tracks could pass for studio versions.
George Michael's first album in 10 years is a bit of a fudge. A concert-studio hybrid recorded during his orchestra-backed Symphonica tour and given extra polish, it consists largely of songs from his back catalogue and jazzy reinterpretations of others' music that he's already jazzily reinterpreted elsewhere. Still, it's hard not to swoon at the sumptuousness of its best moments.
“Supermodel”Foster the People(Columbia Records)3 Stars It’s not every band that could sell 5 million copies of a song about a horrific school shooting — told from the killer’s point of view, no less. Yes, somehow indie-rock band Foster the People took a Columbine-style scenario to the top of the charts with its 2011 worldwide smash, “Pumped Up Kicks. ” Over an irresistibly propulsive beat, the singer embodied a crazed kid, terrorizing his fellow students with the warning, “You better run faster than my bullet.