Album Review : Symphonica

Album Review         :           Symphonica

Artist                      :           George Michael

Genre                     :           Pop

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His career took a big dip like a rollercoaster falling abruptly from an altitude of 1000 ft.  He might take the blame for some reasons for nearly fading into oblivion.  However, one cannot deny that he has one of the most compelling and recognizable voices among his contemporary.  There is something about his voice that can reach high and low notes effortlessly.  After offering two compilations, again he ventured another compilation.  This time doing some remake and singing some of his previous hit ballads.

“Symphonica” is a live album and begins with George Michael singing about presuming that he is “Through.”  Fortunately, the song was delivered as if he is pleading to his audience that his time is still not yet up.  He followed the set with an oldie, “My Baby Just Cares For Me.”  You can hear screams from the background screaming while he sings the songs.  In other words, they lapped it up despite that his rendition of this song cannot erase in our mind Frank Sinatra’s take on this song.  “A Different Corner” was a wonderful song and is a good piece when you want to show passion and vocal ability.  He did not redo the song instead delivered the original version.  This time it is a full orchestra backing him up.

“Praying for Time” is a difficult song to appreciate the first time it was released during the nineties.  However, many people really adored this song as it reached the pinnacle in Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart then.  In this live album, the listener is given an opportunity to appreciate how good the song is lyrically.  A piano introduction is heard and he sings “Let Her Down Easy.”  One of the things that this singer is good at is that he doesn’t chew words when he sings.  You can hear exactly the words as it is.  Thus, one can say that this is a potential song in the league of “Someone Like You” by Adele and “All Of Me” by John Legend if given the right promotion.

It is a risk when you create your version of any Roberta Flack song because people will really compare singers to her.  Thus, you have to have unique remake or redo of her song to avoid comparison.  The Fugees is just one of the successful entertainers to do justice with one of her songs; “Killing Me Softly,” don’t you just love the “one time” thing in their version?  Unfortunately for George Michael, his version of “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” was plain boring.  He got drown with the orchestra and piano background.

In “Feeling Good” he attempted accapela in the first few stanzas of the song and with a voice like his, the delivery is outstanding.  However, a beep bop song needs a deeper voice and he used his regular voice thus destroying what would be a hip swaying song. The song “John and Elvis Are Dead” is beautifully sang here.  It has just the right amount of instrumentations and the right kind of instrument to achieve the desired atmosphere when performing a song about two of the most iconic pop figure in the history of music.  More or less his delivery of his original song “One More Try” in this live album can be compared with what Mariah Carey did in her latest album.  The difference is that he just nailed the notes and emotion without trying to impress listeners.  In other words, nothing beats the original.

After listening “Cowboys and Angels”, you might have a feeling of being bored as it is just too much if the whole album is packed exclusively with ballads and slow tempo songs.  However, the feeling is quite opposite as his vocals remains the same by the time he reached this song (note that this a live album.)  He recreated this song to a jazzy background and it works.  He paid tribute to Elton John in “Idol.”  Once the song is finished you realized that more or less they have the same vocal pitch.  Thus, one feels that is Elton John singing this song.

He did a salute to the fifties with “Brother Can You Spare A Dime.”  The song somehow doesn’t fit the whole concept album of original ballads and remake.  It feels like he is stepping into the world of Michael Buble in this song.  You will notice that the whole musical effort was quite understated in terms of background music.  Being backed up with a full symphony somehow can give the artist a lot elbow room to experiment with sounds.  However, in “Wild of The Wind,” you will notice that something is really lacking in this song.  He could have used the whole symphony orchestra to create a windy sound that could probably enhance the whole song.  “You’ve Change” is the finale song and it might be his reminded to his fans and non-fans that he mended his way and the whole live album is proof that he his back and will recover lost glory.  It is a perfect song to end the concert and the record as well.

There is a tendency for the listener to imagine how George Michael rendered all songs live in concert.  Thus, it is better to buy the DVD version if available.  The album is good for “piped-in music.”  I rate this record 3 stars out of 5 stars.

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