Saturday, September 25, 2010

1990 Album Review: George Michael - Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (5/5)

Faith was a massive commercial success, particularly in the US, where it went 10 times platinum and scored six top 5 hits, including four #1s. Apparently daunted by its success, George Michael took a new path for the album's follow-up, Listen Without Prejudice, penning a collection of more serious songs with a more acoustic sound. Some people didn't like it--it wasn't nearly the hit that Faith was--but others, like myself, found it enthralling. "Praying for Time," a US #1, pushes for social consciousness amid layers of keyboard chords and acoustic guitars. "Freedom," also a top 10 hit, as well as "Waiting for That Day," sample James Brown's "Funky Drummer" beat to great effect. "Freedom," in particular, is as potent, funky and upbeat as anything from Faith. Although at the time it was viewed as a personal statement of George Michael wanting freedom from his iconic image--a story portrayed in the song's video by burning his iconic leather jacket--it later took on new meaning once Michael came out of the closet. "Waiting for That Day" is as tinged with hope as it is with retro sensibility, making it another fantastic track.

There's some great ballads here too. "They Won't Go Where I Go" can be a bit gloomy, but reaches a poignant emotional peak at its bridge. "Cowboys and Angels" is a particular highlight, employing the style of romantic jazz that Michael has used to such great effect both earlier ("Kissing a Fool") and later ("You Have Been Loved"). Sparsely instrumented "Mother's Pride," a tribute to fathers and sons lost to war, became an anthem for families with relatives serving in the Gulf War. Although it's just a reprise, "Waiting" is as emotionally involved as any of the songs that precede it. The album was a stunning work for its new direction, personal yet enigmatic sentiments and overall quality.

Best: Freedom, Cowboys and Angels, Praying for Time, Waiting for That Day, Mother's Pride


John said...

It's a classic album. I don't think it got the credit it deserves when it was released because it was such a sharp turn away from his shameless pop style, but I think time has been good to it.

Bellesouth said...

I bought this album when it was released. After George came out, I got the album out and listened to it in its entirety. This was his coming-out album. We just didn't know it. He struggled a lot.

I hope this album was a healing experience for him. He's an excellent songwriter, and I am glad to see people looking back on this album and recognizing it for the heartfelt masterpiece that it is.