George Michael – Older (1996): Review

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Produced by George Michael and Jon Douglas
Label – DreamWorks/Virgin

Personal experience undoubtedly heavily influences a singer songwriter’s material at any given time and the reflections that mark George Michael’s third studio recording are an open wound that would only have resonance in forthcoming years and as the artist’s personal life finally began to unfold. At the time the music press generally greeted the release with mixed responses, ranging from “mature jazz inflected pop” to “morose self pity”, but frankly none were aware of the background that laid the foundations to one of the most delicately introspective albums of modern times. Many detractors may have thought that the protracted court battle with his former record label Sony immediately following his 1990 release “Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1” would have been the main cause for the sorrowful compositions. Far from it, indeed the emotional fragility that forms much of the content of “Older” is a direct result of mournful turmoil following the death of a loved one. In March 1993 Michael’s first long term lover and partner Anselmo Feleppa had died from AIDS, leaving the singer vulnerable and alone. A bunch of songs he’d recorded earlier for the projected “Listen Without Prejudice Volume 2” were scrapped and given away to the Red Hot And Blue charity. All that remained was Michael’s undeniable song writing skill and his recognisable vocal prowess. The thematic content of “Older” is supported by a musical backdrop that is stately paced jazz pop interrupted by a couple of up tempo numbers, which in essence perfectly mirror the subject matter of each song.

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The beautifully heart wrenching “Jesus To A Child” directly references the sad loss of Feleppa with a spiritual message that brings comfort even in the moments after the tragedy. “Well I’ve been loved, So I know just what love is, And the lover that I kissed, Is always by my side” he sings with the air of someone who feels blessed to have experienced intense love, however short the time period may have been. Loss of a child and a mother’s lament feature strongly in the equally compelling “You Have Been Loved”, and remains one of Michael’s greatest compositions. The decision to intersperse a couple of dance oriented numbers fits well as it provides a relief from what could have been a dour, one paced collection. Particularly thrilling is the white hot “Fast Love” which borrows heavily from Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” and, allied with a super cool video would return George to the number one spot in the U.K. singles charts. Indeed, in terms of chart success six singles were released in the U.K. from “Older”, all of them reaching the top three or above, re-affirming the quality of the collection. Elsewhere, there’s slick pseudo reggae overtones on “Spinning The Wheel”, eastern mysticism on “The Strangest Thing”, and a dark soulful jazz backing to the title track; all played out with Michael’s sweetly hushed tones.

Often misunderstood, more than anything “Older” boasts conviction, raw emotions portrayed to the public with dignity, and a passionate display of the state of mind this complex composer found himself in the heart of the 90s. If any of his recordings deserve a re-evaluation then this is the one that will have a greater sense of creative achievement for the listener than many of his previous releases.

8/10

Track Rating
1 – Jesus To A Child 10
2 – Fastlove – Part One 10
3 – Older 8
4 – Spinning The Wheel 8
5 – It Doesn’t Really Matter 7
6 – The Strangest Thing 8
7 – To Be Forgiven 7
8 – Move On 6
9 – Star People 6
10 – You Have Been Loved 10
11 – Free 6

Jesus To A Child

Fastlove

Spinning The Wheel

You Have Been Loved

See Also…George Michael – Faith (1987)

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4 responses to “George Michael – Older (1996): Review

  1. I have the original preview video of this which i was given off the editor of sky magazine how can i find ot what its worth

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