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George Michael

Symphonica

Format: CD   Release Date: 03/17/2014
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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. He doesn't push the limits of this template, choosing to enjoy the lush surroundings, so this winds up slightly anti-climactic: Michael is in good form but he's coasting, doing no more than he needs to, satisfying fans without surprising. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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