Songs From The Last Century
After [B]'Older'[/B], could this be [B]'Coffin Dodgin'[/B]'? The progression in [B]Mr Michael[/B]'s career has been a little confusing of late...
Unlike Bryan Ferry, whose current cover versions collection fits him well, Michael is not, at base, a crooner, and most of the 'Songs From...' requires him to drape himself in the highly unbecoming double-breasted attire of pre-war ballads, jazzy standards and big-band swing. Not that the collection is remotely coherent. It has the feeling of a Dada karaoke night run by senile Radio 2 producers.
Like Aled Jones trying to sing Chet Baker (the latter's woozy smack-jazz vocal style appears to have been an influence), George oozes sugar into '30s hard times show tune, 'Brother Can You Spare A Dime'.
Next we're wanged into the '70s for fellow jazz criminal Sting's 'Roxanne', which is radical in its muted double-bass interpretation, but abominable in its mismatching of Michael's contralto with the Thelonious Monk ambience.
The reverberations from the stylistic clash of feathered tonsil and wire-brush syncopation are the only things to keep you from nodding off through 'You've Changed' until the tempo spurt of 'My Baby Just Cares For Me', a more whimsical sidestep which George carries off pretty well. The rub here is that though he's a technically impressive singer, he doesn't have the gravitas to be a great interpreter.
The more recent the song, the more it suits him, simply because Michael belongs in the same landscape as Bono and Eno, singing their 'Miss Sarajevo', a song about a model in a war zone sung by a glossy celebrity. It's viable in a way that adding more slush to an already slush-raddled 'The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face' just isn't.
So 'I Remember You' twinkles with harps like the cheesiest moment from a West End musical, 'Secret Love' offers us a full-on Doris Day impersonation and in the soft-focus version of the Bowie-popularised 'Wild Is The Wind' the grand passions are delivered as if chatting with his manicurist.
It's a relief when the final song 'It's Alright With Me' turns out to be an instrumental, and a slight surprise that there are no sleigh bells on the end of it. Because unless you go along with the theory that now Michael's publicly gay he's hell-bent on high camp as a revenge (a lot of this is deeply Judy Garland), this is about as worthwhile an enterprise as a collection of 'Last Christmas' remixes.
An evil stocking-filler for Granny or a companion piece for 'Britney Spears Sings Billie Holiday'.
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