Information about the Album:
Symphonica is the only live album of George Michael. His vocals were recorded during his 2011/12 orchestral Symphonica Tour while the string arrangements were recorded in a studio. Symphonica was released on March 14, 2014 through Aegean and Virgin EMI Rcords.
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.
For a live record, though, this collection of 10 covers and seven originals has an oddly manicured feel, with a lack of the mistakes and ad-libs that pump oxygen into live recordings. Despite the applause and sporadic bits of improvisation (he changes the lyric to Praying for Time and banters on Feeling Good: “It’s too much to expect a white man to do it like Nina”), these tracks could pass for studio versions. Michael glides through the songs like a pop swan, foregrounding his elegance as a balladeer. Really, the album is all about technique – his and the orchestra’s. To be fair, he can croon the stuffing out of the most well-worn covers (Brother Can You Spare a Dime is a searingly emotional trip through several octaves), but it’s at the expense of spontaneity.
An unadventurous set list reworks some of his most thoughtful and sombre songs with a selection of classic covers, all given a lush production gloss by the late Phil Ramone. What lifts it to a higher plane is Michael’s smooth and expressive singing. He has gorgeous tone and timbre and an instinct for when to introduce a breathy intimacy and when to raise the roof.
- Number of weeks in chart: 23 weeks
- Peak Position: #1 (for 1 week)
- Number of weeks in chart: 2 weeks
- Peak Position: #60
“My Baby Just Cares for Me”
“A Different Corner”
“Praying for Time”
“Let Her Down Easy”
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”
“John and Elvis Are Dead”
“One More Try”
“Cowboys and Angels”
“Brother Can You Spare a Dime”
“Wild Is the Wind”
- Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael (1998)
- Twenty Five (2006)
- George Michael’s Cover of “Let Her Down Easy”
- The Best of Wham!: If You Were There… (1997)
- George Michael: The Reluctant Pop Star (Calendar Magazine, Sept 1990)