Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You Gotta Have Faith:George Michael Faith Remastered Review

It was 1987 the heyday of 80’s music, I had just turned 20, my life was changing and like me George Michael was turning to another direction. Leaving behind his bubble gum pop image of Wham!, Michael set his ship alone with a new R&B American sounding album and a new image that would become iconic, the leather jacket, sunglasses, stubble, and blue jeans. I have to admit I was quite shocked at the new sound and did not take an immediate liking to it. I loved the Brit pop sound and melodies of Wham! from Careless Whispers to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. His duet the year before with Aretha Franklin my all time favorite “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” was a step away from Wham! but not quit as hardcore as what was to come next. Songs like “Hard Day” had a brassier edge, baseline and sound that propelled Michael up the R & B charts where he became the first white male solo artist to hit #1.The album was preceded by the controversial single “I Want Your Sex”, tame by today's standard but MTV refused to play it and despite the video's plea to be about monogamy Aretha vowed to never sing with Michael again. I Want Your Sex stalled at #2 but the next 4 singles all hit #1. “Faith” took a slight turn into country, “Father Figure” was a masterful R & B opus which still holds up today, the coming of age ballad “One More Try” a song often copied but never equaled showed his vulnerable side, and finally the dance Jam “Monkey”. The last single "Kissing A Fool" made the top 5, a beautiful pop jazz number years before Michael Bubble made that music cool. Short by today's standard 10 or 11 tracks depending if you count part 1 and 2 of I Want Your Sex but the quality was all there, the other album tracks like “Hand To Mouth” George's commentary on the Reagan and Thatcher era, and “Look At Your Hands” are in my opinion just as good if not better then the singles.

Most fans seem to be split on the remastering; you'll notice that this master is not as loud or compressed as most re-releases tend to be, it's nice and clean without changing it much, the way it should be, the biggest difference I noticed was on “Hand To Mouth” which sound much more crisper, less bass, you can hear every sound. The second disc of bonus songs seem like was mastered slightly differently, louder. The Shep Pettibone Remix of “Hard Day” is gorgeous, this is the full version and not the edited one of the original CD and cassette. It also includes two wonderful Stevie Wonder covers used as B-sides, the song "Fantasy", two instrumentals, and the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis remixes to "Monkey" which were hard to find on CD back in the 80’s, I always felt cheated every time I listened to the album after watching the video with the pumped up version.

The release comes in 3 versions, a very affordable 2 CD edition with the bonus tracks, a pricier special edition that has the 2CD’s, a DVD with interviews, the videos re-synched with the new audio, a 40 page booklet, and a mega box edition that cost a fortune with an expanded booklet, rare prints and a vinyl copy of the album.

The album went on to win the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year and sell over 20 million copies. While I much prefer his following effort “Listen With Prejudice Volume One” and consider it to be his songwriting peak, “Faith” is a milestone in his career and a benchmark in the history of popular music.

Check out the pic of me above from 1988 trying to recreate the album cover LOL

For fun here is my Youtube review, you can see the packaging and me dancing silly.

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