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In pursuit of George Michael

[George Michael - Faith]

George Michael has had a confounding influence on my life.

I remember watching videos for “Careless Whisper” and “I Want Your Sex” and recognizing that, yes, I find him desirable. But I was at an age where I didn’t know what desire was, and in an age where that kind of desire would imperil my life.

When his arrest forced him out of the closet in 1998, I was surprised on the level of “How the hell did I not pick up he was gay?” It was the kind of realization that put the past in perspective — of course, I found him desirable! He was signaling all this time!

But my brother called dibs on George Michael in our Sibling Rivalry Collection Race. At first, we were competing over who would get Make It Big by Wham! till radio played all the singles to death and gave neither of us much incentive.

My brother scooped up Faith, but Michael’s popularity was so ubiquitous, I became ambivalent. “Kissing a Fool” was great the first few times. Hearing every five minutes for weeks on end failed to entertain.

When Michael released Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, I was on my way to exploring music further outside the mainstream. The revelation of his sexuality wasn’t enough for me to become a fan, but I did pay attention when he created new music.

Three decades had to pass before I was receptive to examining his music. That ubiquitousness gives Faith a familiarity that feels comfortable. The non-single tracks don’t stand out as much.

Listen Without Prejudice got a lukewarm reception in the US, but it’s the album that shows a lot more maturity and craft. It’s not the hookfest of Make It Big or Faith, but it has a lot more heart and a greater sense of adventure.

It also demonstrated how far Michael had come since Make It Big. The optimism of Wham!’s second album captures the early half of the ’80s well, but it also sealed its fate as a sonic time capsule.

George Michael’s passing epitomizes that Joni Mitchell lyric: “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” In my case, it’s literal. It took his death for me to overcome an ambivalence formed at a time when other’s people opinions mattered.

 

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Looking ahead: January 2017-March 2017

The moment I announced I’m taking a break, a whole bunch of new releases appear on the schedule. I’d be remiss not to preview them.

Royal Wood, Ghost Light, Jan. 27

Ghost Light was released in Canada back in April 2016, but an international release had to wait till now. The cover for this edition — Wood in silhouette — matches the title, but I prefer the Canadian cover because Wood looks hotter in a t-shirt.

Sleater-Kinney, Live in Paris, Jan. 27

I’m still kicking myself for missing the band’s three-night run in Seattle.

Onitsuka Chihiro, Syndrome, Feb. 1

I haven’t paid much attention to Onitsuka Chihiro since her lackluster cover album FAMOUS MICROPHONE. So it was a surprise to find out she’s on yet another new label, and she released an independent album with a band in 2014.

Deee-Lite, World Clique (Deluxe Edition), March 3

Yeah, it’s about time this album got the reissue treatment.

George Michael, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (Deluxe Edition), March 3

I’ll deal with George Michael’s untimely death in a future entry. I didn’t pick up this album till after I heard the news, and I can understand both the initial underwhelming reception and its subsequent critical acclaim.

Cocco, 20 Shuunen Request Best + Rare Track, March 21

What? I’ve been listening to Cocco for 20 years now?

Vinyl

The Old 97s, Too Far to Care, Jan. 13

When I first started buying up vinyl in 2013, I considered getting the reissue of Too Far to Care. I decided against it because I wanted to track down titles preceding the CD era first. By the time I was ready to get it, all the copies had been snatched up. I snagged a used copy two weeks before I saw Music on Vinyl would reissue the original album without the bonus tracks. *sigh*

MONO, Under the Pipal Tree, Jan. 20

I don’t think MONO really topped this debut album till Hymn to the Immortal Wind.

Madonna, The Immaculate Collection (Colored Vinyl), Jan. 24

Am I really going to drop cash on a compilation where I have most of the tracks on other vinyl releases? Evidently.

Eurythmics, Greatest Hits, Jan. 27

I still have all the Eurythmics albums I bought back in the ’80s. I only had to flesh out my collection with In the Garden and We Too Are One.

Madonna, Confessions on the Dance Floor, Jan. 31

This album was really welcome after a pair of back-to-back disappointments with Music and American Life.

Eluvium, Copia, Feb. 3

I would be so on board with a reissue of An Accidental Memory in Case of Death.

Duran Duran, The Wedding Album, Feb. 10

Let’s see if this release date sticks. I think it’ll have been nearly a year since this reissue popped up on the schedule.

John Zorn, Spy Vs. Spy: Music of Ornette Coleman, March 3

I found an original Nonesuch pressing of this album many months back, but it’s a definite recommendation for anyone who loves Naked City.

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