Ladies & Gentleman: The Best of George Michael – George Michael – 1998
First listen?: Yes. I’ve listened to the later collection Twenty Five, but not Ladies & Gentleman.
Of the acts that didn’t make the initial top 40 list the one I was most disappointed to not be able to write about was George Michael. I’ve been listening to ‘George’, as my mum refers to him as, for as long as I can remember. His 1996 album Older that preceded this Greatest Hits collection was a constant in our household, the sort of album that all 4 of us would happily sit and listen to over our evening meal, even if my mum was the biggest fan of the lot. Listening back to songs like emotional opener Jesus To A Child again brings back great memories of being with my Mum. The collection itself is extremely extensive given Michael had only released 3 full solo studio albums before release. Split across two discs, ‘For The Heart’ full of ballads, while ‘For The Feet’ is the uptempo hits it includes many singles that never made there way onto previous studio albums. This makes for a comprehensive, but plodding collection at time. It’s not that much of a problem given the quality of the best tracks here, but for anyone but a well versed fan the 30 tracks here are intimidating given the distinct split between ballads and dance tracks. The highlights such as the electric #1 Aretha Franklin duet I Knew Your Were Waiting (For Me) or lead single Outside that made light of Michael’s recent arrest for public indecency are worth it in the end though. Classics 80s hits like Careless Whisper and Faith manage to sit nicely with Freedom 90 and Fastlove in showing the easy transition he made from his Wham! days into one of the UK’s most iconic voices. Given my love of the singles from Older, it’s disappointing to see The Strangest Thing and Star People here in their ’97’ remix form, which strips away some of the soul of the album versions for me. The version of I Want Your Sex included is strange too, especially next to so many original single cuts. Outside of this though, Ladies & Gentleman is a sterling example of the undisputed talent of George Michael. His is a voice I have always loved and it’s fitting to have him appear in a list of the biggest selling albums of all time.
Will I listen again?: I’m much more likely to go on to create my own ‘Greatest Hits’ playlist.
Best Track: If I was deciding between a track from each disc, I’d probably be torn between two singles from Older. The heartbreaking You Have Been Loved sees Michael at his soulful best, but for me I think if I had to listen to one song it would have to be Fastlove. That song sounds fresh 20 years on.