'He can certainly turn a couple of tricks in the genre, though such facility ultimately leaves many of the songs sounding bland and empty - ultimately there's an absence of character'
George Michael Older Aegean/ Virgin CDV2802
Friday 10 May 1996
Apart from that track, it's virtually wall-to-wall featherbedded ballads like "Jesus to a Child", soft-focus confections of strings, flutes, acoustic guitars and muted horns, in various combinations. The album is partly dedicated to the Brazilian easy-listening auteur Antonio Carlos Jobim, who, according to George, "changed the way I listened to music". The evidence is all over Older, which approximates the smooth, "sophisticated" sound of Jobim's work at every available opportunity, without surrendering completely to the latter's Latin rhythms. "Move On", for instance, opts for a cool- jazz flavour and 3am club ambience, while "To be Forgiven" adapts the flute figure from Debussy's L'apres-midi d'un faune before meandering off into its own oxbow lake.
The most successful application of Jobim's techniques is on "The Strangest Thing", where Michael's breathy vocals and the gentle shimmer of synthetic hi-hat and congas are embellished with an evocative, bouzoukoid guitar part. With lines like "There's a liar in my head/ there's a thief upon my bed", it's also the most succinct and satisfying of the album's many musings upon romantic deceit and disruption, that being the type of love song that George has deemed most befitting for a mature artist. He can certainly turn a variety of tricks in the genre, though such facility ultimately leaves many of them sounding bland and empty: ultimately, there's an absence of character at the heart of Older, where a truly mature artist would have chanced exposing something of his soul's vulnerability.
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