Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 2004 fifth solo album Patience by George Michael.
This 14-track album opens with the tinkling piano of title track Patience. George is straight in with some rich soulful vocals – and this opener reminds me of his version of Stevie Wonder‘s They Won’t Go When I Go from his brilliant Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 album. It’s simple, slow, and beautiful.
Second track and third single, Amazing pumps in, and this is far more upbeat. It has a funky bassline and some great acoustic guitars, and George’s vocal style here reminds me a little of his Fastlove hit. Sadly this didn’t give him another #1, but did reach #4 in the UK instead.
Next up is John And Elvis Are Dead – an odd title for this slow song, which stood as the sixth and final single from the album. The single was released only as a download, which at the time, did not meet the criteria to qualify it to chart in the UK. Whilst there’s nothing about it to offend the ears, there’s also nothing really here to make it very memorable (aside from the unusual title).
Cars And Trains is up next, with an operator message. This feels pretty funky, although I could imagine All Saints tackling this. Amongst the funky chorus, there’s also some lush mellow parts too – with wandering soundscapes, breathy vocals, and tinkling percussion. I really quite like this track, but it’s not Amazing nor is it Fastlove… but it’s not far off.
A slow, smooth Round Here is up next. This is a really nice song, and one that was kind of robbed when it only got to #32 in the UK singles chart. I think that this track wouldn’t have sounded out of place on George’s Older album. At almost 6 minutes long though, it does feel a bit too long.
George’s political attack on the Blair/Bush alliance – Shoot The Dog is up next. This song, unsurprisingly, doesn’t make it on the US (and a few other country) versions of this album, despite being the second single. It includes a vocal sample of the Human League‘s Love Action (I Believe In Love) which just adds to the catchiness of this great song. This song got to #12 in the UK singles chart.
My Mother Had A Brother takes the tempo back down. This is a sad, slow, downbeat ballad. There are some wonderful synth and guitars here, nestled in between George’s rich vocals and the piano. Despite weighing in at 6m 18s, this song steadily builds up, and that helps make it feel shorter.
The exceptionally catchy fourth single (and genius almost ‘mash-up’) of Flawless (Go To The City) follows, and this is a pumping club track. Of course, this is George essentially singing over the huge hit Flawless by The Ones. Somehow this single also missed out on a number one – reaching #8 in the UK instead – just one place behind the 2001 original. Perhaps the recency of The Ones’ version made this feel like it was too similar, too soon. I love this song though.
Ninth track, American Angel, returns us back to George’s more mellow, gentler, soulful style. It’s a nice track, but it doesn’t particularly stand out amongst the rest of the songs here.
Bleeping synths and a thumping beat ushers in Precious Box and this really is a great song. There’s no denying that this song builds and builds throughout its 7m 40s. I’d love to hear a single edit of this track (if that was possible without losing something).
Next up is Please Send Me Someone (Anselmo’s Song), which feels like quite a delicate, intricate song – musically. This song manages to discretely sample an orchestral section from the Moonraker Bond Theme without a whiff of Shirley Bassey.
Lead single Freeek! 04 comes chugging in, with engaged phones, sex noises, and a modem dialling in… sounding chaotic. Then, with a chugging bass synth line, George’s vocals growl in. To be honest, I’m not a fan of this song – it just feels too cluttered. Amongst its jumble, are samples from Aaliyah, Kool & The Gang, and Q-Tip.
Strings open the penultimate track, Through, which are soon joined by some affected guitar and synth choir. This is a soft ballad – George’s rich vocals – that we met in opening song, are back here with acoustic guitars. It has a somewhat abrupt and odd ending, leaving a gap of silence before the final track.
The album closes with 1m 31s of Patience (Reprise), which sees the piano and strings from the opening title track return. There’s a weighty sadness here in this instrumental version.
Overall, I’m sad to have passed this album by when it was first released – having loved Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 and Older so much. I think my reasons were down to not liking Freeek! and Shoot The Dog, but listening to those two here 11 years later, feels different, and it’s evident that I missed the brilliance of Amazing.
When this album is good, it is exceptional. When it’s weak, it’s unmemorable. Those few weaker tracks lose it a star, but otherwise it’s a welcome addition to my CD collection.
Where is George Michael now?
After the success of this album, George Michael released his second ‘greatest hits’ type album Twenty Five in 2006 to commemorate his 25 year career. It also saw him release one of the new tracks This Is Not Real Love with former-Sugababe Mutya Buena. This was followed by a lengthy tour.
George has struggled with drug and health issues in more recent years, but his ability to bounce back to form, continues to bring him success.
In 2011 he began his Symphonica tour, but this was interrupted when he contracted pneumonia. He achieved another number one album, when the Symphonica album was released in 2014.
Despite seemingly being excited about the prospects of a comeback, George was found dead at his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day 2016. He was just 53 years old.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2004 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified 2x Platinum
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.