Today’s POP RESCUE from obscurity, is the 1987 debut solo album Faith by former-Wham front man, George Michael. But, would this album be the answer to your prayers? Read on…
This 11 track album opens with title track and second single Faith. A stern church organ fades in playing the melody, giving way to the familiar strumming of guitar and George’s opening vocals. This song is hard not to tap a foot too, as the snare and finger clicks and claps help keep the tempo up. The song is as catchy as hell, and rightly became a #2 UK hit for him.
Father Figure follows, as synths and a soft beat lead us in to the verse. George’s vocals here are affected and breathy as a bass plods along. Musically this is simple, but this works to its advantage, occasionally seeing backing vocals from George and Shirley Lewis lift the tone a little, and a scattering of a slightly Asian-styled synth sequence join in. Not on my favourite list of George Michael songs, but it still gave him a #11 UK hit single.
Bleeps and a percussive beats lead us into an extended version of George’s lead single I Want Your Sex (Parts 1 & 2). The single version of this gave him a #3 UK hit. This version feels very much like an extended 12″ mix – with lots of empty segments with just vocal affects, hard beats, percussion, or synths – the core ingredients of late 80’s dance/house records. Eventually the beeping synth gives way to brass instead. It’s not massively interesting as a song until the latter part, and the original shorter single would have been far more interesting. At 9m 17s, this is somewhat of a slog.
Fourth single One More Try follows this, opening again with an almost church-like synth sequence before George’s vocals come in for this ballad. His vocals really get to shine here – with plenty of time and space to show off his power and range. This is a real plodder, that at times reminds me of Procol Harum’s 1967 hit A Whiter Shade Of Pale. This surprisingly reached #8 in the UK charts.
Hard Day is up next, opening with some mysterious sounds before switching over to a handclap filled electronic pop beat. A fat low bass synth joins in as George commands ‘Don’t bring me down‘. This is a bit of a downbeat song, with George’s vocals soft and breathy again. The bass is complimented by some funky synth segments – what sounds like an uncredited female vocalist towards the end, might actually be a sped-up George. The song was released as a promo single in the US.
Up next is Hand To Mouth and there’s little here that could feel out of place if this song had appeared on his 1996 album Older. It’s soft snare beat, breathy vocals, weaving bassline, and mid-tempo has slick production and gives us the soulful, slightly-chilled sound that George’s 90’s career became synonymous with. A great song.
This is followed by Look At Your Hands, the only here to not be written solely by George. David Austin is on co-writer duties here – a writing partnership that has lasted for several albums. Theres some funky brass sections in this up-beat pop-rock-blues number, scattered by stabbing piano and percussion. Electric guitar chugs in the background as George’s vocals really belt out parts of the track.
Eighth track Monkey was the 5th single from the album, giving him a #13 UK hit. This is a pretty funky pop track, with some funky guitar and some nice ‘aye-ee-aye-ee-aye‘ backing vocal moments. There also some great beats, synths and vocal samples here although it’s very much a late-80’s track and somewhat dated now. Still, it’s pretty catchy. Why can’t you set your monkey free?
Kissing A Fool follows this. This was George’s 6th and final single from the album, and is a beautiful song that feels like the perfect border for this album and neighbour to what would be his next album Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 in 1990. The brushed snares, bright piano and bass sit perfectly to the breathy tone-perfect vocals from George. Towards the song, as George really lets his vocals soar, he’s complimented by a brass section. Oddly this song only reached #18, and was completely robbed of being a #1.
Penultimate track is Hard Day (Shep Pettibone Remix). 80’s remix tracks by Shep Pettibone were common on albums (he’d go on to work with Paula Abdul, having already worked with Madonna). However, late 80’s house remixes are hard, sample heavy, and listening to them now makes them sit slightly uncomfortably dated. I guess they’re waiting for the style to go full circle again. The bass is heavy, the beats and synths are stabbing, but the vocals feel far more catchy and at home here.
The album closes with A Last Request (I Want Your Sex Part 3), fading in like a keyboard demo/Whitney Houston ballad. George is straight in with the vocals, and this time the song is slower and more whispery. The bass is heavy here, as a gentle electric piano and a hard beat accompanies the song. Horns slink in towards the end, giving the song an almost late-night sound.
Over all, this album really does have all the great ingredients that would evolve and appear throughout the next few albums in George’s career. The album was rightly a hit, although listening to it now, there’s some unashamedly 80’s sounds that make it sound a little dated. At the time though, this would have been the perfect continuation from George’s up-beat Wham! career, and would have sat well alongside his chart contemporaries.
Where is George Michael now?
George won a slew of awards for this album including a Grammy, MTV video awards, a BRIT Award, and an Ivor Novello, cementing his solo career and creative credibility with the British music buying public.
His success transferred easily over to his second album Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 in 1990, and further still, with all of his albums so far, except his Songs From The Last Century covers album in 1999, landing him a #1 album (it reached #2!).
Faith was re-released in 2011 as a remastered and extended edition, with an extra CD of rare versions, and a DVD with promo videos.
George struggled with drug and health issues in more recent years, but his ability to bounce back to form, continued 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 ‘FAITH’ RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2016 RATING: 4 / 5
- 1987 UK CHART PEAK: #1, certified 4x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.