Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael
When George Michael released Faith in 1987, he surprised everyone who had expected just the usual teen bubblegum from the creative half of the British pop duo Wham! What they discovered, in songs like "Faith" and "I Want Your Sex," was a prodigious, Prince-like talent in complete charge of his work -- a smart, funky songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who also produced his own tracks. Three years later, with Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, Michael tried to downplay image in favor of music, although he amusingly confused his message by casting the video for his terrific "Freedom '90" with lip-synching supermodels. Now that Michael seems better known for his travails with the Los Angeles police than for his catalogue, this collection is a timely effort to focus attention back where it belongs. Michael has great taste in collaborators (from Aretha Franklin to Astrud Gilberto) and covers (Seal's "Killer," Queen's "Somebody to Love"), as well as a trademark knack for concocting soulful dance-floor grooves. He's always preached a message of sensual liberation and tolerance, and his own recent headlines have only made him braver; the newest song here, "Outside," is a funny and bold challenge to everyone's inner prude. Ladies and Gentlemen is generous in length, well-sequenced, and an excellent career-to-date summation of Michael's work that's bound to move your heart as well as your body.