George Michael has announced that he will be releasing a new studio album in March 2014 - 'Symphonica'.
It was recorded on his tour of 2011 to 2012, with a catalogue of both of his own songs, alongside familiar material from other much-loved artists, all ably supported by a full orchestra.
Here is HuffPostUK's review from the first night of that tour at the Royal Albert Hall in London...
I'm not sure whether having a full-bellied orchestral accompaniment naturally makes every soloist sound 20% better than they are, or whether this rich musical bed in fact flags up any shortcomings in the vocal department. What's for certain is that not every pop star gets to sing with a world-class symphony orchestra. You have to earn it. If it takes 30 years, so be it.
I can't actually tell the difference between said world-class orchestra and the one that accompanies Parky when he's wandering down his chatshow staircase, but George Michael's classy crew sounded in tune, with that reassuring warm-up drone and all. It was clear we were having a grown-up night out.
The programme promised us a gentle walk down memory lane, and this was exactly what happened. I can remember being furious in 1990 when the new, distinctly un-poppy George Michael first emerged. Two decades later and it seems my music buds have finally caught up, as the strings of Cowboys And Angels swam over me. This could have been a Bond theme.
This was a reflective, grown-up George Michael on show, a world away from the defensive talk-shows and court appearances of the recent past. With the slowed-down versions of New Order's True Faith, and his own You Have Been Loved, the atmosphere grew increasingly torchsong-like, something he switched with verve going into the interval by belting out Brother Can You Spare a Dime to roof-raising effect.
Only someone with three Ivor Novello awards for songwriting can get away with as many cover songs as we heard last night, Michael proving once again his versatility by tapping into everyone from Billie Holiday and Rufus Wainwright to Eartha Kitt and Rihanna.
But if he's an able interpreter, it's Michael's own songs that are really the proof of a deep and rich pudding, with his voice a luxurious chocolate sauce he knows he can pour through it. The complexity of numbers like Kissing A Fool and Praying For Time are testament to many, many creative hours in the studio - just imagine being responsible for the ripple of recognition and pleasure at the first plucked chords of A Different Corner.
On this song, and a couple of others, the star was happy to let the wave of nostalgia do its work, eschewing the big notes for more controlled, jazzier versions. I wasn't sure if this was a calculation to preserve vocal chords based on the number of shows left on the tour, Michael's evolving musical sensibility or just, as he admits in the brochure, "knowing his limitations". (Turned out to be more prosaic, with the singer having to cancel the following night's performance, due to a viral infection.)
Nonetheless, he can still gyrate as much as is permitted for a self-respecting 48-year-old in a suit, and I do think the sight of George Michael clapping his hands at the beginning of one of his own more upbeat songs is one of pop's great gifts to collective wellbeing.
This may provide a clue the underlying reason why non-fans get cross with George Michael. They see the reports of his silliness and self-indulgence across all the 'bloids, and wonder at the loyalty of a sorely under-served fanbase. They forget that he's not just a singer still doing the rounds, but foremost a songwriter with the tools - including one of the great voices of pop - to live an imperfect life, but somehow alchemise his experiences into a musical treasure chest and share the spoils.
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