Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 – George Michael (1990)

“Listen Without Prejudice” is the second studio album to be released by George Michael as a follow up to the massively successful Faith – George Michael (1987) .

It is clear from this album that George Michael was not keen to fall back into a trap of just producing smash hits like he had done in the 80’s group ‘Wham!’. The debut album contained a number of introspective and unusual songs which helped Michael make the transition from fun pop to serious artists.

This album continues that seems though I feel this delves further into his struggles with life, love and the music industry.

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“Praying For Time” is anthemic in it’s instrumentation but lyrically Michael is going deep into his look at life and how people live. This is not what you would call a happy song, it doesn’t have a chorus and themes such as religion are all touched upon.

A dark and sombre track Michael’s vocal is impressive as well as the way the song is structured. It certainly is a bleak look at life to how people have lost their way and that we are hanging onto hope where there is not much hope to speak of.

But we’ll take our chances
Because god’s stopped keeping score
I guess somewhere along the way
He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all god’s children
Crept out the back door

The mood soon picks up with the 2nd track “Freedom 90′”. One of the most popular George Michael track this is song is another anthem like message as he sings about breaking free from his old ways and moving forwards.

The instrumentation on this track is funky with the keyboards holding the track together in what is quite a long track at 06.30m. What we have here is a song that doesn’t relent and never feels as long as it is. You can’t help but tap your feet and feel the need move your head just a little.

After the opening track this song was needed otherwise there was a fear of descending into a bit of a depressing listen.

The next song “They Won’t Go When I Go” is a cover of the Stevie Wonder track of the same name. There is often Stevie Wonder influences in the writing style of Michael throughout his career and this track fits perfectly.

What this song does is show what a world class singer George Michael was. His control, his passion, his range – all on display in what is such a sombre and wounded song. Very beautiful.

Something to not on this album which many don’t really realise is that George Michael wasn’t just the singer on this album, he was also the producer and plays many instruments on the tracks.

There is a similar acoustic guitar theme on many of the tracks such as “Something To Save”. This song sees Michael talk about a relationship that seems to be getting closer to the abyss and he is pleading with the other person to say what they are thinking as he tries to understand why they do not want to try as hard as he does in this relationship. A great track and some clear and concise lyrics with a pretty melody.

“Cowboys and Angels” is a whopping 7 minutes long and also a Jazz song. This would not be the only time Michael would delve into the world of Jazz with it being a sound clearly enjoys. The whole package of this track makes it a little difficult to digest especially due to it’s length but I have to admit this is well executed. Michael’s voice is distinctive from those Wham! days but it sounds breathy on a track like this without losing it’s richness.

“Waiting For That Day” is one of my favourite all time George Micheal songs. Whilst it was never a massive hit I find it encompasses everything that is fantastic about his songs which is great vocals and punchy melodies. The production from Michael on this track sees the drums being sampled from James Browns ‘Funky Drummer’ and slowed down. There is a portion of the song which sounds similar to “You can’t always get what you want” by the Rolling Stones and in fact Michael sings some of the lyrics of that song near the end of this one which sees Mick Jagger & Keith Richards receive a writing credit.

The song just reaches something in me and no matter how many times I hear it I get this retrospective feeling and the song makes me stop what I am doing. The song to me is one which has a sadness throughout it and more so since Michael’s passing.

“Mothers Pride” is a tale of a mother watching her son go away to war as she had watched his father – her husband do the same. Musically the song is simplistic with keyboards and an acoustic guitar played by Michael.

Michael is having his say on war by saying that these soldiers will always be defined by their decision to go to war and their death in battle will always see them holding that gun forever more.

“Heal The Pain” is the 8th track and sees Michael explain to a person that he can heal the wounds that they received in their previous relationship. The song is not one of the best on the album and really fades away into the background far too quickly. The key changes are messy and offer little to kick the song on.

“Soul Free” might sound of a time but it is one of the most interesting tracks musically on the album. Similar to the groove on “Freedom 90′”. It’s almost like a slower version of another Michael track “Too Funky” with the keyboard and bass doing a lot of the work in this funky groove.

Michael’s vocal on this track is superb. He uses his falsetto really well yet understates the chorus to great effect. He really was a great vocalist.

The final song is “Waiting (reprise)”. This is an extremely personal song and Michael is clearly talking directly to someone he has been involved with on this track.

Well there’s one year of my life in these songs
And some of them are about you
Now I know there is no way I can right those wrongs
Believe me
I would not lie you’ve hurt my pride
And I guess there’s a road without you

This is a powerful song despite only being just over 2 minutes long. Michael has a tone to his voice that I find compelling and being able to sit down as listen to his music knowing how his life would play out is like reading a story.

That is what albums are all about and George Michael laid bare his soul on this album. It is a long way from Wham! and even a long way from the debut album “Faith”. This is a singer songwriter trying to make sense of life and he offers up some great songs despite sometimes not giving us the punchier dancier side that he could do so well.

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