No album of original material – yet – but George Michael is still on great form.
Symphonica was recorded during Michael's tour of the same name in 2011 and 2012, and presents itself as a live album – with the requisite cheers and applause – though beautifully produced by the late Phil Ramone. Fans will have to wait for a full set of new songs, but rumours suggest it's not far away.
What we get is a mix of standards (and the odd curveball like "Mr Elton John"'s Idol and a supper-club rendering of The Police's Roxanne) and old George favourites. So there's a surprisingly faithful version – after nearly 30 years – of early solo number one A Different Corner, a plush improvisational take on Praying For Time and an aptly orchestral performance of Cowboys And Angels rubbing shoulders with slightly cheesy attempts at Nina Simone's My Baby Just Cares For Me and Feeling Good, and a touching caress of Ewan MacColl's The First Time Ever I Saw His Face.
A little off-piste is Michael's cover of Terence Trent D'Arby's Let Her Down Easy, a song that in the end seems like it was made for him, telling a story with taste and soul. Taste characterises the whole album, really, but it's never dry – Michael's voice is too pure and honest to allow that. His blue-eyed soul power is undiminished, whatever his high-profile tribulations over recent years. So Symphonica treads a fine line between classy and cabaret, but that's OK. Some new stuff would be nice though.