Sweeter than the day

Truthfully? I never really paid much attention to George Michael after Faith. Not that there was much to which to pay attention …

My interest was, of course, piqued when Michael was tossed out of the closet back in 1998, and it felt nice to know those impressionable pre-teen years lusting after him weren’t for naught.

But musically, he doesn’t really engage me. Perhaps it’s a cultural gap that prevents me from digging British white man soul.

And for the most part, Michael’s latest album, Patience, doesn’t go a long way to conversion.

Like Annie Lennox and Duran Duran before him, music video has frozen Michael in time, and the ubiquitous success of Faith back in 1987 makes it plainly obvious he’s mellowed out. A lot.

Rod Stewart has taken to covering standards, but Michael crossed that milestone years ago.

Patience starts out with a series of incredibly mellow songs. Some, like the opening title track, are plain pretty. Others, like “John and Elvis are Dead”, are plain plodding.

Half-way through, Michael puts four on the floor with “Shoot the Dog” and “Flawless”. A lot of people despise “Shoot the Dog” — I don’t mind it because I tune out the lyrics.

Toward the end, Michael gets interesting and combines the two styles. Although overly long, “Precious Box” seethes even though it’s propelled by a techno beat.

Unfortunately, a lot of the quieter moments the album are just indescript. They seep so far into the background, a listener’s subconscious can’t even pick anything up.

Save for one thing.

Michael’s voice has really sweetened over the years. Despite trying to style himself as a heir apparent of the crooner sect, Michael sings with a tenderness that isn’t easily faked.

In the opening moments of Patience, Michael makes a striking impression without barely raising the volume. It’s a far cry from the guy who crowed about wanting your sex or some such.

Patience isn’t going to win any new fans, and it may not even totally satisfy his current ones. But he sings mighty fine on this disc, and at times, it’s the only thing that saves the album from itself.