Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1

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Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1
George Michael-Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (album cover).jpg
Studio album by
Released3 September 1990
RecordedDecember 1988 – July 1990
StudioSarm West and Metropolis in London
Genre
Length48:13
LabelColumbia, Epic Records (UK)
ProducerGeorge Michael
George Michael chronology
Faith
(1987)
Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1
(1990)
Five Live
(1993)
Alternative cover
Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged cover
Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged cover
Singles from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1
  1. "Praying for Time"
    Released: 13 August 1990
  2. "Waiting for That Day"
    Released: 15 October 1990
  3. "Freedom! '90"
    Released: 30 October 1990
  4. "Heal the Pain"
    Released: 4 February 1991
  5. "Cowboys and Angels"
    Released: 18 March 1991
  6. "Soul Free"
    Released: July 1991

Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 is the second solo studio album by the English singer-songwriter George Michael, released on 3 September 1990 by Columbia Records (Epic Records in the UK). The album was Michael's final album of all-new material on Columbia until 2004's Patience. Listen Without Prejudice was a stark departure from Michael's previous album, 1987's Faith, with largely acoustic instrumentation and a sombre intensity in many of the lyrics and melodies. While the album topped the UK Albums Chart, disappointing sales in the United States led to Michael's legal battles against Sony Music, in which he accused the corporation of not fully supporting him as an artist.[2]

Listen Without Prejudice was reissued across a number of formats on 20 October 2017 and again topped the UK Albums Chart, 27 years after it first reached number one on the chart.

Production[edit]

After the massive success of George Michael's 1987 album Faith, expectations for his follow-up album were also high. Michael wanted to be taken more seriously as a songwriter,[3] which resulted in a more thoughtful, often moody recording.

Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 is largely devoted to ballads and folk-styled rock songs, although there are a few dance tracks like "Freedom" and "Soul Free". There was also a remix of "Freedom" that incorporated elements of Soul II Soul's "Back to Life", which was released as a twelve-inch single and received a good deal of club play. Like Faith, each track was produced and arranged by Michael himself.

Release[edit]

In September 1990, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released. The album sold approximately eight million copies worldwide,[4] a disappointing number compared to the 20 million copies of Faith. Sales were particularly poor in the United States, where Faith had been the best-selling album of 1988. At two million copies sold, Listen Without Prejudice was a commercial disappointment for a successful artist. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number 22 and finally reached number two, blocked from the top by MC Hammer's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em. The album spent the rest of 1990 in the top ten, with a total of 42 weeks on the entire chart—fewer than half the 87 weeks spent by Faith.

In the United Kingdom, the album was a huge success, eclipsing sales of Faith. Listen Without Prejudice debuted on the UK Albums Chart at number one, where it remained for a week. It stayed at number two for the following two weeks. It spent 34 consecutive weeks in the top 20, and jumped from number 13 to number three in its 24th week. It spent a total of 88 weeks on the chart, and was certified quadruple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry on 2 January 1992.

The follow-up album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 (ostensibly scheduled to follow in June 1991) was scrapped for reasons known only to Michael and his record company. Three of the tracks intended for that album appear on the 1992 charity compilation Red Hot + Dance, while a fourth ("Crazy Man Dance") turned up on the B-side of that compilation's first single, "Too Funky".

Singles[edit]

The first single from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, "Praying for Time", was released in August 1990, reaching number six on the UK Singles Chart and number one on the US Billboard Hot 100—Michael's final US number one as a solo artist.[5][6] The second single (third in the US), "Waiting for That Day", was issued a month after the album's release. Owing to a borrowed lyric from The Rolling Stones' hit "You Can't Always Get What You Want", co-writer credits were given to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It reached number 23 in the UK,[5] and, after being released there in spring 1991, number 27 in the US.[6] In the US, the single's B-side, "Mother's Pride", reached number 46;[6] given its subject matter, it received considerable airplay on American radio during the Gulf War.[7]

The album's third single (second in the US), "Freedom! '90", became one of Michael's signature songs. It was a great success in the US, where it reached number eight and earned a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America.[6][8] It charted lower in Michael's homeland, where it peaked at number 28.[5] The fourth single, "Heal the Pain", peaked at number 31 in the UK in February 1991.[5] The fifth single from Listen Without Prejudice, "Cowboys and Angels", entered the UK Singles Chart in March and peaked at number 45.[5] "Soul Free" was released as a commercial single in Australia, where it charted at number 95,[9] and Japan.[10]

Michael refused to appear in the music videos for the album's singles. Accordingly, the video for "Praying for Time" consisted of the song's lyrics projected onto a dark background, while the video for "Freedom! '90", directed by David Fincher, featured several supermodels lip syncing its lyrics, and the destruction by fire and explosion of several icons from Michael's recent Faith period.

Reissue[edit]

Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was reissued on 20 October 2017 as Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged.[11][12][13] The reissue was first announced in September 2016.[14][15] The 2CD version includes the original remastered album on the first disc, and Michael's MTV Unplugged concert, recorded at 3 Mills Studios, London on 11 October 1996, on the second disc.[11] MTV Unplugged contains performances of "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "The Strangest Thing" that are identical to those previously released as B-sides to the single "Older", and the 2017 version of "Fantasy", reworked by Nile Rodgers and released as a single in September 2017.[11] The 3CD+DVD deluxe edition includes two more discs: a CD with B-sides, remixes and rarities, and a DVD with a documentary and music videos.[12] Rarities on the third disc include: "If You Were My Woman" (recorded live at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in 1988 and featured on the "Praying for Time" single), "Crazy Man Dance", and "Do You Really Want to Know" and "Happy" (from Red Hot + Dance).[12] The original remastered album was also reissued on vinyl.[16] Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged entered the UK Albums Chart at number one with first-week sales of 56,088 copies, 27 years after the original album first topped the chart.[17][18]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[19]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[20]
Entertainment WeeklyB−[21]
Los Angeles Times3/5 stars[22]
Pitchfork8.8/10[23]
Q5/5 stars[24]
Record Collector4/5 stars[25]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[26]
Select4/5[27]
The Village VoiceC+[28]

Reviewing Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 for Rolling Stone, James Hunter stated that the album mostly "succeeds in its effort to establish Michael's seriousness and deliver him from caricature."[26] Los Angeles Times critic Chris Willman wrote that, "some self-seriousness aside", Listen Without Prejudice "is an impressive piece of work in which Michael's rich feel for melodies and instinctively perfect production skills have finally met up with songs that have the ring of personal, not commercial, passion."[22] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune particularly complimented the album's spare sound, which he viewed as a welcome contrast to the more dance-leaning music dominating contemporary hit radio.[20]

Entertainment Weekly's Greg Sandow was less enthusiastic, finding Listen Without Prejudice less "vital" and "fun" than Faith, "and, for all its noble sentiment, entirely unchallenging".[21] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice said that Michael's retreat from dance music resulted in less interesting songs, and asserted that Michael "doesn't know as much about stardom as he thinks".[28]

Listen Without Prejudice won the award for British Album of the Year at the 1991 Brit Awards.[29]

Legacy[edit]

In 2010, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[30] In a positive appraisal of the album's 2017 reissue, Pitchfork writer Alfred Soto situated the album in the context of the then-burgeoning HIV/AIDS pandemic: "[George Michael] understood black music as the product of a familiarity with death leavened by the banalities of earth: love, sex, comfort. Something was happening that autumn to gay artists closeted from their fans. In October [1990], Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe released Behaviour, the quietest album of the Pet Shop Boys' career. The unceasing piling up of bodies killed by HIV had made, for the moment, the bacchanal into a gauche if not repulsive gesture of sentimentality."[23] According to Soto: "For those of us too young for the plague years—who can imagine, at least, a life lived instead of convulsing in agony on a hospital bed—chastising Michael for leaning on elegies and ballads in 1990 strikes me as glib. In its original form, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was the follow-up that Faith demanded; in this new incarnation, it's a miscellany unruffled by notions of coherence, an attempt to make art out of George Michael's quarrels with himself."[23]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written and produced by George Michael, except where noted.

Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 – Standard edition
No.TitleLength
1."Praying for Time"4:41
2."Freedom! '90"6:30
3."They Won't Go When I Go" (writers: Stevie Wonder, Yvonne Wright)5:06
4."Something to Save"3:18
5."Cowboys and Angels"7:15
6."Waiting for That Day" (writers: Michael, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards)4:49
7."Mother's Pride"3:59
8."Heal the Pain"4:41
9."Soul Free"5:29
10."Waiting" (Reprise)2:25
Total length:48:13

Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged[edit]

Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged – Standard edition – Disc 2: MTV Unplugged
No.TitleLength
1."Freedom! '90" (live)6:02
2."Fastlove" (live)5:12
3."I Can't Make You Love Me" (live)5:55
4."Father Figure" (live)6:19
5."You Have Been Loved" (live)5:55
6."Everything She Wants" (live)5:13
7."The Strangest Thing" (live)6:00
8."Older" (live)5:47
9."Star People" (live)6:15
10."Praying for Time" (live)5:29
11."Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (with Elton John) (Japanese bonus track)5:47
12."Fantasy" (featuring Nile Rodgers)4:02


Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged – Deluxe edition – Disc 3: B-sides, remixes and rarities
No.TitleLength
1."Soul Free" (Special Radio Edit)4:25
2."Freedom! '90" (Back to Reality Mix)6:16
3."Freedom! '90" (Back to Reality Mix Edit)4:07
4."Fantasy"5:02
5."Freedom! '90" (Edit)5:21
6."Cowboys and Angels" (Edit)4:36
7."If You Were My Woman" (live at Wembley Stadium, 11 Jun '88)4:06
8."Too Funky" (Single Edit)3:50
9."Crazy Man Dance"6:00
10."Do You Really Want to Know"4:49
11."Happy"4:09
12."Too Funky" (Extended)5:39
13."Too Jazzy" (Happy Mix)5:55
14."Fantasy '98"4:32
15."Heal the Pain" (with Paul McCartney)4:45
16."Desafinado" (with Astrud Gilberto)3:21


Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged – Deluxe edition – Disc 4: DVD
No.TitleLength
1."The Southbank Show 1990" (documentary) 
2."Freedom! '90" (music video) 
3."Praying for Time" (music video) 
4."Freedom! '90" (MTV 10th Anniversary performance) 


Notes

Personnel[edit]

  • George Michael – vocals, keyboards (1, 6, 9), bass guitar (2, 4, 5, 9), acoustic guitar (4, 7, 8), drums (1), programming, percussion, backing vocals, horn arrangements, production
  • Chris Porter – mix engineer
  • Danny Cummings – drums, percussion
  • Tony Patler – keyboards
  • Ian Thomas – drums, percussion
  • Deon Estus – bass guitar, backing vocals
  • Phil Palmer – acoustic guitar, electric guitar
  • Chris Cameron – keyboards, piano, horn arrangements, string arrangements
  • Emily Burridge – cello
  • Andy Hamilton – saxophone
  • Alfia Nakipbekova – cello
  • Pete Gleadall – sequencer, programming
  • Shirley Lewis - backing vocals
  • Bradford Branson – inner photography

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[95] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[96] Gold 25,000*
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[97] Gold 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[98] 2× Platinum 200,000^
France (SNEP)[99] Platinum 468,600[100]
Germany (BVMI)[101] Gold 250,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[102] Platinum 200,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[103] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[104] Platinum 15,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[46] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[105] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[108] 4× Platinum 1,435,539[106][107]
United States (RIAA)[109] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^
Summaries
Worldwide 8,000,000[4]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Edition Catalog
United Kingdom 3 September 1990 Epic Original 467295[110]
United States 11 September 1990 Columbia 46898[111]
Japan 18 October 2017 Epic Japan 2Blu-spec CD Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged SICP-31004-05[112]
3Blu-spec CD+DVD Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged (Deluxe) SICP-31000-03[113]
United Kingdom 20 October 2017 Sony LP Original remastered 888751452718[16]
Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged 888751580527[11]
  • 3CD+DVD
  • digital
Listen Without Prejudice / MTV Unplugged (Deluxe) 888751580428[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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