Last year marked the 25th anniversary of George Michael’s second solo album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. While nothing hit the shelves last year to commemorate the occasion, that is being rectified this year when Legacy Recordings releases Listen Without Prejudice 25 on November 11.
After the breakup of Wham! in 1986, George Michael moved quickly to kick his solo career into high gear. The result was the 1987 album Faith, where he wrote (or co-wrote) and produced every track. Buoyed by the hit single “I Want Your Sex,” Faith would become a worldwide smash, going to #1 in the U.S. and U.K. and selling over 25 million copies across the globe. It would also win the Album of the Year Grammy. Michael was soon one of the biggest music stars on the planet and embarked on a worldwide tour to promote the album.
However, all of the success weighed on Michael and he wanted to take his music in a less dance/pop, more serious direction. He also wanted to be taken more seriously overall, as an artist. To that end, when Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 was released in 1990, he refused to do any promotion for the album. Michael also refused to appear in any of the album’s music videos. Therefore, “Praying for Time” consists of lyrics printed on the screen while “Freedom! ’90” has five models lip-syncing to the music. Despite all of this, the record was still a success. In fact, it sold more copies in the UK than Faith had. “Praying for Time” hit #1 in the US and “Freedom! ’90” was a gold single. But, contrary to its performance in the UK, sales across the world were down when compared to Faith. In the US, Listen only sold two million copies, a fraction of what Faith sold. Michael blamed Sony for failing to properly promote the album and a lengthy legal battle ensued whose outcome would see Sony sell his recording contract to Virgin/Dreamworks (although he would eventually return to Sony in 2004). The planned follow-up Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 2 (a more upbeat album) was scrapped. Several tracks from the aborted album ended up on the charity project Red Hot + Dance and another was the b-side of a single.
Listen Without Prejudice 25 is being released in several formats. The biggest is a 3-CD/1 DVD box set. The first CD contains a remastered version of the original album. The second disc is the CD premiere of Michael’s MTV Unplugged concert from October 1996 at Three Mills Studio in London. CD 3 contains remixes, edits and b-sides from the era. The DVD contains the two music videos from the album, a performance of “Freedom! 90” from MTV’s 10th Anniversary special and Listen Without Prejudice Southbank Show Special. The box also contains a 36-page booklet with “liner notes, photos and memorabilia from George’s personal archive.” There will also be a 2-CD edition with the remastered album and the MTV Unplugged concert and a vinyl edition of just the remastered album. A digital version will also be available.
The BBC and Sony have also commissioned a documentary about the album entitled Freedom: George Michael (w/t). Its description reads: “Directed by BAFTA nominee Phillip Smith, Freedom: George Michael (w/t), tells the gripping, dramatic story of the making of Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, the court case which followed and George’s personal struggle and pain as he loses Anselmo. Many have tried and failed, but George succeeded in reuniting the Freedom! ’90 video’s five supermodels. Other contributors include world famous artists such as Stevie Wonder whose “They Won’t Go When I Go” was Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1‘s only cover; Elton John who describes the album as George’s “masterpiece”; Liam Gallagher who says George has “Lennon in him”; Mary J Blige who reminds us that George “broke all the rules for everybody”; Tony Bennett, Mark Ronson, Tracey Emin, Jean Paul Gaultier, Ricky Gervais, French Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt and James Corden. There are contributions from some of the record company executives who were so uncomfortable facing one of their major artists in court and from the case lawyers. ” It will premiere on Showtime in the US on a date to be determined.
We’ve got the full tracklisting and discographical information for the box set below together with pre-order links for the various physical editions if you want to revisit this era of George Michael’s career.
George Michael, Listen Without Prejudice 25 (Columbia/Legacy, 2016)
Disc 1: Original album remastered (released as Epic 467295 (U.K.)/Columbia C 46898 (U.S.), 1990)
- Praying for Time
- Freedom! ‘ 90
- They Won’t Go When I Go
- Something to Save
- Cowboys and Angels
- Waiting for That Day
- Mother’s Pride
- Heal the Pain
- Soul Free
- Waiting (Reprise)
Disc 2: MTV Unplugged (recorded live at Three Mills Studio, London – 10/11/1996–previously unreleased on CD)
- Freedom! ’90
- I Can’t Make You Love Me
- Father Figure
- You Have Been Loved
- Everything She Wants
- Strangest Thing
- Star People
- Praying for Time
Disc 3: Mixes and B-sides
- If You Were My Woman (Live @ Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, Wembley Arena, London – 6/11/1988) (B-side to “Praying for Time” – Epic GEO 1 (U.K.), 1990)
- Fantasy (B-side to “Freedom! ’90” – Columbia 38-73559 (U.S.), 1990)
- Freedom! ’90 (Edit) (promo single A-side – Epic PRO-609 (U.K.), 1990)
- Cowboys and Angels (Edit) (single A-side – Epic 656774 (U.K.), 1991)
- Soul Free (Special Radio Edit) (promo CD single A-side – Columbia CSK 4059 (U.S.), 1991)
- Freedom 90 (Back to Reality Mix Edit) (promo CD single A-side – Columbia CSK 2267 (U.S.), 1990)
- Too Funky (Single Edit) (single A-side – Epic 658058 (U.K.), 1992)
- Crazyman Dance (B-side to “Too Funky” – Epic 658058 (U.K.), 1992)
- Do You Really Want to Know (from Red Hot + Dance – Epic 471821 (U.K.), 1992)
- Happy (from Red Hot + Dance – Epic 471821 (U.K.), 1992)
- Freedom! (Back to Reality Mix) (12″ A-side – Epic GEO T3 (U.K.), 1990)
- Too Funky (Extended) (from Red Hot + Dance – Epic 471821 (U.K.), 1992)
- Too Jazzy (Happy Mix) (12″ B-side – Epic 658058 (U.K.), 1992)
- Calling You (Live @ Wembley Arena, London – 4/22/1991) (from Five Live – Parlophone 07777 89418 2 8 (U.K.), 1993)
- Fantasy ’98 (B-side to “Outside” – Epic 666249 (U.K.), 1998)
- Heal the Pain (with Paul McCartney) (from Twenty Five – Aegean/Sony Music 88697 00900-2 (U.K.), 2006)
- Desafinado (with Astrud Gilberto) (from Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael – Epic 491705 (U.K.), 1998)
- Listen Without Prejudice Southbank Show special
- Freedom! ’90 (MTV 10th Anniversary performance)
- Freedom! ’90 (promo video)
- Praying for Time (promo video)