Boy George: This Is What I Do

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Posted March 13, 2014 by in Alternative
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

3.5/ 5

Details

Genre: , ,
 
Producer:
 
Label:
 
 
 
 
Genre: Rock, alternative, reggae
 
Producer: Boy George
 
Label: Very Me Records
 
Format: Digital download, compact disc, vinyl
 
Time: 54:23
 
Release Date: 28 October 2013
 
Spin This: "King of Everything," "Live Your Life," "My God"
 

Pros:

Warm live production, singer-songwriting team, organic background helps give George enough pillow support for his matured, gritty pipes
 

Cons:

Hip-hop and urban-spiced tunes are quite forgettable on George
 

Boy George rediscovers his voice on genre-spanning full length disc

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Boy George rediscovers his voice on genre-spanning full length disc

There are many faces of Boy George. There’s clubland deejay, troublemaker, clothing designer, gay icon and devout Buddhist. He’s also a musician, and oftentimes that fact is unfairly tucked away by those that who are incredulous of George’s impact on music. George’s tenure with Culture Club helped usher in the first important wave of New Wave and the UK’s fascination with reggae to the shores of the US in the ‘80’s. That phenomenon should not be discounted since their breakthrough LP Colour By Numbers, from which George co-wrote much of the hits with his fellow band, brought forth three Top 10 hits. With a potential Culture Club reunion still under wraps for the recently-passed thirtieth anniversary due date, George – born George O’ Dowd –  jumps to the occasion to record an album full of music that celebrates the familiarity of his past while also jumping into a more subdued, mature sound that’s hardly reminiscent of his artistry.

On This Is What I Do, George surrounds himself around a simple live band playing to strong alt-rock standards and a gospel choir background that continues in the Culture Club tradition of Helen Terry’s emotiveness. “King of Everything” offers up a prayer of redemption as a tale of a struggling alcoholic sheds light on what feels like a comeback story (“What’s the word on the street/Have I lost my crown/Or will I be king again?”). The surging choir harmonies help give George’s vocals the wings to soar beyond the clouds, especially since his baritone now seems more rugged, more grittier and matured. It’s a consistent trait aboard much of the Richie Stevens-produced This Is What I Do, giving George the proper leverage to float around using a type of David Bowie coolness. You even hear it on “Bigger Than War,” which puts the choir in the front of fragments of lounge jazz and alternative hip-hop. But it’s important to put into perspective the power of George’s pen, which allows him to play like a singer-songwriter. “Bigger than The Beatles, the Rolling Stones/Bigger than Elvis – but not Yoko,” he sings on “Bigger Than War.” His high praises for Yoko Ono continues with his cover of Ono’s “Death of Samantha” as he takes the cryptic 1972 version and whips it into something far more impressive. He also spills ounces of wisdom into those who try to justify war with religion by saying that “my God is bigger than your God…put your bombs away/You need a little more faith.” It is that assessment, almost approaching a Dylan-ness kind, that seems to provide the album its altitude. Even when the songs don’t match up with the pop-centric qualities of Culture Club’s massive hits or when they seem far removed from conventional radio, he doesn’t seem to care. He’s creating art using the pain of his voice (“Any Road”), exploring sexy, seductive reggae (“Play Me,” “My Star”) and even trotting into sunny Conway Twitty pop (“It’s Easy”). Of the obvious shortcomings, George isn’t all that entrancing or convincing when he dips his fingers into darker hip-hop-meets-poetic elements. Even his unorthodox choice of rappers on “Play Me” sucks some of the believability out of George’s presentation.

Even though the disc plays with a myriad of colors and styles, it is when he plays with sounds he does best that saves the day. “Live My Life” – possibly the readiest track from the disc – sounds like something Bob Marley would have easily recorded except it mingles Philly soul riffs of Billy Paul’s “The Whole Town’s Talking” into the arrangement. There’s also his moving cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” on the album’s deluxe edition. With Mike Gorman’s simple piano and a breezy guitar from Kevan Frost tucked below, George works the lyrics as if he’s channeling Adele’s sensuality.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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