Is this any way to say goodbye? As superstar sayonaras go, this final blast of long-playing Wham! is a pretty messy smorgasbord. The snow-bunny love call "Last Christmas," a 1984 British chart topper, makes a belated, rather unseasonable appearance, while the '85 hit single "I'm Your Man" singer-song-writer George Michael's expert Elton-Motown hybrid is also a late comer to 33 1/3. Further padding out the menu is "Wham! Rap '86," a reworking of the '83 club-land hit "Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do)," and "Blue," a slick bit of soft-funk romantic angst recorded live during the pair's tour of Red China last year.
The real disappointment is that Music from the Edge of Heaven leaves unanswered the burning question of modern pop: What the hell did Andrew Ridgeley do in Wham! anyway, aside from filling up half the photos? He seems to make no significant vocal contributions to the album's eight songs. He gets only one writing credit coauthorship of "Wham! Rap '86." Although Ridgeley at least appears to play guitar on stage and in Wham! videos, there's no sign of him in the instrumental credits here. This may as well be a George Michael solo album; he produced and arranged every note on it.
As such, Music from the Edge of Heaven has an EP's worth of bright moments, most of them on the uptempo "Hot" side of the album. In his ballad mode, Michael tends to slip into yuppie-pop automatic, cuing in familiar David Sanborn-style sax in "Blue" or sending up billowing clouds of orchestral synthesizer around his breathy vocals in "A Different Corner."
On the dance floor, Michael cuts a more original figure. In "The Edge of Heaven," he fuses grunge guitar, bleating horns, a brisk leaping rhythm and a clever hook (complete with a sassy inside-out quote from "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" at the beginning) into a torpedo of white-boy Stax. Over the synthetic 1999-like bump of "Battlestations," Michael overdubs himself as a boyish, brassy choir, in striking contrast to the telegraphic scratch of the arrangement. The party-tho'-you're-jobless message of "Wham! Rap '86" is pretty limp, an outdated vestige of the witless New Romantic manifesto, but it's set to a hotfooted riff that cooks in spite of the song's cockeyed politics.
Actually, as an advertisement for George Michael's song-and-dance talents, Music from the Edge of Heaven is a bit anticlimactic. Michael is obviously well on his way to becoming the Elton John of the Eighties (John even plays piano on "The Edge of Heaven"). Perhaps the lyric and melodic invention of something like "Where Did Your Love Go" by witty white soulmen Was (Not Was), which Michael covers here nicely, will also rub off on him. As for Andrew Ridgeley's future in music, Music from the Edge of Heaven suggests he doesn't have one. (RS 481)
(Posted: Aug 28, 1986)
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