When pop duo Wham! came to an end, nobody doubted that frontman George Michael would have a successful solo career. His collaborator and partner in the group, Andrew Ridgeley, seemed to have no interest in doing the same. Burned out from the demands of fame, he was more interested in following his newfound passion for auto racing. After some time, however, Sony’s accomidating offers and promises piqued his interest, and he decided to give the solo career a go. His lone solo album, Son Of Albert, was released in 1990 with a large amount of hype behind it that unfortunately resulted in almost universal disdain and critical negativity.
But is Son of Albert really that bad? Surprisingly, it isn’t. Ridgeley’s decision to go solo was also tempered with a desire to make a heavier, more rock and roll based record, a condition Sony initially supported; after all, he didn’t want to make another Wham! record or try to imitate Michael’s success. Thus, listeners expecting to hear something similar to his past would be surely disappointed, and the fickle press just could not wait to eviscerate it.
In spite of the negative reviews, the music itself isn’t bad. It’s clear he wanted to escape the teen pop genre, and he did a good job of it. “Flame,” “Big Machine,” and “Kiss Me” all have a hard rock feel akin to Def Leppard that is quite satisfying. His cover of the Everly Brothers’ “The Price of Love” gives it a hard, pop hair metal treatment that isn’t as bad as it seems. It’s only on “Shake,” with a very familiar sounding acoustic guitar intro, where one is reminded where Ridgeley came from. That it was selected as the album’s big single is puzzling, as it’s easily the album’s weakest point. (Remixes offered on this expanded edition are vastly superior to the single version that saw release.)
It’s to Ridgeley’s credit that he wanted to follow his creative desires and make the record he wanted to make; it’s unfortunate that the world didn’t give him a fair chance. Yet in reading Ridgeley’s comments in the liner notes, one senses that having a successful solo career didn’t really matter to him; he was content with his life irrespective of the pop career–in fact, he even expressed surprise that someone wanted to reissue it at all! Son of Albert serves as an interesting example of the fickle and often vicious nature of pop journalism, as the savage reception the album received upon release was both unfair and unwarranted.
Son of Albert is out now via Cherry Pop.