Michael Hutchence

Michael Hutchence

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Whether his name is enough to sell the posthumous solo debut of former INXS leader Michael Hutchence is a question that should be easy to answer. The magnetism that made him one of the most dynamic singers of the '80s is still evident here, but what's not clear is whether or not there's a hit as charged as, say, INXS' "New Sensation" -- particularly considering Hutchence is an old sensation within the time frame of the album's release date -- at a time when this year's model became this moment's thrill. Nevertheless, there is enough good material here to warrant a listen, perhaps even shed a tear. More than two years after Hutchence hung himself in a sexually fraught suicide comes the debut of one of the most erotic, exciting singers of the '80s. Produced by Gang of Four leader Andy Gill (Hutchence was enthralled by that group's guitar sound), and refined by Black Grape's Danny Saber, this curious, occasionally exciting collection showcases the more vulnerable side of Hutchence, best-known for such defiant, proud rock tunes as "The One Thing," "What You Need," and "New Sensation." Songs such as the soul-tinged "Get on the Inside" and the edgy, hard-rocking "A Straight Line" contrast with the cool, paradoxically self-revealing "All I'm Saying" the oddly metered "Don't Save Me From Myself," and the spectral, beautiful "Strip Away." Such lyrical coexistence suggests Hutchence was far from being a spent force, even as it indicates the kind of demons that had been dogging him. Studded with guest appearances from the likes of Bono (whose vocals dubbed over those of Hutchence "complete" the eerily prescient "Slide Away") and various high-end session people, this autobiographical album resonates beyond its sad, faintly kinky pedigree. Crafted from a collection the artist had been working on since 1995, it's an assured, polished release. Apparently, Hutchence had been working on it even as INXS was crafting their swan song, the underrated (and beautifully titled) 1997 album Elegantly Wasted. One wonders what the demos were like; the power shines through despite the polish which Gill and Saber had two years to apply. Given the public's ghoulish appetite for celebrity, it wouldn't be surprising if those demos, along with the interim tracks that Gill and Saber worked over, turned up in a bootleg.

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