April 25th, 2012
George Michael established himself in the first half of the 1980s as the brilliant songwriter and singer of the archetypal pop group of the era, Wham! When Wham! broke up in 1986, Michael planned on going solo. His solo career started in 1987 with release of the blockbuster album, Faith, which featured Michael’s versatility as a songwriter with sounds ranging from pop to R&B to adult contemporary. The album featured hits, including the title track and the suggestive and controversial, “I Want Your Sex”. While Wham! made people aware of George Michael’s talents, Faith cemented him as a star with top billing.
Faith was released on the Columbia label, part of CBS Records, in 1987 on LP, cassette, and CD. With the CD gaining popularity in the U.S. by 1987, and in anticipation of Michael’s solo debut, CBS chose to issue a promotional CD of Faith in advance of the mainstream, commercial release. This promotional issue was released under catalog number CSK 2850. Although the musical content on the promotional CD is identical to that of the 1987 commercial release, the promotional issue has some unique features.
There are two pressings of the promotional CD that differ by their label design. Both versions were pressed at the Shape Optimedia pressing plant in the U.S. One version has an electric blue coating with the text “cut out” of the blue and showing through from the underneath aluminum (sort of a stencil effect). The other pressing has blue text and no color coating (i.e., aluminum background). The two discs have identical inserts, and it is not clear whether there is any significance to the pressing variations (e.g., methods of distribution, intended recipients, etc.). The commercial Faith CD has black text with no color coating.
Another interesting feature of this promotional issue (used with both pressing variants) is the inclusion of a holographic insert in front of the front paper insert. The front paper insert is merely a single sheet of paper that shows the same cover artwork as the commercial release of Faith (although the commerical release adds a CD format logo in the bottom right corner that is absent from the promotional release). A piece of clear plastic in front of the paper insert reveals a holographic image of the text “GEORGE MICHAEL” and “FAITH” when held at the right angle in good lighting. The commercial release of Faith does not include the holographic insert.
These promotional versions of Faith are very rare in my experience. When locating a used copy of Faith in a store, the promotional and commerical issues can be readily distinguished by inspection of the spine label. First, the promotional issue states “GEORGE MICHAEL” but does not show the album title. The commercial issue shows GEORGE MICHAEL and the album title on the spine. Second, and as stated above, the two issues have different catalog numbers. The catalog number for the promotional issue is CSK 2850. The catalog number of the commercial CD is CK 40867.
Shown below are the front and back inserts and a spine label for the promotional issue of Faith, along with both pressing variations.
The cover for the promotional CD issue of George Michael Faith (Columbia, catalog number CSK 2850). The cover artwork is the same as that used for the commerical CD release except that the commerical release has a CD format logo in the bottom right corner. This promotional issue has a plastic holographic insert in front of the paper insert that reveals the text “GEORGE MICHAEL” and “FAITH” in proper lighting. Although the holographic text cannot be read in this picture, note the color streaks from the holographic insert.
The back insert for the promotional CD issue of George Michael Faith (Columbia, catalog number CSK 2850). The artwork is similar to that found for the back insert issued with the commercial CD. Note, however, that the promotional back insert lacks a barcode and includes the text “DEMONSTRATION — NOT FOR SALE” in the top right corner.
A spine label for the promotional CD issue of George Michael Faith (Columbia, catalog number CSK 2850). Note that the album title is not included.
The two pressing variants for the promotional CD issue of George Michael Faith (Columbia, catalog number CSK 2850). The first one has an electric blue coating and “aluminum” text, a stencil-like effect created by “cutting out” the letters from the blue coating to reveal the background aluminum. The second one has blue text with no paint coating. Both discs have “Demonstration — Not for Sale” printed along the bottom. The two discs were pressed at the Shape Optimedia plant in the U.S. and bear the same matrix code — “CBS-CSK2850 SOI01”. The disc with the electric blue coating has the text “SHAPE OPTIMEDIA, INC.” and “MADE IN USA” stamped on the clear plastic ring at the center. The disc with no paint coating has no text stamped on the plastic ring. The commercial CD of Faith (Columbia, catalog number CK 40867) has black text and no color coating.