Given that it's eight years since George Michael last released an album, the choice of title for his new one is presumably meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Actually, it's practically the only light-hearted thing about it - Patience is a sombre, relentlessly earnest record on which the former Wham! star completes his transition from teen idol to deep and meaningful artist. Most of these songs are lengthy meditations on such weighty topics as his family, suicide, religious faith and world peace, delivered in a quivering voice against the backdrop of tasteful pop-jazz arrangements. It's powerful stuff, if a little overwrough - it comes as quite a relief when he lets his hair down for a couple of disco tracks, even if they're not as good as his earlier hits. Overall, George Michael remains as frustratingly inconsistent as ever - but Patience contains more than enough quality material to make it a worthwhile purchase.