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Pop - Released September 1, 2006 | Columbia - Legacy

At two discs and 32 songs, 2006's The Essential Michael Bolton is by far the most comprehensive Michael Bolton collection ever assembled; at 17 tracks, the previous Bolton comp, 1995's Greatest Hits 1985-1995, was nearly half the size of this set. Longer isn't necessarily better, at least as far as the average Bolton fan is concerned, since every one of Bolton's biggest hits is on the 1995 collection. In the decade that followed the release of Greatest Hits, Michael Bolton was a fairly regular fixture on the Adult Contemporary charts but had only one hit that crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100 -- "Go the Distance" in 1997 -- which means that there wasn't much from the late '90s and 2000s that crossed into the popular consciousness the way that "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," "How Can We Be Lovers," and "Said I Loved You...But I Lied" did. Anyone just wanting those hits, along with other '80s and early-'90s singles as "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and "Soul Provider," would be better off with Greatest Hits, but listeners who want to dig a little deeper into that classic era and the years that followed are well-served by The Essential Michael Bolton, which covers both eras equally by serving up all the big hits (minus "Love Is a Wonderful Thing," which has been written out of Bolton's history) and selected album tracks. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop - Released September 1, 1995 | Columbia


Ambient/New Age - Released September 30, 1996 | Columbia

Michael Bolton gave notice of his seasonal intentions in 1992 when he included "White Christmas" on his covers album Timeless (The Classics). In 1996, he continued to forestall the necessity of following up the commercially disappointing 1993 album The One Thing (having previously delivered a hits collection in '95) by issuing a full-length Christmas album. Christmas discs tend to mix the lighthearted with the reverent, and while Bolton could certainly be solemn enough (if characteristically overwrought) to turn in an acceptable "Silent Night," his takes on holiday fare intended to emphasize the fun side of the season came off as a little intense. Demonstrating his new interest in the operatic tenor range, Bolton duetted with Placido Domingo on "Ave Maria" without either embarrassing or distinguishing himself, and he included two newly written Christmas songs unlikely to join the canon. On the whole, as Christmas albums go, This Is the Time came under the heading of "If you like Michael Bolton ..." rather than contributing anything new to the genre. (The album was released as a "CD Extra" featuring multimedia information for computer users that included a video of Bolton performing his mournful version of "White Christmas" live, plus a sneak preview of Bolton's upcoming CD-ROM containing a discography, an excerpt of a music video of "Said I Loved You...But I Lied," a little backstage footage from a documentary, and information about Bolton's charitable foundation.) ~ William Ruhlmann

Pop - Released February 8, 2019 | eOne Music

Hi-Res Booklet
Given the late-2010s influx of symphonic easy listening albums reviving old rock and R&B records, it's not surprising that a living, breathing singer would take advantage of this trend. Michael Bolton is the one who steps into this breach, issuing A Symphony of Hits in early 2019. Recorded with the West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, the album still contains hints of slick adult contemporary -- there's nary a string to be heard on a stiffly funky "Soul Provider," the whole thing has a patina of radio-ready gloss -- yet it delivers what it promises: it has Michael Bolton singing with an orchestra. What's surprising about the set is that Bolton sounds at home here. Maybe it's due to the wages of time, but he doesn't push his voice to the extremes. This may be Bolton's most nuanced vocal performance to date, and that is reason enough for the album to exist. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop - Released June 27, 1989 | Columbia

Michael Bolton is no fool, and when he broke through to platinum sales with The Hunger, nobody had to tell him to record a follow-up devoted to more of the same. Bolton produced most of the record himself, and he teamed with the cream of the era's romantic rock ballad writers, people like Diane Warren (who gets five co-credits here) and Desmond Child, while the R&B copy this time was Ray Charles' version of "Georgia on My Mind." He also reclaimed "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" from Laura Branigan. The result was five Top 40 hits and millions of albums sold. Maybe Bolton wasn't the king of the hockey rinks, but his voice was now stoking the romantic fires in bedrooms across America, which is nice work if you can get it. ~ William Ruhlmann

Pop/Rock - Released June 17, 2011 | Legacy Recordings

Gems: The Duets Collection may bear a title that suggests it’s a compilation, but this 2011 effort is a brand-new album containing nothing but new collaborations between Michael Bolton and similarly minded travelers of the middle of the road. It is new but it feels old, faithful to the early-‘90s adult contemporary hits that made Bolton a superstar, and its biggest missteps arrive whenever Gems strays too far from that slick template, particularly when Bolton and Anne Akiko Meyers stumble through a strident reading of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Moments like this don’t arrive all that often, fortunately. Most of the time, Bolton stays in his comfort zone, turning in a surprisingly understated version of “You Are So Beautiful” with trumpeter Chris Botti, going toe-to-toe with Rascal Flatts on “Love Is Everything,” sounding as big as the children choir on “Hallelujah.” There are no surprises here, but there don’t need to be: this is Bolton doing what he does best, and doing it so well that anybody who picks this up thinking it’s a compilation won’t be disappointed with what resides inside. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Lounge - Released August 31, 1992 | Columbia

It's hard to resist the notion that Michael Bolton, who took considerable flak in the press for storming the charts with copycat reproductions of '60s soul hits -- "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay," "Georgia On My Mind," "When A Man Loves A Woman" -- felt "suddenly compelled," as he put it here in a sleeve note, to devote an entire album to cover songs after publicly confronting his critics at the Grammy Awards ceremony in February 1992. "I believe that a great song can live forever," he also noted, and it may be added that one definition of a standard is that it can survive any treatment -- there's not much you can do to "Yesterday" or "White Christmas" at this point, and those attracted to Bolton's phlegmy approach doubtless appreciated having his takes on them. On the other hand, as with his previous R&B appropriations, versions of songs like The Four Tops' "Reach Out I'll Be There" and Sam And Dave's "Hold On, I'm Comin'" only succeeded in confirming Bolton's inferiority to his predecessors. Perhaps the most appropriate matchup (and the album's hit single) was The Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody": hacks meet hack, and the result is a draw. Still, it's hard to get through an entire Michael Bolton album without pondering the question-- how long can you stay that choked up without actually asphyxiating? ~ William Ruhlmann

Pop/Rock - Released November 12, 1999 | Columbia


Pop - Released August 5, 2008 | Columbia

Michael Bolton's first Columbia album had offered some reason to suspect he had a future in the pop-rock mainstream despite his arena rock tendencies. But on his second album, he endeavored to make a metal-tinged copy of Foreigner, one in which even his distinctive voice was a minor element among the guitar solos and keyboard flourishes. Bolton wrote or co-wrote all the material, but much of the time he seemed to be fighting to be heard, and when he was, all he had was a mouthful of cliches to offer. When this album missed the charts, it looked like the singer was going down for the third and last time. ~ William Ruhlmann

Pop/Rock - Released November 15, 1993 | Columbia

You could hardly call an album that neared the top of the charts, stayed in them for ten months, and sold three million copies a flop, but when it's following two straight #1's, and the artist's last album of new material stayed in the charts twice as long and sold twice as many copies, you can call it a disappointment. Maybe it was just that this was the fourth -- or fifth, if you count the covers album Timeless (The Classics) -- time around for Bolton's successful formula, but The One Thing sounded pro forma even for him. That didn't keep "Said I Loved You...But I Lied" from becoming a massive hit on soft-rock radio, but none of the other tunes really connected with his usually adoring public. It would not be wise, however, to count out a pop star as persistent as Michael Bolton. ~ William Ruhlmann

Lounge - Released April 23, 1991 | Columbia


Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 2007 | Concord Records, Inc.

Michael Bolton was still sporting a full mane of hair and recording for Columbia/Sony when he released his last holiday album -- This Is the Time: The Christmas Album -- in 1996. Now, a sheared Bolton has moved to Concord, a jazz label, and has taken another stab at the holiday album on A Swingin' Christmas. The album's strongest selling point is that it gets right to the heart of the holiday song tradition, avoiding self-penned novelties and obscure carols for holiday favorites that everyone knows and loves. That means that fans who appreciate Bolton's vocal style, from his quiet rasp to his over-the-top dramatics, will now have his versions of ten classic Christmas songs in one place. Despite these qualities, however, some listeners may wish for something a little more invigorating. While Bolton may be inspired by the material, the production and arrangements are by the numbers, and while the title -- A Swingin' Christmas -- conjures up visions of jazzy big bands from yesterday, the result more often reminds one of a big band from a late-night talk show. Perhaps the biggest detraction for fans, however, is how short the album is at just 33 minutes. In other words, by the time one has poured the eggnog and cuddled up beside that significant someone, it will be time to get up and put another album on. Hardcore fans, however, will probably be unperturbed: repeat buttons, after all, were made for a reason. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Pop - Released February 2, 2001 | Columbia - Legacy

Though Michael Bolton's Love Songs isn't tremendously different than his Greatest Hits 1985-1995 -- his popular body of work is virtually nothing but love songs -- this collection will probably please his biggest fans. Gathering smash hits from 1987 to 1997, the album includes "Soul Provider," "Said I Loved You ... But I Lied," "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," "Missing You Now," and "When a Man Loves a Woman." Though it's not quite as definitive as Greatest Hits 1985-1995, anyone looking to own just one Michael Bolton album wouldn't go wrong with this one, either. ~ Heather Phares

Pop - Released February 24, 2017 | Columbia

Given a third chance to resurrect his third career, Bolton made drastic changes. He decided to stop trying to be Lou Gramm of Foreigner and decided that he really wanted to be -- Otis Redding? Well, that's what you'd think from his note-for-note copy of Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," awhich brought him close to the Top Ten. Even more notable, though, was "That's What Love Is All About," an original ballad cowritten by Eric ("Love Has No Pride") Kaz that repositioned Bolton from heavy-metal hunk to tough guy with a tender heart. There had been prior hints that Bolton could sell a big ballad, but they were always buried album tracks. This time, the ballad was issued as a single in advance of the album, and it did the trick. For the rest, Bolton employed a new set of collaborators, including members of Journey and pop songwriting queen Diane Warren. The result was platinum sales and a firm place in the middle of the road. ~ William Ruhlmann

Pop - Released September 6, 1988 | Columbia


Pop - Released April 22, 2002 | Jive


Pop - Released January 1, 2013 | Montaigne Records


International Pop - Released January 23, 2019 | eOne Music


Classical - Released March 7, 2008 | Sony Classical

By the evidence of My Secret Passion, Michael Bolton's secret passion is opera. For several years, he had included arias in his concerts, but he had never recorded them until My Secret Passion. Bolton's bombastic style is relatively well-suited to arias, since he certainly can project his voice quite powerfully. He doesn't have the subtlety to deliver this repertoire completely convincingly, but the Philharmonia Orchestra, under the direction of Steven Mercurio, helps camouflage his weaknesses, as does the guest appearance of soprano Renee Fleming. In other words, My Secret Passion isn't the disaster that Bolton's detractors were expecting, but it isn't a triumph, either. Instead, it's a welcome change of pace from a singer who has become a touch too predictable. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released February 1, 1975 | RCA - Legacy