Classic Rock’s New Releases Round-Up
This week we’re dealing with the final five Queen reissues.
Words: Malcolm Dome
So, the huge campaign of Queen reissues through Universal reaches its conclusion, with the band’s last five being released just as we celebrate what would have been Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday.
In 1984, Queen returned to their rock roots on The Works, having gone into dance and funk territory on the previous album, 1982’s Hot Space. While Radio Ga Ga was the big hit single here, with I Want To Break Free not far behind, it’s Hammer To Fall that showcases the fact that Queen could still thunder out the riffs as well as anyone. There’s also a diversity present, as the band maintain some of the electronic ideals from Hot Space. And Is This The World We Created…? has a real empathy with the poverty and famine in Africa. Overall, it’s an album that re-established Queen with European audiences.
In 1986, the band topped the UK charts with A Kind Of Magic, which was the first Queen album to have a title track. This song, together with One Vision and Friends Will Be Friends, was a hit single on a record that was the unofficial soundtrack album for the movie The Highlander; six of the tracks here were in the film, although these were different versions. There’s a strong sense of momentum here, and this is rightly regarded as one of the band’s most consistent albums of the period. It was also to mark the quartet’s last tour.
By the time The Miracle appeared in 1989, Freddie Mercury had already been diagnosed as having AIDS, although this was not made public. Interestingly, every song here is credited to Queen, not to individual members, and even the cover artwork, combining photos of each member, suggests a real sense of belonging together. Musically, this isn’t as strong as some of their previous releases, although the title song is striking, especially in the use of synthesisers, and I Want It All became a standout anthem.
Innuendo in 1991 was to be the last new album with Mercury. And it’s a lot better than might have been expected, given all that was going on at the time, with the vocalist’s rapidly declining health. There are heavy moments, psychedelia and some quite brilliant singing. There are some poignant moments, such as These Are The Days Of Our Lives and The Show Must Go On, but the humour is still clear, and Innuendo’s impact was, and is, striking.
So, finally to Made In Heaven, which released in 1995, four years after Mercury’s death. It featured parts recorded by the singer just prior to the end, with instructions to the rest of the band to finish them. Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon did just that, bolstering the material with other unreleased recordings from the archives. This could have ended up as a mess and rather a maudlin cash in. But in actuality, it has an honest spirit and sense of celebration. A fitting way to end Queen’s recording career.
All five albums have now been expanded, with each having a bonus CD featuring alternate versions, singles, B sides and live recordings. A fitting way to conclude the Queen catalogue overhaul.
Finally, the Live At Wembley Stadium footage is now available on DVD as a double disc. Each disc has in full one of the two performances on July 11 and 12, 1986. It’s simply magical – Queen in their pomp.