I was listening to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2 on my way to work a few weeks ago. Brian May and Roger Taylor were guests. They were talking about their upcoming album and the new tracks that were appearing on it. This piqued my interest. He even played a couple of the new tracks which was quite exciting.
I am a huge fan of Queen. I have loved them since I was about eight. I remember quite well the day that Freddie Mercury died and being very upset about it. I was 11 years old. I have all of their studio albums in one form or another. I have all three of the Greatest Hits albums (They were bought for me before I got the studio albums), I have the Rocks compilation album, I have a couple of the live albums, I have the Mr. Bad Guy solo album and I even have (and quite like!) the Barcelona album that Mercury recorded with Monserrat Caballe. So when I heard that they were releasing a new album with new content on it, I did what any fanatic does and I went to iTunes to pre-order the Deluxe version of Queen Forever. Fast forward on a few weeks and it’s in my iTunes library waiting to be listened to.
What a crushing disappointment it is. Out of the three tracks, only one is actually new (Let Me In Your Heart Again). The other two, Love Kills and There Must Be More to Life Than This, are remixes of two of Freddie Mercury’s solo songs.
The Love Kills mix is quite good, it’s slowed down a little and there is some nice acoustic sounding guitar playing in there along with Red. It’s a good mix but the reverb effects are a little excessive. There Must Be More to Life Than This is the more interesting of the two. It features vocals from Michael Jackson. Apparently There Must Be More to Life Than This was supposed to be a collaboration between Queen and Michael Jackson from the start. Both Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury made some recordings but the project eventually got sidelined and the song ended up being developed by Mercury alone and appeared on his solo album.
The remaining members of Queen haven’t made it a secret that Jackson and Mercury didn’t actually sing together on this. They both recorded the song separately and the Michael Jackson recordings were thought to be either lost or buried somewhere. They recently found a high quality copy of the Michael Jackson vocals and put the two together in the mixing studio. The trouble is, I think it shows. I don’t know how to explain it, I’m not a sound engineer but it sounds to me that there is a level of post-processing on Mercury’s voice that isn’t there on Jackson’s. When the two are put together, there is a really jarring difference between the two recordings. It puts me in mind of the recent mashup of We’ll Meet Again with Katherine Jenkins and Dame Vera Lynn. That had a war-time or slightly post-war recording of Dame Vera singing then a modern sounding recording of Jenkins. The difference in quality between the two, although inevitable, was absurd and distracting. The same, although to a much lesser degree, is happening with the new Queen track.
Of course, it could just be the mix that is on the album. Brian May mentioned during the interview that there was a mix that he did and one that William Orbit did. The William Orbit version is on the album, the Brian May one isn’t. I’d like to hear the Brian May one and hear the differences.
As for the rest of the album, it’s yet another compilation album. There are some more obscure tracks on here, a lot from their earlier albums in the 70s and some of my absolute favourites such as Love of my Life, ’39 and In the Lap of the Gods. All of the tracks on the album been remastered which is nice if you can hear that sort of thing (I can’t). The second disk on the Deluxe album has five tracks from Made in Heaven which is, frankly, three too many. I quite like that album but they have far stronger songs which they could have put on there.If you haven’t got these songs and if you’re unfamiliar with Queen’s earlier work, I think this would be a fantastic compilation. The trouble is, I do have these songs. I bought them long ago. Having them on yet another bloody compilation does nothing to enhance them. I have paid £12 for one song that I’ve not heard, remixes of two songs that I have and 33 remastered songs of which I already own copies. I know that it was down to me to make sure I knew what I was buying but it feels like I’ve been conned and I’m not especially happy about it. The whole thing feels like a cynical money grab, especially considering how close it is to Christmas.
So in conclusion, buy the album if you haven’t heard Queen’s earlier material. Just buy the new songs if you have.