Friday, January 2, 2015


In November Queen released a new compilation Forever which included three “new” songs (more on why I used quotations later). This marked the first time since 1995’s Made in Heaven that Queen had released new material containing original vocals from Freddie Mercury. It also marked the release of one the legendary tracks featuring Michael Jackson. I will dissect the compilation in a later post, but I first would like to express some thoughts on the three new tracks on Forever. You can listen to any of these tracks with the Spotify link at the bottom of this post.

Let Me In Your Heart Again
                This song, featuring all four original members (including John Deacon who no longer tours or records with the band) apparently already existed in the archives in the form we hear it in here. Brian calls it “a real moment between the four of us in the studio” which makes me think it might have been a later live take. The song definitely has a bit of a jam vibe, it’s a little less polished and the backing track, although not sloppy by any means, sounds a lot looser overall. Freddie’s vocal performance is pretty stellar and loose, which is what I think really makes this the treat that it is. This song would've definitely fit on 1984’s The Works, for which it was originally recorded, I’m guessing that It’s A Hard Life made the cut instead.
                Brian May did re-record this track with his wife Anita Dobson on vocals, which led people to complain that this wasn't really “new” song. Personally I have not heard that version and I do not care to. This was brand new to my ears, and I think that it’s the strongest of the three new tracks on the Forever compilation.

Love Kills (The Ballad)
Here’s where the term “new” becomes subjective for me. Love Kills was originally released as a Freddie Mercury solo track for Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 Metropolis soundtrack in which Moroder used contemporary music to score the classic silent film. Now to be fair, this did begin life as a Queen track, once again the sessions for 1984's The Works. It’s pretty much understood that this being Freddie’s first solo effort, he actually had the band help record the backing track as he fleshed out the song, even though none of their work made it through to the final produced version.
                From what I could gather from the liner notes and a few other sources, this is essentially Freddie’s vocal, with a brand new re-worked backing track, that also includes “Additional Electric Guitar” by John Deacon, presumably from the original backing track used when Mercury was fleshing out the song with the band. Get all that? As confusing as it sounds, I do appreciate that John Deacon is still present on this song, therefore retaining its authenticity as an original Queen track.
                Anyway, this song has been remixed and reworked several times over from its original disco/dance sound. This version does retain some of those elements in the breakdown, but it’s mostly an acoustic re-working. That being said, it takes a few listens to get used to, and to vocal performance isn't really suited to the ballad arrangement. I still prefer the original, but it does make an enjoyable listen, and the song and vocal performance itself is strong enough that the backing track doesn't detract from the original spirit of the song.

There Must Be More to Life than This (featuring Michael Jackson) (William Orbit Mix)
                  Here we have another track that was eventually released as a Freddie Mercury solo track on his 1985 Mr. Bad Guy solo album. Once again this started life as a Queen track during the sessions for 1982’s Hot Space and was later revisited during the sessions’ for The Works, when, who else, but Michael Jackson dropped by the studio.  There are three or four tracks that he lent some vocals to; a quick Google can yield bootlegs recording of the others. Keeping with the theme, this track again features all four original members providing backing track.
                I know Brian said that he was impressed with how modern software like ProTools was able to take bits and pieces of the limited vocals they had from Michael Jackson and Freddie to construct a full song over the backing track. I don’t know if I completely agree. I’m not so disappointed that they released another version  of a song I've already heard, I think I’m more disappointed that it sounds exactly like what it is: pieced together. Freddie’s vocal performance is much better on his solo version and Michael Jackson’s vocals don’t sound “complete”. It’s also very, very over-produced, so much so that it’s distracting. I feel like this might have been an intentional misdirect to account for the lack of source material. Don’t get me wrong it’s an interesting listen, but I think a “demo” version would've made a much more proper and satisfying release, rather than trying to polish up a bits and pieces.   

Overall I feel the release of these three songs was a little anti-climactic. According to Brian, these were the only tracks within the archives that were far enough along to warrant proper release. Let Me in Your Heart Again was amazing, but given what the end product was on There Must Be More to Life than This, that news is rather disheartening. I’m not sure I’d like future generations to see Queen, a band that strived for perfection so much that it’s amazing they finished anything, like that. I’m still glad these songs saw release, unlike most people I don’t think they were necessarily “following the money” (they have plenty of that), I think they just wanted a vehicle to showcase something that fans could call new and keep the Queen name alive. Maybe it’s better we just remain happy with what we do have rather than yearning for what we can’t.