Queen Forever

Queen

Hollywoord Records, 2014

http://www.queenonline.com/

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/15/2014

While there have been no shortage of additions to the Queen greatest hits archive, including the comprehensive Platinum collection released in 2000, this month’s Queen Forever tries to set itself apart by virtue of including “new” material – the first of its kind since 1995’s Made In Heaven. Of course, it’s hard to take a stab at new when your inimitable frontman passed away in 1991; while guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have been keeping the Queen name alive in the past decades, touring with Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers in 2005 and now with Adam Lambert of American Idol fame (who does a pretty solid job at paying ode to Freddie’s bedazzled theatrics), there will always be a Freddie-sized hole in the hearts of Queen fans everywhere.

And so, what the band means by “new” comes in the form of three songs:  “Let Me In Your Heart Again,” which was repurposed from the 1983 sessions for The Works, a reworked version of a Freddie solo anthem entitled “Love Kills,” and the decades-in-wait collaboration with Michael Jackson “There Must Be More To Life Than This." In addition to these tracks, the band (including John Deacon, who poked his head out of retirement to play on the reworked material) has also culled a selection of Queen’s greatest ballads. It’s a career-spanning look at all the soaring, tug-at-your-heartstrings moments, and can perhaps be seen as a counterpoint to 1997’s Queen Rocks, which showcased the band’s heavier side.

But back to that later, since ostensibly the new tracks are what we’re all here for. The album launches out with “Let Me In Your Heart Again,” which is really the newest of the new, considering “Love Kills” was a hit for Freddie back in 1984 and demos of “There Must Be More To Life Than This” has been floating around the Internet for years. At first, it’s so stirring and lovely to hear Freddie’s voice pounding out of the speakers, clear and commanding as he always was. But the novelty of this track fades after a few listens, and you can’t help but get the sense that the band is fleshing out scraps of a partly realized song. All the hallmarks of the Queen sound are there, from the beautiful three-part harmonies to May’s indelible guitar sound. But it only just makes me wonder and yearn for what could have been had the music world not lost one of its singular voices in 1991.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Meanwhile, the revamped version of “Love Kills” strips away the dated ‘80s synths that are all over Freddie’s original; here, his powerful vocals are rounded out with a more electric, guitar-based sound. And finally “There Must Be More To Life Than This” pairs together two of music’s most recognizable voices. Originating from the Hot Space sessions, Freddie and Michael trade off verses as May’s guitar swirls behind them in a rhythmic, rising tide; when they come together on the chorus, it sounds seamless and, yes, a little bit eerie.

While these three songs don’t really necessitate the purchase of this album, the rest of the material here more than justifies the existence of Queen Forever. It’s as if the band went back through their catalogue and created a playlist of some of my all-time (and probably yours, too) favorites and some oft-forgotten gems. There’s no “We Will Rock You” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” to be found here, and as enduringly great as those tracks are, it’s also a welcome invitation to delve a little deeper.

Instead, Queen Forever features classics like “Play The Game” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” interspersed with under-loved tracks like John Deacon’s spare, bluesy “Spread Your Wings” from News Of The World and Mercury’s hauntingly intimate “You Take My Breath Away” or “Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)” off of A Day At The Races. They have even dug up some short, bittersweet cuts from the early days (“Lily Of The Valley” and “Dear Friends” from 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack and “Nevermore” off Queen II), which gives the listener a chance to hear a young Freddie and the gorgeousness of his falsetto (before he discovered cigarettes!)

These songs are often the softer, more tender moments that came between the powerhouse songs that we most associate with the band, and they’re worth a second (and third) listen to get a sense of just how diverse this group was. Each band member is represented here, since May, Mercury, Taylor, and Deacon were all talented songwriters in their own right (indeed, they all have #1 hits to their name).

Of course, I can talk about Queen forever; they’ve been my touchstone band since I fell in love with them over a decade ago. Whether you’re also a Queen super-fan or just a casual listener, this is worth checking out – beyond the “new” material, the classic songs are some of Queen’s best.

Rating: B

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