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The First Totally New Queen Album I Ever Bought - Was It All Worth It?
on 5 September 2011
December 1986 - May 1989 was a strange time to be a Queen fan. After being switched onto the band by my brother's purchase of Live Magic I spent the first few months of 1987 collecting the band's back catalogue and then wondering when I would get to experience the joy of buying completely new material for the first time. I knew the band had taken time off before to do other things - 1983 and 1985 were albumless years but the gap between A Kind of Magic and The Miracle was almost interminable to wait through. Eventually May 1989 came and The Miracle made its way onto my stereo for the first time. As wonderful as it was to hear the new album for the first time I also have to admit to feeling a little anti-climactic about the whole thing.
There is a feeling that Queen's 1980's output from The Works onwards featured singles that were the high point of the album and tracks that at best were simply 'fillers'. Hearing The Miracle and looking at it now 22 years later it is a view that holds some truth to it - though The Miracle has a little twist in that it features possibly the best Queen song never to be released as a single - Was It All Worth It - a heavy, semi-autobiographical song asking if all the time and effort put into music and touring was worth it? This and not Breakthru' should have been a single and means that five of the tracks on the album are outstanding whilst the other five are not.
The oustanding are Was It All Worth It, The Miracle (great optimistic lyrics), The Invisible Man (Queen's pop sensibility as its peak), I Want It All (classic, epic rock) and Scandal (my favourite track on the album and it still grates that it did not feature on Greatest Hits III yet crap like Living on my Own did!).
The less good are Party, Khashoggi's Ship, Breakthru' (nice opening a la We Are The Champions giving way to repetitive dirge about making a girl smile), Rain Must Fall (Euro-pop at its worst) and My Baby Does Me (laid back and pedestrian but goes nowhere). Nonetheless the re-mastering of the album is again worth the cost. At times it feels like you are in the studio with the band (if only) and I defend the re-issues on that basis to anyone.
Where this re-issue falls down is the separation of the three original bonus tracks on its 1989 release (Hang On In There, Chinese Torture and The Invisible Man 12" version) from the main CD onto the bonus EP disc. This means we only get four 'new' bonus tracks on this collection and one of them, I Want It All (Single version) features on Greatest Hits II anyway, whilst two of the other three (Stealin' and Hijack My Heart) came out on the single box sets last year. This means the only song worth buying the bonus disc for is the demo version of The Invisible Man, but well worth it in the end it turns out. Taylor sings most of the track with Freddie popping up for an Elvis interlude in the middle. Early versions like this just whet the appetite for a full anthology collection from the band (please QPL and Island pull your finger out on that project!).
Overall then, not a classic Queen album but with enough high points to balance out the low points and if you have never heard the bonus tracks before then it is worth buying on that basis.