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Was It Made In Heaven?
on 8 September 2011
The final studio album from Queen where Freddie was involved in some of the work is a curious beast. Loved by critics on its release after they decided the suddenly DID like the band after all and one of the biggest sellers from the band it is hard to find many Queen fans who gush with praise about the album.
It certainly has its plus points - namely the tracks Let Me Live, Mother Love and A Winter's Tale, but it also has its minuses - more on them later. Obviously, we now know just how poorly Freddie was when making this album and we know he was on completely borrowed time as the band reconvened in Montreux to work on the tracks, and we also know it was his wish to see the final tracks he worked on released as he laid down final vocals (something he only did after all the arguments about instrumentation and lyrics had stopped!), but as a Queen fan you cannot help but wonder what the final outcome would have been like had he lived?
Praise has to be given at this stage for the work mssrs May, Taylor and Deacon put into the project in terms of shaping and completing these tracks in what must have been very difficult and emotional circumstances but the question of what if remains. Musically the instrumentation on the album is of a universally high standard and the work done on taking some of Freddie's solo material (Made In Heaven and I Was Born To Love You), Roger's Cross track Heaven for Everyone, an old b-side, My Life Has Been Saved and a Brian song, Too Much Love Will Kill You and making them all into fully fledged Queen album songs is again very commendable. However, the problem is the end result is variable. Whilst Made In Heaven and I Was Born To Love You both gain over their Mr. Bad Guy versions they are still average songs on the whole and the same could also be said for Heaven For Everyone. My Life Has Been Saved sounds a lot worse here than on the 1989 b-side to Scandal and interesting though it is to hear Freddie's take on Too Much Love Will Kill You, it perhaps lacks the emotion that many thought would be there when it was known he had recorded it.
It's a Beautiful Day opens and closes the album (with the exception of Track 12 - Yeah and the hidden, mysterious 'Track 13' (ambient music that meanders along far too long and again is a less than fulfilling track. The club influenced You Don't Fool Me has its merits and is the fourth best track off the album - and it is worth tracking down the re-mix versions as well for those interested in them. So, as back in 1995 the 2011 re-mastered version still only has three tracks of any note - as wonderful as the rest of it sounds now it has been cleaned up.
Of the three outstanding tracks, Let Me Live is the one I enjoy the most. Mercury, Taylor and May all take the lead in signing a verse from the song - due of course to Freddie not being there to sing it all and yet is the one song where you could almost believe he was present from start to finish. The gospel choir sounding chorus and May's good guitar solo all help elevate the song and on its single release in 1996 fully deserved its no.9 UK chart slot. A Winter's Tale has become known as a Christmas song but is a wonderful, optimistic appreciation of the natural world and features a very atmospheric solo from Brian and a simply shiver down the spine vocal from Freddie - especially towards the end when he sings 'It's allllllllllllll so beautiful' - proving that despite his illness he could still deliver a song. Mother Love has another similar moment and is the final song Freddie worked upon before his death. A wonderful backing track allies itself with Freddie's emotional vocal perfectly to create a Queen classic, which features May singing the closing verse after Freddie decided he couldn't do anymore and would return to finish it (something he sadly never did).
The bonus CD allows us to compare the two versions of My Life Has Been Saved and for my money the version on the bonus disc is the best, whilst Heaven For Everyone has its single mix included (nice if you like it, not so good if you don't!) and another two b-sides (they featured on the CD releases) are also included - the joined together version of It's A Beautiful Day (still a filler at best) and the terrible Rock In Rio Blues (originally on A Winter's Tale). The other two tracks are the original piano and vocal mix of I Was Born To Love You that would have been on Freddie's 1985 solo album before it was reworked at the record companies insistence and an even more haunting mix of A Winter's Tale that is worth buying the deluxe version for on its own.
A nice farewell from the band given the difficult circumstances it was recorded in but I still wonder if only...