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Interesting Variations on Freddie Mercury Pieces
, 14 Sept. 2012
This review is from: Barcelona [Special Edition] (Audio CD)
Note - This Review is for Barcelona Special Edition CD Only
As a journalist who has closely followed both Queen and Freddie Mercury's career paths I was extremely eager to hear this new release.
So how do I rate it?
Mixed feelings really.
Even before I had listened to the album I was rather underwhelmed by the artwork.
Queen and Freddie Mercury were such perfectionists (control freaks actually) who personally oversaw the design of every album cover.
The cover here is lazy. Although the album notes explain how Freddie and Montserrat met etc., the whole feel and appearance looks rather shoddy. Unlike any other Freddie Mercury release.
Even the first re-release of the Barcelona album had a handsome still photo of Freddie and Montserrat strutting their stuff during the Barcelona promo video and a lovely portrait of the pair to its rear side.
So, what about the music?
There is no doubt that the 80 piece orchestra has added some va va voom to Freddie and Mike Moran's original offering, which was virtually (more on this soon!) put together via synthesisers.
However, I simply do not buy into the album and PR blurb's claims that Freddie may have felt out of his comfort zone employing the use of a live orchestra at the time of Barcelona's recording.
Indeed, Freddie had laid down vocals above orchestral music on his Mr Bad Guy album and who can forget his powerhouse performance on the Queen hit Who Wants to Live Forever?
There were a few reasons why Freddie did not use a full orchestra for the recording of Barcelona.
Time was of the essence. Freddie was extremely ill and was also obligated to start work on what he thought was Queen's last album release, The Miracle.
There was also no doubt there being a cost element of having a full orchestra - they certainly don't come cheap.
Freddie's previous solo album Mr Bad Guy had by all accounts - well according to the music executives footing the bill - been an expensive flop.
Anyhow, synthesised orchestral music is indeed highly passable - just like the real McCoy.
Most film soundtracks are recorded in this way. Composers say it totally eliminates musician error and indeed optimises the sound quality of the music - no turning of score pages, human noise, etc.,
We are getting deep here - an analogy . . . GM food . . .it tastes ok! So why shouldn't synthesised music overseen by Messrs Mercury and Moran sound ok and be left alone for evermore?
Both Queen and Freddie commonly recorded like this - the Great Pretender, The Miracle, Was it all Worth it? - to name just a few ditties.
I actually think Freddie and Mike's original offering was excellent. They did actually use various live instruments on the original release - read the album notes! And I quote - cello, harp, violin, horn, percussion . . . even John Deacon plucked bass for How Can I Go On.
We digress again.
And again you ask: What about the new music - because that is what it is - on this new 'Special Edition' release?
It's ok. It's rather safe without ever getting into fifth gear. However, some real energy and drive has been added to Barcelona, La Japonaise, Fallen Priest and Golden Boy.
But the orchestration always sounds rather like a stage musical than serious Covent Garden opera.
Exhibit one. The orchestration has been presided over by the same chap, Stuart Morley, responsible for musical direction on Queen's hit musical We Will Rock You. Apart from sounding like a prosecuting lawyer I'm also beginning to sound like a classical music prig! But I'm not. Honest.
This album is another person's interpretation or variation (maybe I am a classical prig) of existing pieces of music.
One further criticism that I feel is valid is that the orchestra does drown out both Freddie and Montserrat's vocals periodically on the album. A flaw down to the album's production? Certainly.
All in all, this release is interesting and is still a worthwhile addition to any Freddie fan's music collection.
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