An amazing feat for Queen, sans Freddie ...
... in producing an album of this quality from such a mishmash of songs. “It’s A Beautiful Day” originally a Freddie piano experiment from The Game sessions: showcases Freddie’s boundless energy and enthusiasm (almost like a toned down version of “Don’t Stop Me Now”). “Made In Heaven” and “I Was Born To Love You” both Freddie solo tracks: Brian, Roger, and John (BRJ) could not have picked two better Freddie solo tracks to re-work into full-fledged Queen songs. BRJ brought serious thunder and lightning to these tracks. “Let Me Live” was born out of The Works sessions: as with the opening track and “A Winter’s Tale,” this one brings one’s spirit up (if only temporarily), but is a great power ballad and very soulful. “My Life Has Been Saved” was a Queen B-side reworked for this album: solid track. “Heaven For Everyone” was a quasi-Queen, Quasi-The Cross track reworked for this album: another solid track. Though, along with the previous song, probably the weakest of the album (still good though!) “Too Much Love Will Kill You” was very close to being on The Miracle: another great power ballad. Even though it was written by May along with two non-Queen song writers, this seems like a quintessential Queen song.
The tracks Queen (with Freddie) made are brilliant: “Mother Love” provides both raw emotion as well as impending dread to the listener, because we know that Freddie knows that we know that he knows his life is ending. “You Don’t Fool Me” is catchy as hell and has such a 90s club feel to it. Great song, Roger’s drumming is just relentless. It feels like such a heartfelt and serious song. I guess that comes with the territory of having a singer near death trying to put out as much material as possible (and his grieving bandmates trying to do him justice in fleshing out the material). With the sadness, emotion, and seriousness of this album, “A Winter’s Tale” provides a warm, cozy, and picturesque escape for the listener.
“It’s A Beautiful Day (Reprise)” is a cool psychedelic reimagining of the original complete with an audio blast of every Queen song ever recorded near the end of the track! “Yeah” ... Hey, it’s 4 more seconds of Freddie, so why not? The last track, hidden and untitled is absolutely brilliant. It’s a fitting end to what is an otherwise painfully emotional, while at times uplifting, album. At over 22 minutes, and virtually all instrumental (with a handful of random words/phrases from Freddie sprinkled throughout), it’s a meditation gold mine. It’s not only beautiful, but every time I listen to this one, it helps exorcise a little bit more of the grief I feel about Freddie Mercury’s death. Close your eyes and listen to this one. It really has a way of making me feel like Freddie is saying, “Let go, it’s okay now. I’m okay now.” I know that’s sappy as hell, but I truly feel it.
Like I said, quite the mishmash album. The best two songs: “Made In Heaven,” which is the most emotional Queen song other than "The Show Must Go On," IMO. Brian said once that Freddie sang “Another One Bites The Dust” “till his throat bled.” Well, on this one Brian’s guitar is doing the bleeding. There are parts where the lead guitar sounds like it’s grieving alongside it’s user. Whaling chords, along with Roger’s power drumming bring forth the kind of pain and anguish the band was going through in making this album. I like Freddie’s solo version, but this version is in my top-5 Queen songs. The other standout track is “You Don’t Fool Me.”
Queen did such a brilliant job of taking a rather disparate collection of Queen and non-Queen songs and making it a full-fledged and thoroughly coherent Queen album, that if you didn’t know any better, you might think this was simply the band’s final album before they broke up (not because their lead singer died). But you don’t have to listen all that close to hear the difference between Freddie’s voice on the tracks he laid the vocals for in the early/mid 80s and the tracks laid down in The Miracle and Innuendo Sessions, when A.I.D.S. really began to take a toll on his body. As Roger said, his voice became “thinner,” Somehow he still managed to be powerful.
By the band’s admission this was a very difficult album to record, both due to the painstaking process of fleshing out unfinished songs, re-working old songs, and finding useable vocals from Freddie, as well as still living with the crushing grief from losing their friend and front man. Imagine listening to the final recordings of the last lyrics, last vocal ad libs, and last bits of conversations picked up by the mic that the band will ever hear of their friend and singer ... and then have to make music out of it. That all should not be lost on the listener and should help one appreciate this album even more.
Producer David Richards (R.I.P.) also worked wonders on the album, particularly “You Don’t Fool Me” (which was pieced together with several separate bit of Freddie's vocals) and the Untitled hidden 22+ minute track. His contributions were immense.
Knowing how well they did with Made In Heaven makes me think of how much more Queen could have done with Freddie had he lived. I love this album.