You know what, I feel that Queen have had an unfair pasting on here the past couple of reviews. Granted I gave one of them, but I also disagree with the last one (but it was not my review so nothing I can do there - neither would I, I want everyone that reviews on here to have their own voice). So it might seem a bit strange to go for another later day Queen record, but there is logic in my madness here. I pick this one just so Mr Chris Chaney does not review it, mainly because it will reduce him to tears. The reason for this is he is the biggest Queen fan I know and this was the last Queen record to be release whilst Freddie Mercury was alive. After being diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, Mercury tried to keep this a secret from the world, only close friends, the band and those deemed necessary to know were given the bad news. When they originally tried to release this record, they were aiming for a Christmas release in 1990 - however due to Mercury's health they could not release it to February 1991. To say this was a big release is an understatement. It was their first release since The Miracle in 1989 and to say the band were also going for a more back to basic record with this album - it returns to Queen's roots with a more basic rock approach with a beautiful art work taken from the paintings of Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard Grandville. Even before you play a note on this record, it looks and feels like an important release; however the proof is in the music, so how does it fair?
This album starts with the band's strongest song in many a year, the title track for the album which harks back to many of the band's earliest influences, it has an operatic section as a highlight toward "Bohemian Rhapsody", it also has a flamenco guitar section with the Steve Howe from Yes with Brian May and a Heavy Metal section as well. To say this covers all the band's bases is an understatement - with a nod towards "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin which was made more apparent when Robert Plant sang this song with the remaining members of Queen at The Freddie Mercury Tribute gig in 1992. So, you would expect it to be all downhill from here...not one bit of it. After this little number they go straight for the insane with "I'm Going Slightly Mad", which is quite possibly one of my most favourite Queen numbers ever. After this you have "Headlong" another foot stomping rock number that takes the album in another direction again.
With this album, you have a lot of looking back - obviously it was the band were affected by the state of Mercury's health and it does give the album a melon collie feel, wistful and sad; yet the humour is in there too - just listen to Mercury's ode to his cat "Delilah" - there is a few numbers which don't hit the spot (wouldn't be a Queen album if it didn't) - I am not over keen on "All God's People"; I can see what they were trying to do here, it just did not work for me. Also as nice as the guitar work is on "Bijou" it is a piece which could have been left to side (in fact it was the b-side to "Innuendo" when it was released). But two songs on a 12 song album not hitting the mark for you, this does not ruin this album. In fact nothing can ruin this album, from the wistful looking back of "These Are The Days Of Our Lives" pining for a lost love, via the hard rock glory of "The Hitman" to the final crowning glory of the album - "The Show Must Go On". This song still sends shivers up my spine; this is more than likely Mercury coming to some sort of acceptance to his fate which was played out within a year of this album. This song is what reduces people to tears at times, the version that was done with Elton John is a close second (yes, you read that right), but this is the goodbye to the fans. Not the albums that came afterwards from the various out takes and unfinished works done by Taylor, Deacon and May - this is goodbye.
So how to score this album - well overall it is one of the finest Queen releases that was ever made, it is a shame that it was the last to be made with Mercury; but I think that is what made it a more focused record. Death has a strange way of shifting priorities; it brings to the forefront what is important to the people. For Queen and possible more so for Mercury, it is a sort of therapy to deal with the events of what was coming. But out of the dark came such a work that in his final hours, Mercury showed the world why he was held in some quarters as one of the finest vocalist of not just his generation, but of all time. It is a sad and mournful album, but it has a beauty that cannot be matched. Triumph taken from the only inevitable defeat that comes for everyone and a positive review from these pages for Queen for once.
9 out of ten - Almost perfect.....almost
You can purchase one of the various versions of this album on Amazon here
You can visit the Queen website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
The videos for "The Show Must Go On" and "Innuendo"