Hi all and welcome to the second entry in the blog. So, how are all Gord’s people doing? Are we safe? Are we reasonably healthy?
Today is the 27th anniversary of the release of the final proper studio album for Queen, Made In Heaven. Well, actually it is a conventional studio album and at the same time, it isn’t. I will get into why I believe this as I go along. No matter how you look at this final album from the classic lineup￼￼, you can’t overlook that it is an album that is important in the Queen catalog.
Before we talk about the album proper, let’s look at where we were in the musical landscape at that time for context. In England, we had Britpop taking over similarly to Grunge in North America. Altho, with Britpop it was a reaction to Grunge becoming big in England and we had bands like Suede, Blur and Oasis as 3 of the big 4 of Britpop. There was also Radiohead making waves all around the world with Creep having its many lives like a cat, but the real fire was burning with Oasis in 1994, combined with the internal tensions of the fighting Gallagher brothers and the eventual war with Blur. Remember the release of Roll With It and Country House in August 1995? Initially it was Blur who had won the battle, but in the long run it was Oasis with their second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, which came out 34 days before Made In Heaven and became the world–wide juggernaut that it was through 1996.
This brings us to North America, where Queen didn’t have much of a chance with competing with grunge and the rise of alternative rock with their new music. However, when it came to the classics, nobody was about to stop Bohemian Rhapsody from becoming a hit single again, thanks to a comedy movie and other bands relating to the scene, where the guys are in the car headbanging. Oh yes, the two greatest hits packages also helped in making sure that Queen would continue to be more popular than ever, after years of new albums with modest to just respectable sails.
However, grunge and alternative rock were rising all around Queen in North America and musicians like Billy Corgan sung their praises and continue to do so to this day. I will do a post on The Smashing Pumpkins later, but for now here is this message from 2011, from Billy. https://youtu.be/h4P9_by1SIc
Queen also had to compete with singers like Alanis Morissette, who had her own juggernaut album in the shape of Jagged Little Pill, with many hit singles and moving many millions of units by the end of 1996. Thankfully, Queen didn’t let any of that noise deter them from putting out Made In Heaven, despite that some albums made us in North America forget all about the Queen album in 1996.
Made In Heaven was anticipated ever since the death of Freddie Mercury but I don’t think anybody expected something as polished as this. It is very well done, even though it was kinda limited in scope as far as the music went. However, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon and David Richards did an exemplary job putting together something that sounds like a conventional Queen album with all 4 members, on it.
As for the songs, they were mostly from the 80s, when Queen had been recording and touring but also exploring other area’s with solo work. Four songs from 3 of the members solo or Side projects appeared on this album. They were, Made In Heaven and Born To Love You from Freddie’s 1985 debut solo outing Mr. Bad Guy, Heaven For Every One from Roger Taylor’s other band The Cross and Too Much Love Will Kill You from Brian May’s Back To The Light. Obviously, the latter songs were recorded with Freddie on vocals but not released on a Queen album until Made In Heaven, for various reasons.
It’s funny, during the Queen For An Hour interview in 1989 with BBC Radio host Mike Reid, Freddie gave hints of much more material recorded for The Miracle than what appeared on the final album, including the bonus tracks an b sides. They seemed to have forgotten about songs that were great idea’s but weren’t used again over the years. This is probably how songs such as: It’s A Beautiful Day and Let Me Live ended up here. The latter was recorded potentially for The Works in 1984 and It’s A Beautiful Day appeared again as a “spontaneous idea” as one of the bonus tracks on the 2011 Deluxe version of The Game. If you listen to Freddie’s voice you can tell it is from that period because he was starting to sing higher in full voice and with the rock growl and a bit of a rasp. Plus at the time, he was approaching his mid 30’s and the band were experimenting with synthesizers for the first time, as well as other sub-genres like funk and r&b.
My Life Has Been Saved was rerecorded from The Miracle sessions and was the b side to the Scandal single. The original version appears as a bonus track on the 2011 deluxe version of Made In Heaven and before then was also available on YouTube. It will appear again, on the 2022 super deluxe version of The Miracle on the 18th. Too Much Love Will Kill You was also recorded around the time of The Miracle but couldn’t be put on the album for various reasons. However, for the first time this song will be added to The Miracle, namely the vinyl version of the album. Heaven For Every One was recorded with Freddie singing to help Roger with singing the song on the debut album for The Cross entitled Shove It.
The other 3 tracks: Mother Love, You Don’t Fool Me and A Winter’s Tale had vocals from Freddie that were recorded after Innuendo. You can tell because: despite how strong his voice was it was becoming thinner. All though, Mother Love sounded like it could have been recorded a couple of years earlier, especially when Freddie sings in the lower register. It’s when Freddie goes up high, you can hear how recent the vocal was to his passing. The other telling thing about the song is that Brian sang the last verse, which Freddie was going to sing but obviously, he didn’t feel he was well enough to do it. As for the ending, I believe that it had to be like that, because it probably would have just faded away and that would have been boring. On Wikipedia, we read that it says the following about the ending. “Close to the end of the song, it features a sample from the vocal improvisation recorded at Queen’s famous 12 July 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium , and a sample from the intro of the studio version of ” One Vision ” and ” Tie Your Mother Down “. Afterwards, a snippet of every Queen song ever recorded can be heard, put together and then rapidly sped through a tape machine.
Concluding the song is a sample from a cover of “Goin’ Back”, a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, for which Mercury had provided lead vocals in 1972. The cover was released as a b-side to “I Can Hear Music”, a Ronettes cover, by Larry Lurex (a pseudonym of Mercury’s), not long before the release of Queen’s debut album. As the song fades out, there is a baby heard crying.”
In the main article on the Made In Heaven album, we read this on Wikipedia. “The sound bursts between the sing along and the “Goin’ Back” sample are apparently a few milliseconds of every Queen track ever recorded, put together, and then rapidly sped through a tape machine.” I don’t believe that for a second, as it sounds like a CD player’s button to go back, was pressed continuously to go back through a track and not to a previous one. It sounds like it is going back through the live version of One Vision from the Live At Wembley album. I’m so glad I finally put that down somewhere!
You Don’t Fool Me sounds interesting, in that it wasn’t even a song, before David Richards had managed to piece it all together. The vocals we hear at the start are indeed the same ones we here at the end of A Winter’s Tale, before Freddie says “it’s bliss”. I have always liked Brian’s guitar solo for You Don’t Fool Me and I could probably listen to it all day long. While I am going on about it, let’s hear the damn song. Shall we? https://youtu.be/9enOd3Z7vcY
Okay, now we get to the unlisted track, which took me by surprise when I heard it for the first time. When Brian May was doing a radio interview on a Toronto radio station in early 1996, he said that they wanted to put only material on this album that would make it a proper Queen album. If it didn’t fit then it wouldn’t go on. It’s like making something out of nothing and in a way, it is, but not really. This track is noted for its length and it’s ambience, which is similar to something that you would hear from Brian Eno with his solo work. That is what I thought when I had heard Music For Airports. I like that the track gave us something unusual to listen to and discuss for years. I also like the Freddie samples such as: “are you running,” Freddie laughing and Freddie getting the last word on Made In Heaven “fab.” I like how it ebs and flows, while incorporating elements of It’s A Beautiful Day from the classical section that John had written for the track. In a way, Yeah and the untitled track could be the very long ending to the reprise of It’s A Beautiful Day.
The only thing missing on Made In Heaven is a rocker such as a track like” The Hit Man or Stone Cold Crazy. Unfortunately I don’t think there is much left of Freddie that really kicks ass, or am I wrong? I hope I am and we will hear another unreleased rocker from Freddie in the future. I guess the closest thing is Born To Love You and It’s A Beautiful Day (Reprise).
The first song I had heard was the title track, on a radio program, all about rare tracks and for some reason, this song had made it in. This was on a Toronto radio station, who played Queen regularly and would eventually play both Too Much Love Will Kill You and Born To Love You, in rotation at different times during 1995 and 1996. I had heard Too Much Love Will Kill You for the first time, on another radio station, playing hot adult contemporary music like Wet Wet Wet and bands similar to that. Later on, I would hear Born To Love You for the first time, on the same radio station playing the title track, the day before and on the following Wednesday, I had the CD in my hand for the first time. I had played it once from start to finish and when the untitled track 13 came up, I had no idea what was coming, or that it was a hidden track. I had gotten used to those hidden tracks from Nirvana and even Tool, but this was different. There was no break in the music, like on other albums. The closest you could come to what Queen did was on Tool’s Undertow album, where the last track Disgustipated, which starts with a rather weird evangelical type sermon about frightened carrots, to a chant and ends with a creepy answering machine message, after minutes of nothing but chirping crickets. Here is what I am talking about and compare this, to the untitled 13th track on Made In Heaven. https://youtu.be/CmJYZ1NIn1Y
Besides Made In Heaven, other albums were making the rounds of the charts at the time of its release. The previously mentioned What’s The Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis was obviously doing well and would continue to do so throughout 1996 and break big in North America. The Smashing Pumpkins had released their 3rd and best selling album (a double album) Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which did well enough. Actually, it did gangbusters and the tour that was to support it, was full of highs and lows, with guest starring on The Simpsons, moshPit injuries, as well as the death of their keyboard player and the death of an audience member. Oh yeah, they even had to fire their drummer because of one of those deaths, which had affected The Pumpkins directly and a problem with a drug habbit.
Another big album was the self-titled 3rd album from Alice In Chains, with a three legged dog on the cover, which was released on November 7th 1995. It also did well, but there was no tour, dew to dependencies of singer Layne Staley, who would pass away in 2002. Both of these albums I also love, along with Made In Heaven and I had all 4 of them, by the spring of 1996. I had bought the Alice In Chains album the same week of Made In Heaven coming out and as a guitar nut, I was certainly in a Heaven of my own with both albums, for different reasons.
Another important album which had come out was The Beatles Anthology and it of course, contained the new song with John Lennon Free As A Bird. Radio announcers had compared both Queen and The Beatles, because both bands used vocals from deceased singers. Although, queen sounds much more fresh because any vocals that were used from Freddie, were taken from the studio and not from a home demo. I actually didn’t mind Free As A Bird, but I can see why others may not have liked it as John’s voice quality was certainly not professional sounding and it was rather slow.
In North America, Too Much Love Will Kill You and Born To Love You were singles on various radio formats and Heaven For Everyone was the first single in Europe and did well. I know there were more singles, but I will leave that till later on, when I give you the Wikipedia article.
The 2011 deluxe version has some interesting nuggets, including a piano and vocal only version of Born To Love You, where we hear Freddie hitting a bum note, when he sings “with every single beat of my heart” in the first chorus. The last note in heart is actually out of tune and it was covered up successfully, by nusic from both the Queen and the original version recorded by Freddie in 1985.
The b-side called Rock In Rio Blues, which is interesting to listen to in and of itself. It serves as the b-side to the Too Much Love Will Kil You single in North America and appears on the 2011 deluxe version of Made In Heaven. It’s a Beautiful Day (B-Side) is kinda a hybrid, of the version which starts off the album and the reprise on track 11.
Over all, this is a great final proper studio album for a band with many successes and some failures along the way. Unfortunately, they were limited by what they had available to them, with Freddie on vocals. This is of course, before revisiting: Let Me In Your Heart Again, Love Kills and There Must Be More To Life Than This, for the Queen Forever compilation in 2014. Of course, now we have Face It Alone and I couldn’t imagine it being polished off for Made In Heaven, as it may have seemed unsalvageable at the time this album was being built. Is Made In Heaven the best Queen album? I don’t know, but I feel it is great for what it is in its own right. I am hopeful that there are more rockers in the can with Freddie singing them. To me, that is my favourite side of his singing style but he does well with other genres of music too. This entry comes 12 days before the release of The Miracle super deluxe boxed set and I am looking forward to it. For more on Made In Heaven, here is a link for you to click on. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Made_in_Heaven
Well, that’s about it for today. Talk to you again soon.