This month saw the release of a new Queen compilation; Queen Forever. In order to differentiate from the other worn out Greatest Hits collections previously released, this time both album tracks and singles are collected, under the theme of classic love songs. There’s some decent deep cuts, Nevermore off Queen II (which I wrote about here) is a beautiful and not too well known Freddie Mercury ballad. Jealousy is a favourite of mine from Jazz and one of Brian May’s best non-singles, Sail Away Sweet Sister is a great inclusion.
But the stand-out is by far the forgotten unfinished song from The Works’ sessions, Let Me In Your Heart Again. Written by May, it’s a touching and earnest heavy-ballad, comparable to earlier stadium hits like Somebody To Live or Save Me but with it’s own unique energy. Some of the melodies are recognizably similar to other May songs written around the same time, the bridge/solo being of similar melodic structure to Hammer To Fall. The lyrics seem slightly unfinished, with certain verses appearing rather aimless in sentiment;
When People Talk Of Love
I Have No Hesitation
( It’s Your Heart Again)
Tell Me What Your Dreaming Of
I’ll Hold That Conversation For You Best
( it’s Your Heart Again)
Not the most deep lyrics ever on the subject of love, but this is made up for by the narrative that runs through the rest of the lyrics; of a man putting on a brave face in response to the questioning of others, but who’s heartbreak is transparent. Much better lyrics are found in the first verse;
When People Talk Of Love
I’ll Lead The Conversation
I’ll Say I Feel Just Fine
Happy With My Situation
But When I Look Away ha
People Know My Mind Is Straying
To Where I Once Belonged
Dreaming About Your Heart Again
Brian May was near the end of his first marriage upon the time of writing this song, so I can only wonder if that was an influence on the lyrical content. But lyrics aside, the reason why this song is worth talking about is of course Mercury, and hearing such a strong vocal from him twenty four years after his death, when one assumed they had heard all they would ever hear of Fred, is pretty remarkable.
The vocal take sounds raw – it may have well been the demo vocal. There has probably been a lot of studio processing to brighten it up. A fantastic bass track from the now retired John Deacon is also heard on the track. I believe it’s Fred’s original piano take, though am unsure. Brian and Roger have added new backing vocals and guitars, and it really does sound fantastic. It’s a great piece of songwriting and I’ve not heard many posthumous releases this strong. If only there was more. It would have been great on their first posthumous albums Made In Heaven and perhaps would have been the single that album was missing – a bit of dramatic, heart-on-the-sleeve balladry to distract from the themes of death that permeate the rest of Heaven. Queen’s final album released during Fred’s life, Innuendo is also strikingly dark and worth a listen if you haven’t checked it out.
Producer William Orbit provides a second version of the song, remixing it into a synth heavy pop anthem, aligning the song with the poppier side of 80s Queen, i.e. Radio Gaga and A Kind Of Magic. I wasn’t sold on this version at first, although it was the first version of the new song I’d heard. The drums seemed slightly to quiet, the synth and bass too loud, and all kinds of studio effects were used and thrown around the place, bit-crushed drums, distorted vocals, a pitch shifted operatic section in the middle. It still seems a bit thrown together, but the new melodies he includes have grown on me, to the extent that I almost prefer this version. I think Freddie would have led the song towards this dramatic vibe had he still been around. This version ends with an emotionally charged outro which places the pre-chorus and chorus vocals over the bridge melody. An inspired improvisation that works. At six minutes long, it reaches towards Bohemian Rhapsody epic-ness, perhaps with mixed results. But I could have gone for another eight reworked demos such as this.
If this is the last original song we get from Queen so be it. It’s a pretty fantastic final note, even if it would have been that much better with a whole album to go with it, rather than another compilation. But to be hearing new material featuring Fred at this stage, and of this caliber – can’t complain really.
Though it might be a bit of a corporate plug, Coke is donating a bunch of money to AIDS research for the sponsor rights to the new Queen remix. It’s a good cause no doubt, can’t help but be cynical towards the free advertising the company gets however.