Tuesday, June 14, 2005

records that ruined my life, part two

QUEEN - 'Made In Heaven'

Far be it from me to walk all over the grave of a respected legend. Freddy Mercury was one of the greatest frontmen of all time. His vocal range and expressive tenor were without peer in rock music. He controlled the audience in ways that few have duplicated. He exuded endless amounts of energy, enthusiasm and love while on the stage. He was also a hell of a piano player. He and his band have inspired legions of rockers - including Axl Rose, Def Leppard, Mike Patton, Metallica, and Nirvana (Freddie Mercury was even name dropped in Kurt Cobain's suicide note).

So I would never, ever seek to disrespect the dead... Thankfully, the remaining members of Queen have already done it! So I guess I've got the green light! Currently, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor are touring with ex-Bad Company/Free vocalist Paul Rogers. And yes, they are calling it Queen. They've also performed in the recent past with Robbie Williams on vocals. At least bassist John Deacon chose to steer clear of the wreckage. It's too bad he didn't avoid the disaster pictured above...

If there is one thing that's hard to do, it's finishing your career with a bang. This album is commonly referred to as a 'Swan Song', and few bands end their careers with quality. For every Abbey Road (The Beatles), Relationship Of Command (At The Drive-In), or Avalon (Roxy Music) ... there's a Machina (Smashing Pumpkins), It's Hard (The Who), or Cut The Crap (The Clash). Queen's final album had comfortably found it's way into the former category. Innuendo was written in the shadow of Freddie Mercury's impending death. The lyrics, moods, and themes of the album seem to not only serve as a warm look at an accomplished career, but reflect a sad but triumphant farewell. Classics of the album include 'These Are The Days Of Our Lives', 'The Show Must Go On', and the epic title track.

But they couldn't leave well enough alone, could they? Apparently recorded during and after the Innuendo sessions, Made In Heaven was in fact made in poor judgment. Saying that they were acting on the 'final wishes' of Freddie, the band squeezed out what little creative energy they had left to complete the music that backed his last vocal tracks. And thus they made THIS, the last official album, ruining any chance to end their career on a high note.

Made In Heaven begins on a high note with the simple and humble 'It's A Beautiful Day'. The track is a brief showcase of Freddie's immortal optimism and stirring voice. Unfortunately, everything is downhill from there. The title track does it's best to 'rock', with a wall of guitar riffs and big drums. But this track would have been filler on even some of the band's most disappointing albums. When Freddie is singing, the bland melodies and cheesy lyrics try to become endurable. But other times, such as on the dreary 'Let Me Live', the other band members chime in with their forgettable vocal talents. And regardless of who's singing ... many of the songs are just plain bad. For a band who really knew how to string together a few hooks, this album is seriously lacking in that respect. These songs feel like leftover, half developed (if not rejected) ideas.

If the title of the song 'To Much Love Will Kill You' doesn't scare you away, the song sure will. Brian May penned this one. He also wrote 'Tie Your Mother Down' and 'Fat Bottom Girls'. I just can't explain it... I guess Rod Stewart refused to sing this one, so Brian felt like he had to do something with it. I could go through the rest of the album, but that would require me to relive it. And that's just mean. Come on people, I'd rather listen to side 1 of Hot Space. I mean, I sold back this album and DIDN'T sell back Queen's Flash Gordon album (though that is more due to laziness than anything else). Besides, how can you deny the urgent glory of the vamp at the beginning of that album??? "Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun ... FLASH! OOOHHH OH! ...SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE!!"



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