Tuesday, November 1, 2011

In stores today: Queen remasters 1984-1995

Hollywood Records' 2011 Queen catalog reissue campaign, to mark the legendary British band’s 40th Anniversary, concludes today with the final five albums featuring singer Freddie Mercury:

The Works, A Kind Of Magic, The Miracle, Innuendo and Made In Heaven.

All are available as the Limited Edition Collector's Box Set Vol. 3 including a mini-poster (an exclusive). The individual titles can also be purchased via other retailers.

Listening to these albums (which span 1984-1995) again after many years, I was reminded of what an important influence Brian May's distinctive electric guitar work and Mercury's unique vocals were on rock music.

The Works, so much of a favorite during high school that I nearly wore out my cassette copy, still stands up as a strong collection front to back, despite sound techniques that definitely connect it to the '80s. The Works contains “Radio Ga Ga,” where Lady Gaga famously took her name and “I Want To Break Free,” notorious for the cross-dressing, soap opera parody video that MTV banned in the U.S.

A Kind Of Magic is less than solid, but has the memorable "One Vision" and "A Kind of Magic" going for it. The Miracle rocks a bit harder than usual and is especially notable for the muscular "I Want It All." Innuendo, more artsy and contemplative, boasts the ultra-dramatic "The Show Must Go On," beautifully subtle "These Are the Days of Our Lives" and regal title track with guest guitar by Yes' Steve Howe. Finally, Made in Heaven, assembled from various songs in different stages of completion after Mercury's untimely death, is more than just a hodgepodge - especially "Too Much Love Will Kill You" and "You Don't Fool Me." Mercury's final batch of lyrics are more life-affirming than ever before.

Each title, like the 10 others before it, comes as a 2CD set, with ample photos, lyrics and rarities that encompass B-sides, demos, live and extended versions. Some are making their debut here. Greg Brooks and Gary Taylor wrote the "bonus EP" sleeve notes. Surviving Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor served as executive producers on the remasters.  
Among the bonus tracks on Vol. 3 box set albums, the standouts include: "I Go Crazy," "It's a Hard Life" (Live in Rio 1985), "One Vision" (Live at Wembley 1985), "Hang on in There" and "I Can't Live With You" (1997 Rocks Retake). 

During this time period, Queen achieved iconic status for their breathtaking performance at Live Aid in 1985, other U.K. stadium concerts at Wembley and Knebworth and worldwide. The band continued to make memorable music up until and after the passing of Mercury in 1991 and achieved platinum status with the albums in the U.K.

The previous Limited Edition Collector's Box Set Vol. 2, released in September, covers 1977-82. It comprises the albums News of the World, Jazz, The Game, Flash Gordon and Hot Space. These titles contain such Queen classics as "Tie Your Mother Down,"  "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy," "We Are The Champions," "We Will Rock You," "Fat Bottomed Girls," "Bicycle Race," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Another One Bites The Dust" and "Under Pressure" - a duet with David Bowie. To those wishing to purchase individual albums, I'd highly recommend The Game.  

Queens 40th Anniversary year kicked off with their first major exhibition “Stormtroopers in Stilettos” in London’s East End. A recent two-part BBC television documentary, “Days of Our Lives” found Brian May and Roger Taylor looking back over 40 years of Queen in detail for the first time. 

Also part of the celebration is Queen drummer/songwriter/singer Roger Taylor's North American talent search for the Queen Extravaganza Live Tour, where anyone can perform alongside Queen. Auditions continue through Nov. 7, with voting on Nov. 14-28 and a live final next month. The U.S. tour launches in 2012.

Auditions are open to vocalists, guitarists, drummers, bass players and keyboard players. 

“The Queen Extravaganza will not be a traditional tribute show,” Taylor said in a press release. “It’s a brand-new show, specially designed to enable fans to celebrate the music of Queen in a heart-stopping event.”

“It’s going to be spectacular” continued Taylor. “It’s going to be very visual, there are going to be some shocks and some tremendous surprises. It will be a rock celebration in the royal tradition.” Taylor is fully hands-on in the creation of The Extravaganza, taking the role of producer and music director. 

Coming on board to ensure the touring show will match the design and excitement of Queen at its best will be such rock tour heavyweights as stage designer Mark Fisher (U2, AC/DC, Muse, The Rolling Stones, Cirque de Soleil) and lighting designer Rob Sinclair (Adele, Vampire Weekend, Goldfrapp, Peter Gabriel), and for the auditions, Roger Taylor and a panel of renowned musicians.

The audition process involves two video audition rounds to be judged by both a panel of appointed judges and the public. Taylor will be present to judge the final audition round, which will be held live in Los Angeles in early December.

VEVO, the leading music video and entertainment platform, will unveil exclusive content from each audition round as well as The Queen Extravaganza finals.

Taylor, a man whose drum skills and songwriting talents have contributed to over 300 million record sales and over 700 live concerts in every part of the world, said: “There are great musicians everywhere, and this is a really exciting challenge for us to try and unearth some of those musicians from the US.” 

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