Queen did not tour for the previous album, ‘The Miracle’, mainly because Freddie Mercury was sick. He had been diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 and his health had been deteriorating rather quickly. Now, they told the media they were trying to get away from the whole album-tour-album-tour type of schedule. Instead of touring they immediately started working on the next album which sadly enough would be the last album released before Freddie’s death in November 1991. The album is ‘Innuendo’ and it was the last great hurrah for a band that had done it all.
They started recording all the way back in March 1989 prior to ‘The Miracle’ even being released, but they wouldn’t finish the album until November 1990. Freddie’s health was not good and so he would come in and record whenever he was physically able. They had hoped to get the album out by Christmas 1990, but missed the deadline due to the health problems. We did finally see the album come out on February 4, 1991 and although the album only went to #30 in the States, the UK saw Queen get yet another #1 album. And like the previous album, the band were unable to Tour this album either.
The pictures of Freddie around this time and the shots of him in the music videos definitely had the public wondering what was wrong with Freddie and rumors were rampant. On November 23, 1991, Freddie issued a statement about his health and admitted he was diagnosed with AIDS, then not 24 hours later, Freddie died from bronchial pneumonia which was brought on as a result of his disease. Freddie’s death on November 24, 1991 shed a bright spotlight on the AIDS crisis and at the same time for us Kiss fans, overshadowed the death of our beloved Kiss drummer Eric Carr who died on the same day. As a rock fan of both bands, this was a sad day for me and I am sure for a lot of people around the world. Queen as we knew was no more. It left Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon with a big hole to fill and an unknown future.
The album kicked off with what has become one of my all time favorite Queen songs, “Innuendo”. The song was written by Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor and actually developed from a jam session that was going on by Brian May, John Deacon and Roger. It was very “Bohemian Rhapsody” with all the style changes and is actually longer than that song. It was pieced together from many different pieces, but when joined together it is a kind of magic. The lyrics are part tribute to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ (Roger’s part) and part shout out to the stories on Freddie’s health (Freddie’s part).
But it is the music that blows me away with it’s drum roll opening and eerie tones building until we get to Freddie’s voice. It is dark and haunting and then goes “Bolero style” with its flamenco guitars with help from Steve Howe of Yes and Brian May. Steve actually handles the solo part. There is full on orchestration which harkens back to ‘Bohemian” and then it rocks out. The orchestration was done all on keyboards by Freddie and David Richards the producer. It is progressive rock, 1991. It is one of those songs that has so much going on that you find little nuggets that you missed in the prior listens. It is a song that keeps on giving. Queen does excess well and this song screams excess and over-the-top and it works on so many levels. What an opening track to an album.
The next song is the cheeky, “I’m Going Slightly Mad” which is about going crazy. Written by Freddie Mercury with lyrical help from his friend Peter Straker, the song was inspired by Noel Coward who was an English playwright among other things who was famous for his quick wit and great one-liners. The song is filled with goofy, fantastical lyrics, some great slide guitar work and some ooh-ooh, aah-aahs and is as insane as you think it would be and so glorious as well.
The next song is the first real rock track on the album and was written by Brian May. Brian had intended the song, “Headlong”, to be for his first solo album, ‘Back to the Light’, but when Freddie got a hold of it and he heard Freddie sing it, that quickly changed. It is an uptempo, heavy rocker with a great bouncy groove and some fine playing by May, of course.
Next up is the first misstep for me with “I Can’t Live With You”. This was another May song that was supposed to be for his solo album, but since the band liked ti so much they kept it for the album. The song was an upbeat track, but felt a little dull to me and was missing a little spark. The song felt neutered which would change when you hear the “Rock Retake” of it on the Bonus E.P.
Freddie then brings us “Don’t Try So Hard” which is an elegant, beauty of a song. The song is about overcoming obstacles and knowing how sick he was, it feels so much deeper and meaningful now. The song has a little rain drop type sound at the beginning of the song which is actually only the sound of the Korg M1 synthesizer when you turn it on. Freddie’s vocals are so powerful in that falsetto that only he could do. Man, he had some range. The song is so sad, but angelic as well in its delivery.
“Ride the Wild Wind” was written by Roger Taylor and is a sequel to his song “I’m in Love With My Car” from ‘A Night at the Opera’. The song has Freddie on vocals with Taylor helping with background vocals. It is a fast-paced track with some speedy drum fills, some drive-by racing car sounds. It is said the song sounds a lot like The Smiths’ song “Shakespeare’s Sisters” and I kind of agree. Brian May added a guitar solo that felt like a speeding car speeding down the track. It is a fun little song, not necessarily my favorite, but still fun.
“All God’s People” was written by Freddie Mercury and Mike Moran (who played keyboards on it as well). The song was originally for Mercury’s ‘Barcelona’ album which explains why it doesn’t seem to fit in the style of the album for me. There are some African musical stylings in the music and I usually like when the band does something different, but this one misses the mark for me and seems out of place.
Roger Taylor wrote the next song “These Are The Days of Our Lives” which was full of programmed keyboards by the whole band and David Richards did the programmed Conga drum sounds. The song is an airy, dreamlike experience and Freddie’s vocals float over you and warm your heart. The song is a nostalgic feeling about life and seems appropriate for the band members must’ve been feeling with Freddie’s illness. It is actually a perfect song for Freddie sing to reflect on life itself. This was the last video Freddie would make for the band.
Next we get a weird song by Freddie Mercury called “Delilah” which was about his favorite cat. The song was full of cat sounds as well. Okay, yes, Freddie was the crazy cat lady. I wonder if he had a smelly cat as well because this one smelled a little for me. Skip.
The band finally rocks out again with “The Hitman” which was written by Freddie, Brian and John. It was hard, heavy and some killer guitar work by May and some cool riffs that he took from Freddie, changed the key and recorded it. I love it when the band goes balls-to-the wall and lets it fly and they do just that here. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
Inspired by the song “Where Were You” by Jeff Beck, Brian May and Freddie Mercury approached this song very differently and “Bijou” was born. They turned the song on its end and had the guitar work play the verses and the Freddie would sing during the breaks. Brian’s playing on here is front and center and totally magnificent. The band has never been one to do things normally and this added to that playbook. Freddie sounds great, but this felt more like an instrumental and May was the highlight.
The final song and what a way to go out for Freddie. “The Show Must Go On” might be one of the best they have ever done. The song was written by Brian May and pays tribute to his bandmate and friend, Freddie Mercury. Although so ill, Freddie made every effort to record as much music as he could before he died. He was so afraid he wasn’t going to be able to sing this song and give it what it needed, but he succeeded and then some. His valiant efforts and sure will to sing was there to the end and his friend, May, was truly inspired. The song is Freddie letting the world know that no matter what happens, life must continue and The Show Must Go On. The song is elegant, bombastic and is truly inspiring. Brilliant…just Brilliant!! This was the final single off the album and the final single before Freddie’s death. The most fitting song to ever end any album…PERIOD!!
- Innuendo – Keeper
- I’m Going Slightly Mad – Keeper
- Headlong – Keeper
- I Can’t Live With You – Delete
- Don’t Try So Hard – Keeper
- Ride the Wild Wind – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- All God’s People – Delete
- These Are the Days of Our Lives – Keeper
- Delilah – Delete
- The Hitman – Keeper
- Bijou – Keeper
- The Show Must Go On – Keeper
The Track Score is 8.5 out of 12 Tracks or 71%. I found this album to be a wonderful representation of everything that was great about Queen and a beautiful stamp on Freddie’s talent. They captured all the great Queen styles and even created a few new ones. It wasn’t all perfect, but what they got right, was outstanding. When I listen to this album, it has so much more meaning knowing how sick Freddie was and the struggles he went through to complete this album. Is it their best album, no, not really. But it is the one with the most heart I feel. Freddie and the band proved that the show must go on and they delivered us an album that was Queen to the very end. No compromising, no apologies, just Queen. For that, I am giving the album an Overall Score of 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars because the songs that are good on here, are that good and it lifts the album to another level. I will always cherish this album for what it is and what it represents and that is go out fighting to the very end!
“I Can’t Live With You” kicks off the bonus tracks. This is a 1997 Rocks Retake where the band did the song they way the originally envisioned it which was more of a rock track and I like this one a whole lot better than the album version. The album needed more rock tracks so this would’ve worked a lot better. “Lost Opportunity” was a B-Side for “I’m Going Slightly Mad”. It has a slight country flair to it with its guitar picking. It was a slowed down ballad type song with Brian May on vocals which he wrote as well. Then we get an early version of “Ride the Wild Wind” with only guide vocals. Roger was singing and I do like this version as well. I hate that he didn’t get as many vocals on the last few albums, but I get it.
If you thought “I’m Going Slightly Mad” was a crazy song, this version called the “Mad Mix” takes it to another level. It makes a fun song even funner…or is it more fun…both!!! (kidding, I know which one is right). This version has Freddie more front and center and the music is pushed to the back of the mix and makes for an interesting take on the song. “Headlong” is the final bonus track and this is such an early version they call it “Embryo”. It has Brain singing for the guide vocals. It is a lot like the final version and I do like Brian’s vocals with this one, but Freddie does take it to another level. And a lot of these songs on this bonus disc is why I like the bonus discs in these remasters, we get versions with different band members singing at times which a collector loves!!
And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed and we will see you for the final studio album in the series…