You will know I love many eclectic styles of music when I say that my current CD changer is occupied by Astrud Gilberto, Hank Williams, Louis Prima, Brothers Johnson, Johnny Cash, and Queen. And while these may seem to be hopelessly disconnected, I realized with a start today that the Cash and Queen CDs actually did share one bittersweet connection: both are sad but stirring farewells from artists of unparalelled excellence.
Of course, the particular Queen CD occupying my CD changer at this time is INNUENDO, and it has ranked as my favorite Queen CD during the past 15 years. Though it may not be as consistent as, say, NIGHT AT THE OPERA, it does hit several high points that continue to be deeply moving and revelatory in their brilliance.
This CD does really hold together strongly thematically, as Freddie Mercury ponders the most profound issues of life and death, and does so with a determined–even hopeful–gleam in his eye. The Zepplin-esque leadoff title track is as epic and powerful as anything the band has ever done, Mercury’s vocals soaring on waves of sonic blasts courtesy of Brian May’s guitar symphonics and guest guitarist Steve Howe’s Spanish-style picking.
“I’m Going Slightly Mad” is somewhat chilling in light of reality, but Mercury infuses it with his usual tongue-in-cheek defiant humor, and “Headlong” is a pleasingly crunchy rocker highlighted by Queen’s groovy rhythm section of Taylor and Deacon. Other highlights include the exhilirating “Ride the Wild Wind” and the beautifully lilting “These Are the Days of Our Lives” (one of the band’s finest ballads, and one that is not maudlin in any way).
As brilliant as all of the above are, the coup de grace is “The Show Must Go On,” where Mercury faces his fate “with a grin,” and sings “on with the show” with such conviction, passion, and pathos that it both breaks your heart and causes the hair on your arm to rise. The lush instrumentation here is incredibly powerful–only a voice like Mercury’s could keep up with, and even transcend it.
Absolutely, I give this my highest recommendation for a symphonic rock album–it’s a classic of the genre and still holds up brilliantly today. Great music, regardless of style, is both timely and timeless. INNUENDO is a moving document of the passing of one of music’s finest vocalists, the incomparable Freddie Mercury, and for that reason alone, makes this album indespensible. But beyond that, it is a stellar collection of songs, masterfully performed, by a powerful band at the top of their game.