Reviews

QUOTES FROM MOST EMI INTERNATIONAL TERRITORIES ABOUT "MADE IN HEAVEN"


Argentina - Queen are without doubt the number one international band in Argentina with the most important background, this album is excellent.
Australia - Queen remain one the Australia's largest selling artists. There is great excitement everywhere after hearing the new album.
Austria - Made In Heaven is definitely the most important album this year. This is a fantastic last Queen album…a tremendous release.
Belgium - This is of course one of the most mythical projects ever. This new album is something very special indeed and not only for the traditional Queen fans. The emotional value of Made In Heaven is such that nearly everyone could be touched by the story.
Brazil - This release is the most important release of the year. The band is admired not only by their fans but also by the media and retailers.
Chile - Queen are a very important and influential band. Made In Heaven is a direct and honest testimony of the genius of Mercury and the rest of Queen. This is one of the most important albums this year.
Czechoslovakia - The band are in mega star position and this is a superb album.
Denmark - The magic is still there when it comes to Queen. The strength of Freddie's voice and the power of the music combined with the brilliant production is the most convincing factor for this album. There's no doubt this album will satisfy the massive fanbase that has been waiting and waiting.
Dubai - Press write ups have been ecstatic and retailers were blown away by the album. Everyone is excited by what it sure to be a huge blockbuster.
Finland - The album is EXCELLENT.
France - Superb, we are very excited.
Germany - This album is acknowledged as a unique event. A unique dimension of Freddie's legacy. The lyrics and strength of the music evoke a mood which rings true and remains the most convincing argument. Made In Heaven is possibly their best and certainly their most personal recording. Airwaves are dominated by Queen specials, Queen days and album announcements. Reviews unanimously express everything from positive appreciation to boundless enthusiasm with a slant of surprising pathos quite unusual for such seasoned cynics.
Greece- The group is in the status of one of the biggest rock groups in the world and this album will keep them there.
Holland- The most important album in the marketplace this season. Queen is one of the most important acts in Holland for years. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the album which is being called 'historic' and 'memorable' in the media.
Hong Kong - Queen have created an unmovable position in the hearts of the fans.
Hungary - The band is legendary and this album is one of their finest, the songs are excellent.
Israel - The return of one of the biggest and most successful bands in the world. Without doubt this album will satisfy all anticipation.
Italy - Fantastico!
Malaysia - To core fans this is more than music…it is Freddie.
Mexico - Mexican tour is one of the most remembered concerts of all time in Mexico. The group is considered one of the most legendary rock bands.
New Zealand - This is a brilliant new album, superb. Sales are sensational, the biggest we have had in 10 years.
Norway - Made In Heaven is a wonderful album. Queen have delivered an album we can all be proud of. Made In Heaven is a great tribute to a great man.
Philippines - Another classic Queen release.
Portugal - This album is absolutely fantastic, great songs with huge sales and hit potential. Not difficult to sell as much as possible considering the expectation around the release and the songs included on the album.
Singapore - The release of the album is an 'event' in itself. Queen have very wide audience appeal.
South Korea - A sensational album in international music history.
South Africa - Queen are the undisputed Champions…this will be the biggest album this Christmas.
Sweden - The songs are extremely strong and the lyrics are of goosebumps quality. All people who have had the pleasure to hear the album are convinced we have one of the Autumn's best sellers.
Switzerland - The most important and best selling album this season.
Taiwan - This album not only represents the final recording of Freddie Mercury but also captures the spirit of the band in that 'The Show Must Go On'. This is probably one of the best, if not THE best Queen album for a long time, and for the last time.
Venezuela - This album is a major event as the final chapter on one of the world's most successful rock bands.

OPTIMISTIC - SOMETIMES SICKLY, SOMETIMES DARK: QUEEN FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.

'Made In Heaven' is an album so heavily freighted with emotional resonance that it is quite impossible to disentangle the music from the unique historical context in which it was made.

However, in the interests of critical rigour, let’s imagine for a moment what the likely response to a new Queen album - any Queen album - would have been were Freddie Mercury still alive and well in 1995. The gap of four years since their last studio LP - the chart-topping Innuendo - would have been regarded as unexceptional. Some grudging respect might have been afforded to the new album’s high production values, the sheer professionalism of the performances, the craft of the songwriting and the durability of the group’s commercial appeal. But the music would have been routinely described as overwrought, the lyrics as simple-minded, and the package as a monumental irrelevance.

As we all know, Mercury quietly succumbed to AIDS in 1991 - just nine months after the release of ‘Innuendo’. Thus the immediate question begged by the appearance of a new album at this late stage in the day must be: what manner of tasteless, barrel-scraping exercise are the surviving members of the band involved in now? The odd thing is that, in most respects, ‘Made In Heaven’ could easily fit the bill of the hypothetical album described above.

Mercury was fully aware of what lay in store for him by the time Queen finished recording ‘Innuendo’ in the summer of 1990. His practical response was to move away from the big city bustle of his home in Munich to the calm of Montreux, where Queen had acquired their own Mountain Studios, and to keep working as and when his health permitted. With touring out of the question and promotion of ‘Innuendo’ kept to a minimum, the band were free to work in the studio as much as Mercury was able. The singer kept going on and off, right up until September 1991 when he recorded his last track - an untypical sombre and moving song called ‘Mother Love’.

Naturally, there were doubts about the wisdom of releasing ‘Made In Heaven’ at all, let alone doing so too soon after Mercury’s death, and it was nearly two years before the rest of the band felt comfortable about resuming work on it. The process was also slowed up because guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor had both embarked on solo projects (with widely varying degrees of success). There was, too, the small matter of the ‘Greatest Hits II’ and ‘Live At Wembley ‘86’ albums, both of which were already conveniently available to soak up the immediate posthumous demand for Queen products.

The point to bear in mind is that, despite possible appearances, ‘Made In Heaven’ is not some retrospective rehash of surplus, rejected, or ‘lost’ vocal performances married to new backing tracks (of the imminent ‘new’ Beatles recordings, but an album of entirely original material (bar one track) recorded, for the most part, with as much care and attention to detail as any of Queen’s previous releases. Furthermore, it is a collection of songs co-written and sung by a man in the absolute knowledge that he is going to die very soon.

It is all the more surprising, then, to discover the oddly - indeed, at times, insanely - optimistic tone of the album. It begins and ends with ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’ - the only song which sounds as if it might have been unfinished (hence the fade after a two-and-a-half-minute introduction and the rocking out reprise at the end). ‘It’s a beautiful day / The sun is shining / I feel good / And no-one’s gonna stop me now’, Mercury sings, his wonderfully frayed, cod-operatic tenor surging vigorously above an accompaniment of rolling piano, swirling strings, an angelic choir and twittering birds (seriously!)

The tone is set for a succession of numbers in a similarly life-affirming vein - some good, some less so. ‘My Life Has Been Saved’ suffers from the sort of naff tune and pseudo-religious lyric more associated with Cliff Richard (‘I thank the Lord above / My life has been saved’). ‘A Winter’s Tale’, meanwhile, is a slushy ballad which finds Mercury in ultra-mellow mood gazing at the tranquil scene from the window of his room in Montreux (a picture of which adorns the cover of the album). It’s basically a compendium of greeting card supplements set to music (‘It’s all so beautiful / Like a mountain landscape painting in the sky’), and would doubtless be a strong contender for the Christmas Number 1, if released as a single. In view of Mercury’s demise, many people will find it an incredibly poignant song, but in the cold light of day it must, in all honesty, be marked down as a pretty sickly piece of work. On the plus side, ‘Heaven For Everyone’ is a more thoughtful ballad, written by Taylor, which contrasts the ‘world of cool deception’ with how things ought to be (‘This world could be fed, this world could be fun’). ‘You Don’t Fool Me’ - which is arguably the only song on the album that does not have any extra layers of special meaning attached to it - is a strong soul/disco groove with a nice, catchy hook. And most improbable of all, under the circumstances, ‘I Was Born To Love You’ is an amazingly buoyant love song, written by Mercury, and belted out with all the zest of a man who seemingly hasn’t a care in the world. It’s a fine pop tune which romps home to a breathless climax amid the sound of fireworks exploding and hoots of laughter from Mercury.

If ever a band embodied the old hoofers’ maxim ‘the show must go on’, it was Queen. Mercury may have been many things, but as an artist he was not given to brooding or prolonged outbursts of angst. God knows what kind of album Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins would produce if Eddie Vedder or Billy Corgan ever found themselves in Mercury’s shoes. But Queen’s music was always primarily a vehicle for escapism and fun rather than self-analysis and introspective gloom.

So even when the mood darkens, there is always a touch of bravado in the words and a bristling aura of invincibility about Queen’s music. The title track is a stately mid-tempo number which finds Mercury looking towards a doubtful future with firm resolve. ‘I’m playing my role in history / Look to find my goal / Taking in all this misery / But giving it all my soul’. The rhythm section rivets the beat to the floor in typically arthritic fashion, while May peppers any potential gaps in the arrangement with Flash Gordon-type bursts of ornate, multi-tracked guitar.

‘Let Me Live’ takes as its springboard the chorus line of Emma Franklin’s hit ‘(Take A Little) Piece Of My Heart’ (also famously covered by Janis Joplin) and turns it into a gospel choir-assisted tour de force. Again, mixed emotions pull the song to and fro, but the ultimate effect is one of boundless energy and uplift. ‘Please let me live / And make a brand new start’, Mercury pleads - and with music like this on his side, you almost believe it could happen.

Only on two tracks do we find Mercury staring finally and unequivocally over the edge of the abyss. The first is a remake of the hideous Brian May hit ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’. Doubtless, it is not intended as a song of censure, but even sung by Mercury himself, the line which goes ‘The pain will make you crazy / You’re the victim of your crime’ still sounds like somebody’s sick idea of a recrimination. Some resonances are simply too strong to ignore, no matter how many times the ‘real’ meaning of a song is explained.

The real show-stopper, however, is ‘Mother Love’. Recorded just weeks before he died, it’s a mournful, minor-key song, with a sparse, bluesy arrangement, steered by a lonesome slide guitar. Here at last, Mercury allows a chink of light to fall on his terrible sadness. ‘I’m a man of the world and they say that I’m strong / But my heart is heavy and my hope is gone’.

Thanks to some questionable creative tampering, the song ends with a snatch of Mercury leading an enormodome crowd in one of his famous singalongs, and then a sample of him singing ‘I think I’m going back’ - the opening line of the Goffin / King song - which he recorded in the early 1970s under the alias of Larry Lurex. The final sound, a baby crying, is a dramatic touch too many. But then Queen have never exactly been renowned for the subtlety of their vision, and what would come across as the most ludicrous bathos in anyone else’s hands hits approximately the right note here.

So there it is. Ten new tracks (and one reprise). No filler. No shame. An essential purchase for Queen fans, certainly, but even without its special significance, ‘Made In Heaven’ is probably a better album than Innuendo and a fitting swan song by one of the most incandescent groups in rock. ‘Made In Heaven’ is also the last musical will and testament of a star who was never going to be turned into a saint, but whose grandstanding performances were, right to the very end, always marked by reckless enthusiasm and a rare generosity of spirit.”

David Sinclair
Q Magazine - December 1995

The king is dead and this is his final will and testament. Infused with poignancy, haunted by spectres of Bacchanalian payback, occupied by extravagant overtures, down-the-line drivetime rock, and produced to within an inch of its 72-track digital life, ‘Made In Heaven’ is the definitive article. The best progressive rock album ever? Could be.

....Made in Heaven will suck you in and spit you out in tiny converted pieces. There’s more chance of the moon being made of cheese than anyone being unmoved or unfazed by this towering totem pole of an album.

It’s near impossible to judge the very last wild times, the ultimate embrace of fate, the termination of a regal brotherhood, the final unsuppressed falsetto surges of the last red-hot sinner within the context of an album by a mega platinum prog outfit closer to paladins of pomp than inspired guns or hire - but this is how he chose to close his time and it’s Freddie’s dime.

Across a chattering dawn chorus and stealthily ascending sci-fi strings, Freddie Mercury opens the chapter that closes the book defiantly. ‘It’s a beautiful day’, he openly plies little white lies, ‘the sun is shining, I feel good and nothing is gonna stop me now. Mamaaa....’ He holds the last note as a direct reference to the group’s biggest hit and breezes, wheezes and eases through the intro, saving himself to stamp life into the title track - a classic Queen composition stacked with burning guitar lines, trail-blazing operatic swoops and dramatic crescendos built on pounding kick drums. ‘Let Me Live’ surges skyward like Jack’s beanstalk, bursting through the clouds on gospel driven glory. It reaches the roof and billows out, smoking like highway-cruising, gas-guzzling stadium rock. And everywhere, this is a record unafraid to select and steal from Queen’s past to illustrate a point in this, the midnight hour.

‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ and ‘Mother Love’, a May / Mercury song with Freddie’s final vocal track, are elegiac paeans and poems - majestic maelstroms of sound, even without their obvious pertinence. The latter, in particular, conjures compulsive narratives on hand-picked curls of guitar and loaded atmospheres, while ‘You Don’t Fool Me’ ploughs a lonely furrow - sole confirmation of Queen’s groovier side.

I run out of tissues and dry eyes in the house before remembering that Queen were nothing if not big fun. However much you laughed at them, a part of you inevitably rejoiced with them. There is not much to laugh at on this album, and perhaps not even time will change that. In future, nothing we say or do will deter the worthy - but dull - disciples May, Taylor and Deacon from consorting with two-bit TV actresses and passing out dour, operatic piffle under the banner. But a least we’ll have something to laugh at. The Queen is dead.

Amrik Rai
Ikon Magazine - December 1995

Very much a bitter-sweet experience as the late Freddie Mercury sings lyrics so poignant they’re wincing. This was recorded in the months leading up to his death four years ago. An emotional intensity and honesty gives it a superior edge.

Spencer Bright
Daily Mail - Friday 3rd November 1995

DYNAMITE WITH A LASER BEAM

Frankly, the impending battle of the Bands with Dead Singers is not alluring. But while the regrouped Beatles have been forced to work with some pretty scant contributions from John Lennon, the remaining members of Queen were bequeathed a generous album’s worth of surprisingly full-blooded performances by Freddie Mercury.

Mercury wrote and recorded his parts in the 16 months between the end of the ‘Innuendo’ sessions in the summer of 1990 and his death in October 1991. Although aware of the limited time left to him, he threw himself into the project with typical zest. Certainly, there is no discernible loss of range or power in his voice on the exuberant ‘I Was Born To Love You’ or the soaring, pseudo-gospel chant of ‘Let Me Live’.

...’Mother Love’, Mercury’s last recording, is a song of heartfelt pathos: ‘I can’t take it if you see me cry / I long for peace before I die’.

Despite its overdue delivery, ‘Made In Heaven’ stands up remarkably well as the closing chapter in a spectacular pop odyssey.

David Sinclair
The Times - Friday 3rd November 1995

BLAST FROM THE PAST: A LITTLE THING LIKE BEING DEAD WON’T PREVENT FREDDIE MERCURY FROM BEING IN THE RUNNING FOR A CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE.

....He was determined to spend his last few months working, and went into the studio to do his bit for ‘Made In Heaven’ in the same manner he had with every other Queen recording. Sometimes he was so ill he could barely stand, but he pressed on preparing his last hurrah. Why? Because all creative output is an attempt to cheat mortality. In knowing he had less than six months to go from the moment he entered the studio, Mercury was merely working on a more condensed timetable than most artists. His knowledge of the imminence of his death has charged several of the tracks with an emotional resonance which will stick in the memory of Queen fans, if not in the craw of their detractors. ‘I’m a man of the world and they say that I’m strong / But my heart is heavy and my hope is gone’ you can hear him singing on ‘Mother Love’: to which, whatever side you are on, the only reaction is - ‘Blimey!’

Far from being anxious to cash in on the death of their singer, the other members of Queen felt uneasy about putting the finishing touches to the record after Mercury’s demise - hence the four-year gap before they could bring themselves to do anything with it. Now they have, the line they are pushing is: it was what he wanted.

Jim White
The Independent Weekend - Saturday 4th November 1995

QUEEN RECALL THE KING OF KITSCH

A poignant collection of songs recorded by Freddie Mercury in the last weeks of his life.

....’Made In Heaven’ is Queen’s most personal record; it reveals more of Mercury than any of their previous 19 releases. But it is unlikely that any of the new songs will enter the national lexicon as have ‘We Are The Champions’ (routinely sung at sporting events) or ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ (boorishly roared out in ITV’s ‘Gladiators’). Quite often, as on ‘My Life Has Been Saved’ or ‘A Winter’s Tale’, the new work is mawkish and treacly.

But it is impossible to forget that these were Mercury’s last recordings and, on listening to ‘Heaven For Everyone’ and the standard ‘Mother Love’, impossible not to realise that he understood as much. For a Queen song, the latter is untypically sombre, and all the more touching for that.

Mercury sings brilliantly, despite his illness. His operatic range is intact, while he fights shy of cod-pomp. As Jim Beach, Queen’s manager, says: ‘Mother Love, written by Brian and Freddie, was his last-ever vocal, and it is very poignant. But however frail he was physically, his voice was superb. He was at his peak.’

It is this, ultimately, which makes ‘Made In Heaven’ much more than just a ghoulish money-spinning device.

‘He was fairly light-hearted about it’, Brian May says. ‘He said, I’ll do anything I can. Just write me more words, more words.’

‘Of course, you never knew what was going to be the last bit, so you did just another bit and another and another. And we had some great times, we really did.’

Caspar Llewellyn Smith
The Daily Telegraph Arts & Books - Saturday 4th November 1995

Presumably the first album produced by Ouija board. It’s four years since King Freddie swapped mike stand for heavenly harp, but that hasn’t stopped the rest of the lads stitching his vocals to their musicianship and coming up with a ‘new’ album. Despite the irony of some titles, ‘Let Me Live’ and ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’, this is very much a celebratory album of booming ballads (Queen the glam rockers are more dead than our Fred), with Mercury’s cryogenically preserved voice soaring over what sound like endless Ford motor ads. Definitely for Freddie fans.

AR

If it were anyone else, you’d think that calling a collection of songs recorded in the last days before the lead singer died ‘Made In Heaven’ was a positively sick thing to do. With a band who’ve always been about the grand gesture, about the rock passion and the theatrical drama, however, the fans will know it’s exactly the sort of thing Freddie Mercury wouldn’t have any other way. Recorded at the band’s studio in Montreux in the months between completion of their last album ‘Innuendo’ and the point at which Mercury returned to London to die in November 1991, ‘Made In Heaven’ is the result of Mercury’s wish that the band have the best of him until the very end.

That his voice is so rich and strong on this album more than justifies this record which is, remarkably, far from the ghoulish mistake that releases of this nature can easily become. As ever, Brian May’s screaming guitar licks struggle to equal the grandeur of Freddie’s performance; numbers like ‘Let Me Live’ and ‘Heaven For Everyone’ managing to make flying bricks seem genuinely subtle, while the ‘what will be, will be’ content of so many of the lyrics, especially on his - Freddie’s - last performance, ‘A Winter’sTale’, will probably be the poignant footnote Queen fans have wish for.

Laura Lee Davies

 

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