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Out the door, Innuendo...
Innuendo - Queen
Member Name: cheffrey
Innuendo - Queen
Advantages: Remarkable performances, some strong tracks
Disadvantages: Too many sub-par songs
Queen were one of the very first bands I was ever aware of, hearing them at a very young age and they left a permanent impression upon me. And even though I was only 9 years old when Freddie Mercury died, it also made a lasting impression on me. Having recently found a box of Queen album's that appeared when I recently moved house, it was nigh time to give it another spin, as I remember enjoying it a lot as a kid.
This album opens with an immense anthem, one of Queen's best songs in my opinion. The title track is an epic replete with Eastern-sounding modes and scales, reminiscent in a way of Rainbow's 'Gates of Babylon' or Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir'. Queen were always at their best when throwing everything at the mixing desk and wearing out the tapes with layers of overdubs, and this is no exception. The band are on fine form, with Roger Taylor crashing his way round the percussion, Brian May conjuring some sonic majesty and mystery from his guitar, and Mercury being unmistakeable and inimitable as ever. It's even more remarkable as at this point in his life, Mercury was suffering from all the effects of AIDS, and it was evident from the music videos at the time, and subsequent documentaries, that he was in a lot of pain and very fatigued by his ordeal. With that in mind, his vocal performances are even more outstanding.
'I'm Going Slightly Mad' is a fun bit of camp melodrama, probably better rememberd for its quirky video featuring Brian May turning into a penguin in a manner identical to that of Ford Prefect's penguinification in Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's not as memorable as the stirring opener, but it's a bit of fun that finishes just as it's getting irritating. Unfortunately, things nosedive and don't recover for quite a while. 'Headlong' is a fast rocker by numbers, and I always struggle to remember it. 'I Can't Live With You' is better, although it really is the definition of half-baked. The multi-tracked chorus and intermittent soaring vocals and guitar are great, but it's ruined by a totally insipid verse with the naffest lyrics they've ever penned - and that's saying something for a band that released a song called 'Ogre Battle'.
Side two, as was back in the day, is a bit more introspective. 'All God's People' is an out-of-charater attempt at gospel, and although Mercury's voice is still a versatile tool up to the job, it feels like more of a dry run for the type of stuff that would turn up on their final album 'Made in Heaven' (I don't count that abomination with Paul Rodgers as a Queen album, I refuse to). 'These Are The Days of Our Lives' is a touching song, a bit cheesy in its sound and production, but most memorable as the final video appearance of Mercury before he departed, leaving his fans with the words 'I still love you'. Even more of a tear-jerker is the closing track 'Show Must Go On', which rivals 'Who Wants to Live Forever' as their most moving song. Again though, there are forgettable or misguided moments, such as the really sterile rock song 'The Hitman', and a song written by Mercury as a tribute to his favourite cat, 'Delilah', with Brian May making his guitar sound like a tabby on heat. It sounds utterly ridiculous of course, and the rest of the band hated it, but could anyone deny a dying man such a wish? 'Bijou' is a delightfully short number that segues into 'The Show Must Go On', featuring some liquid playing from May.
In all, it is surprising that this album managed to exist at all, given just how ill Mercury was at the time of writing and recording. It has some genuinely moving moments, given the conditions under which it was recorded, and some real moments of emotive power and atmosphere as well. Yet there are too many half-baked songs or forgettable ones, and its potential is let down by them. The gospel moments seemed to hold a bit of promise, and was a theme largely continued on the posthumous 'Made in Heaven' to greater effect and having more maturity than the rock songs. Listening to this now some twenty years later with a more critical ear, it is easy to see why I enjoyed it, but equally a lot of it hasn't stood the test of time. The artowrk is ace though, with the band liberally using the work of French surrealist cartoonist Grandville to their own end. And the singles released from the album got the same treatment too, with extra artwork that can't be found elsewhere, making collecting them all the more fun/infuriating (delete as appropriate).
It's a bold effort, and one that must be listened to in context, but it suffers from too much polarity of excellence to mediocrity and below. Worth a buy if you like Queen, if you're a casual fan, you'll own the best songs on any of their comprehensive greatest hits compilations.
Summary: A mixed bag, but a very noble effort given the context