After some poking and prodding by a couple friends of mine, I'm finally getting around to reviewing their album requests. I'm picking The Miracle first because I listened to it more recently, and my thoughts on it are a little more organized.
I really like this album, but I also feel ambivalent about it. On one hand, it has some really great tracks, but it also doesn't hold up as well as other Queen albums, in my mind. This could very well be due to Brian and Roger's solo projects going on at the time, and Freddie having put so much energy into Barcelona the year before (Phoebe's book says that Barcelona took a really significant toll on Freddie's declining health). This is all purely speculation, of course, but it sounds better than my other speculation, "we just said 'fuck it' and rushed through the entire album."
For several years, I'd skip over Party and Khashoggi's Ship when listening. They didn't add anything particularly special for me for years, and I considered them fillers keeping me from getting to the better stuff. But I'm starting to listen to them more, and I'm able to appreciate Brian's guitar work on them. They're still not my favorites, but as far as 'throw-away' tracks go, they're two of the better ones.
The Miracle is a really spectacular track. Not just because of the awesome video - that's just icing on the cake for me. But I love the layers and detail of it. And the message in it is optimistic without being hokey. Around News Of The World, as many of us can tell, the band eased up on the subtle intricacies, and this is sort of going back to that. Although it's a little sad that it's a drum machine and not Roger. I wonder if Freddie had done a demo, and he and Roger agreed that it didn't warrant a do-over on an actual kit?
While this,Innuendo, and Made In Heaven, in a few cases, had all tracks credited to Queen, rather than an individual member, Brian and Roger aren't shy about who wrote what later track. Also, in many cases it's easy to determine the writer based on their writing style (ex: Usually, if the chorus is sung first by only the lead vocalist, and then backing vocals come up when the chorus repeats [Teo Torriate, I Want It All, Save Me, The Show Must Go On etc.], it's a Brian track). I only know for sure that Freddie wrote The Miracle, though, because Brian said so in Days Of Our Lives.
I love both the album and single version of I Want It All, which rarely ever happens (another example being Hammer To Fall). It's very structurally well done and is really fucking hard to play on Rock Band!
Instrumentally, I think my most favorite part is the acoustic guitar. Don't ask me why, because I have no idea.
Depending on my mood, my opinion of The Invisible Man shifts from "This is awesome!" to "Meh." Being three years old in Middle America at the time of The Miracle's release, I didn't have the opportunity to appreciate it at the time, and I think that makes a difference. However, the bass line will always be badass.
The frustrating thing about Breakthru is that the intro (originally intended to be its own thing until someone decided that it would sound great in this super catchy thing Roger was writing) is deceptively difficult to sing along to! Apart from that, there is nothing I dislike about the track. Hell, I don't even mind that science got in the way of making The Miracle Express look like it was busting through a brick wall!
I'm probably going to get shit for this from my counterpart, but I have the same overall mood shift with Rain Must Fall as with The Invisible Man. I'm trying to think of what in particular makes me fall out of like with it sometimes, but I don't know if I can articulate it to myself, much less to anyone reading. Maybe it's the lyrics?
Brian stated on the commentary for Greatest Video Hits 2 that Scandal would wind up being relevant to every member of the band at different points for different reasons. It's really funny how that can happen, isn't it? These days, tabloids and "news" sources have more tools, methods, and outlets to skew and intentionally defame famous people, so if this song were written today, Brian would probably be dismissed as "whiny" before the public goes back to putting celebrities on trial for getting divorced, or going to rehab or whatever. Because these sorts of things are difficult enough for "regular" people, they have to be broadcast nation/worldwide if you're in the public eye! Ask me how I really feel!
*Ahem!* But anyway! It's disappointing that this track didn't at least musically make a significant dent. And as much as I love Freddie's look in the video, the concept and direction are both pretty sloppy. I don't think it could have been helped, but it is nonetheless distracting.
I always giggle a bit over My Baby Does Me. I mean, it couldn't have been more "late 80's/early 90's porn-y" if it tried! I keep picturing big hair and a camera panning to a tacky fireplace that then fades to stock footage of sexual metaphors. Because it would probably really only be appropriate for some softcore thing you can only catch at 02:00 in the morning on a premium cable channel.
(Am I going to Hell for that? Probably!)
Was It All Worth It is bittersweet for me. It's triumphant, but sounds kind of 'final'. Like a precursor to The Show Must Go On. I'm not sure if this was intentional, or if that's something that was kicking around for a bit anyway (Brian had gotten the idea for I Want It All in 1986). I don't want to know anyone who doesn't like this song. I know that's imposing my opinion on people, but the thought of someone saying it's terrible is criminal to me.
On the 1991 CD releases, Hang On In There and Chinese Torture aren't listed as B-sides. I thought they'd been included on the album itself from the beginning, but my 2011 CDs say otherwise. I do love them both, though. The ending of Hang On In There seems like it could go on forever, kind of like Spread Your Wings, and I'd be pretty okay with that. And Chinese Torture doesn't sound too similar to Brighton Rock (which I think had come from the Smile track, Blag). So both of them are pretty big wins in my book!