Monthly Archives: September 2014

Review: QUEEN – Let Me In Your Heart Again / There Must Be More To Life Than This / Love Kills

© Universal Virgin EMI

© Universal Virgin EMI

When Freddie Mercury passed away in 1991, he left behind two decades of impeccably honed work which pushed the boundaries of studio possibilities in an age when ProTools could only be dreamt of. With a voice that could send shivers down spines, even when illness took its toll, he remains one of the quintessential frontmen of rock.

Having peddled their wares on tour with the legendary Paul Rodgers and the not-so-legendary Adam Lambert, remaining Queen band members Brian May and Roger Taylor (John Deacon having retired in 1997), have turned their attention to a handful of archive materials featuring their late friend to front a new compilation of love songs, Queen Forever.

Two of these feature familiar performances for anyone with a knowledge of Mercury’s solo output. Most notably, There Must Be More To Life Than This, a track from his 1985 album Mr Bad Guy, was demoed with Michael Jackson in the early 80s, but left unfinished. A bootleg of these sessions has been doing the rounds for years, but locating the original tapes, the song is now reworked into a fully fledged duet.

It almost works. Mercury and Jackson sing their hearts out, but the overly busy mix from William Orbit buries them under a cacophony of guitars, and Jackson himself is left out of the first half of the track, making his appearance feel somewhat of an intervention, rather than an equal partnership.

Much better, is the ballad reworking of Mercury’s collaboration with Giorgio Moroder, Love Kills. The track was a top ten hit back in 1984, and featured uncredited contributions from Brian, Roger and John all along, so it has long been a Queen song in all but name by diehard fans. And indeed, it has survived (and indeed thrived) in a variety of remixes whenever Mercury’s solo work has been revisited for new compilations.

Something about this song works in all of its iterations, even when they’re a little clunky – like this new mix. The track is changed so much, yet Mercury’s vocal is set in stone – with one particular line sounding particularly awkward forced into the new mix. The middle section allows some of the original instrumentation to break through, but it soon fades as the track limps on to a slightly anaemic pomp rock finale.

Finally, is the first chance to really hear new Freddie Mercury vocals, with the long rumoured Queen recording of Let Me In Your Heart Again. The track was recorded in the mid 80s, but abandoned and later reworked by Brian May as a song for his wife, Anita Dobson: indeed, she released it as a long forgotten single in 1988.

Musically, this is far superior to Brian’s later reworking, and while Freddie’s demo vocals are crisp but straining in places, when it clicks, it really clicks in that classic Queen way. Stronger backing vocals may have bolstered the mix, but the main rush here is simply hearing that incredible voice singing something new again, which hasn’t been possible since The Solo Collection cleaned out his archive in 2000.

All in all, though, these tracks don’t quite live up to the hype, but are simply serviceable reworkings designed to sell a new compilation. I’m sure they’ll do just fine, but it’s the original tracks on the album that will really have listeners reaching for it once the rush of new Queen material has died down.

Queen Forever is released on November 10th, with at least one of these tracks pencilled in for single release before then.



Review: Dog Fashion Disco @ Camden Barfly, 05.09.14 / 06.09.14 / 07.09.14

© Dog Fashion Disco

© Dog Fashion Disco

Dog Fashion Disco are loved. Unequivocally. There may be bands commanding grossly inflated audience numbers in comparison, and they will almost certainly never be headlining stadiums, but the loyalty they engender from the devoted crowds assembled at Barfly this weekend worshipping every note cannot be underestimated.

This was only the second time DFD have graced the UK with their presence (after a record company sponsored promo trip in 2001), though that is not a choice they made lightly. These shows have only happened thanks to the gift of crowdfunding, with the diehards raising $88,000 to make a new album (Sweet Nothings, released back in July), a music video and a trip to London. And even then, there’s the sense they’re skinting themselves to make this happen for the fans.

Those fans include people from all across Europe, and further still: one fan came all the way from Iran, no less. With such a build up, could what happened on stage live up to the wait?

The short answer is yes. And then some. The six man line up – vocalist Todd Smith, guitarist Jasan Stepp, bassist Brian White, drummer John Ensminger, keyboardist Tim Swanson and saxophonist Matt Rippetoe are note perfect across the three nights and various genres they inhabit, appearing as their own support acts (and side projects) Polkadot Cadaver and El Creepo, as well as DFD itself.

Set lists varied material from over a dozen studio albums each night, with Friday favouring the more experimental, singalong side of their work, Saturday focusing on the heavier numbers and Sunday aiming somewhere inbetween. That the band relearned 60 tracks for this run is no mean feat, and the crowds lapped it up, singing along to every word, bouncing and moshing in complete harmony.

In fact, the whole experience was one of warmth, from the band’s willingness to be out front to meet fans, to total strangers bonding in the audience as if they had known each other for years. Everyone seemed so surprised the band were here, presumably for one time only, and appeared to want to make the most of it: so much so that by Sunday Todd was telling everyone he could he wants to come back every year.

And not a soul would complain if they did. The sooner the better.