Monday, 31 May 2010

Kayak - Act of Despair [Single] (2006)

1. Act of Despair
2. The Inquisition [New Edit Version]
3. The Fate of Man

An act of despair? – 7,5/10

To release this single from the Nostradamus musical from all the other songs, was that an act of despair? Perhaps. Although the musical contained a lot of single-worthy material, there’s no surprise the old symphonic rockers chose this very song to promote their album. It pretty much sums up Kayak as a band and it features Edward Reekers, the man who sung on the big hit “Ruthless Queen”. What better promotion is there? If fans who disbanded the band when Heerink joined would have heard this on the radio they would certainly need to come back to the band instantly.

Yes, I am convinced “Act of Despair” was the proper track to be released as a single. It’s a beautiful piano ballad with a slightly sad tone featuring our beloved Edward Reekers on vocals and boy he can still sing those ballads with so much passion. A really fine guitar solo by Joost Vergoossen adds the finishing touch to another Kayak classic. It’s accompanied by two b-sides. The first is a new edit version of “The Inquisition” with Rob Vunderink on vocals. I never was struck by the album version, but all this version seems to change is to shorten the Gregorian chants in the middle. The vocal performance is great; the riff is great; but the finishing is poor. The chorus lacks a lot of originality in the chorus, which just ruins the song. The second b-side is “The Fate of Man” with Cindy Oudshoorn on main lead vocals. It’s a good epic ballad with a sad tone and concludes the single release well. It’s quite funny they chose to add three songs each featuring one of the three remaining vocalists on the lead vocals. This single was probably released by the time the tour was over and Bert Heerink had left the band to record with his sister.

All in all, this is a good single. Though the b-sides may not be all that original, it’s good song material for two-third anyways, and it will do well to promote the album and the band’s current status. Highly recommended for those who collect Kayak singles.

Queen + Paul Rodgers - Return of the Champions (2005)

1. Reaching Out
2. Tie Your Mother Down
3. I Want to Break Free
4. Fat Bottomed Girls
5. Wishing Well
6. Another One Bites the Dust
7. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
8. Say It's Not True
9. '39
10. Love of my Life
11. Hammer to Fall
12. Feel Like Makin' Love
13. Let There Be Drums
14. I'm in Love with my Car
15. Guitar Solo
16. Last Horizon

1. These Are the Days of Our Lives
2. Radio Ga Ga
3. Can't Get Enough
4. A Kind of Magic
5. I Want it All
6. Bohemian Rhapsody
7. The Show Must Go On
8. All Right Now
9. We Will Rock You
10. We Are the Champions
11. God Save the Queen

Champions? What champions? – 6,5/10

After more than eighteen years, Brian May and Roger Taylor dare to tour under the name of Queen again, this time with Paul Rodgers replacing Freddie Mercury and Danny Miranda from Blue Öyster Cult replacing John Deacon. The first question you will ask, is this still to be called Queen? My answer will be, NEVER! Queen was a famous quartet of four great musicians and the loss of two of them cuts them in half, and half a queen does not equal Queen. And this Paul Rodgers guy is good at what he does, but not at aping Freddie Mercury. Can this album be saved?

Oh well, there is ambience alright. From the beginnings of Paul Rodgers’ vocal yearnings in “Reaching Out” all the way to the familiar outro of “God Save the Queen” the crowd feels the music and responds to it perfectly. Speeches are all intact, but there’s one thing missing. I know it is comparing apples to pears, but Queen just is not the same without Freddie Mercury as a frontman and John Deacon seemed to be the only one of the three remaining members to understand that. Paul Rodgers has to squeeze out some notes in “Tie Your Mother Down”, which sounds just terrible and Brian May gets an acoustic solo suite with “’39” and “Love of my Life”, which is just too boring. Roger Taylor’s “Say It’s Not True” is a new song to be released as an electric version on the upcoming album The Cosmos Rocks, and sounds remarkably better than May’s solo section. The version of “Hammer to Fall” is surprisingly nice, on the other hand. It was done before in Brian May’s solo concerts, but not with Queen. It begins as a ballad and later explodes. It’s a nice duet between Rodgers and May as well. Another great addition to the setlist is “I’m in Love with my Car”. And mixed with the familiar Queen songs are some songs of bands Paul Rodgers once was a member of (think Free and Bad Company). These songs are downright BORING. They are waaay bluesier than the Queen tracks, and therefore aim for a different audience. In other words, they don’t mix. Last, there’s a solo track by Brian May added, “Last Horizon”. Why Roger Taylor always takes it that his solo material never makes it to Queen setlists or Queen greatest hits compilations is beyond me.

No, this live album is not bad, but don’t expect something in the league of Live at Wembley ’86. Paul Rodgers is NOT Freddie Mercury, that’s something to remember. This is NOT Queen the way we know them, and these people are not the champions whose return we awaited. Recommended to collectors only.

Highlights: “Say It’s Not True”, “Hammer to Fall” and “I’m in Love with my Car”.

Kayak - Nostradamus - The Fate of Man (2005)

1. The Secret Study 1
2. Overture
3. Friend of the Stars 1
4. Celestial Science
5. The Student
6. Dance of Death 1
7. Fresh Air, Running Water, Rose Pills
8. The Monk's Comment 1
9. Seekers of Truth 1
10. Dance of Death 2
11. Save my Wife
12. The Monk's Comment 2
13. Pagan's Paradise
14. The Inquisition
15. The Wandering Years
16. The Monk's Comment 3
17. If History Was Mine Alone
18. Friend of the Stars 2

1. A Man With Remarkable Talents
2. Settle Down
3. The Monk's Comment 4
4. The Flying Squadron
5. Dance of Mirrors
6. A Royal Invitation
7. A Cruel Death + The Monk's Comment 5
8. Tell Me All
9. The Tournament
10. The Golden Cage
11. Seekers of Truth 2
12. Living in Two Realities
13. Act of Despair
14. The Secret Study 2
15. The Centuries
16. (You Won't Find Me) Alive at Sunrise
17. Friend of the Stars 3
18. Epilogue - The Fate of Man

From Rock Opera to Musical... – 6,8/10

I always like to think of Nostradamus as a rock opera gone out of hand; Scherpenzeel and Koopman’s enthusiasm that took the project too far. The success of Merlin – Bard of the Unseen probably caused them to go this far. They released another concept album; a double album. And this time it’s not 14 tracks of sheer brilliance, this time it’s 36 tracks with lots of tracks containing just some storytelling. A limited edition containing 12 tracks (or so) has also been released, for those who can’t stand musicals... maybe I should take a look at that.

The problem with this musical is not that it’s boring or badly composed; it’s just overlong. I love concept albums, but the problem with each and every single one of them is the unity as an album, thus making it almost impossible to single out standout tracks, since they’re all part of the album. At the time of release, I couldn’t really grasp this album. I have less trouble with it now, but it won’t be one of my favorites. There is a very large role-playing aspect to the album; Rob Vunderink takes care of all the enemies of Nostradamus; Bert Heerink plays Nostradamus; Cindy Oudshoorn (again) sings as Nostradamus’ second wife Anne Ponsarde; Monique van de Ster will star as the queen of France Catherine de Medici; Syb van de Ploeg plays the part of Jules Cesar Scaliger, Nostradamus’ friend and later enemy; and we see a returning Edward Reekers as a monk who comments on the story from heaven and is the storyteller. Apart from that, there are a few backing vocalists and Bert Veldkamp left the band so Ton Scherpenzeel plays bass here. Not that it matters; I hardly noticed Veldkamp’s bass playing anyway.

The first CD starts off quite fresh, but soon becomes dull and uninspired, with a few exceptions. The musical is introduced with “The Secret Study”, featuring Edward Reekers on vocals for the very first time since 1981. “Friend of the Stars 1” is the true entrance of the cast with each party introducing themselves a bit in a verse in a cheery ode to Nostradamus. The atmospheric “Celestial Science”, which contains a great melodic guitar solo by Joost Vergoossen, begins in the youth of our seer and the uplifting pace in “The Student” with Vunderink on vocals promise us a nice journey. Both “Dances of Death” feature depressing and slow signs of the plague entering the city, but are oh so tempting to skip. The beginning of “Fresh Air, Running Water, Rose Pills” features organ and lead guitar, and soon evolves in a melodic and slightly epic rocker to show how Nostradamus thinks the plague must be fought. A few chit-chats by Reekers later Van de Ploeg makes his entrance in “Seekers of Truth 1”, whose instrumental theme sounds like a rip-off of ABBA’s “Supertrouper”. The song itself sounds more straightforward rock than others, but ends up without having anyone impressed. “Save my Wife” is a highlight of the first CD, being a sad piano ballad where Nostradamus’ first wife and children have died. Heerink portrays the man and his situation expertly; he sounds as if he’s almost crying, and that works contagiously. “Pagan’s Paradise” is an uplifting introduction to queen Catherine de Medici disguised in a synth-rock track with slight resemblance to “The King’s Enchanter”. Then “The Inquisition” features a nice Hammond riff and verses, but blows everything with lacking originality in the chorus and an annoying Gregorian chant in the break. The rest of this album is not worth mentioning or listening; they don’t get stuck in your head anyway.

The second CD also begins strongly and gets weaker. “A Man with Remarkable Talents” sounds like an 80s disco track with Vunderink really starring as a vocalist. Nostradamus gets married again in the romantic duet of “Settle Down”, a piano ballad with an epic touch and a wonderful guitar solo. “The Flying Squadron” increases the pace with a touch of up-tempo rock. Highlight here would be the instrumental “Dance of Mirrors”, featuring a violin in the main theme, a driving rhythm on the drums and a disarming theme. “A Royal Invitation” shows the quality of Kayak’s ballads and “Tell Me All” takes it all back to rock ‘n roll, though beginning with a piano intro. An instrumental depiction of battle later we have a great power ballad in “The Golden Cage” with Van de Ster shining on vocals. Later songs really focus on the pathos and are increasingly depressing. Better tracks are the classic Kayak ballad “Act of Despair”, classic mostly due to the familiar vocals of Edward Reekers, and the instrumental “The Centuries” with its uncommon rhythm and time signature. Tracks like “Living in Two Realities” tend to rock but just sound like one chaotic mess, partly good because that’s probably what Nostradamus’ head is like at that time in the story, but partly bad because it really lacks any hooks. The “Epilogue – The Fate of Man” is a good closing track, though I find it wanting to be as good as 2003’s “Avalon”, while it doesn’t even come close.

There you have it. I see this album does not work as an album. If performed as a musical, which Kayak did, it could be great and unforgettable, but as an album it bores halfway and just is too long. I never liked listening to musical CDs anyway, and this is a musical only performed for one year and without a DVD performance... If all we have of this musical is this album, then the memory WILL fade away. Recommended to advanced Kayak fans.

Strongest moments: “Save my Wife”, “The Golden Cage” and “Act of Despair”.
Weakest moments: “Dance of Death”, “The Inquisition”, “The Wandering Years” and “The Tournament”.

Queen - On Fire: Live at the Bowl (2004)

1. Flash
2. The Hero
3. We Will Rock You [Fast]
4. Action This Day
5. Play the Game
6. Staying Power
7. Somebody to Love
8. Now I'm Here
9. Dragon Attack
10. Now I'm Here (Reprise)
11. Love of my Life
12. Save Me
13. Back Chat

1. Get Down, Make Love
2. Guitar Solo
3. Under Pressure
4. Fat Bottomed Girls
5. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
6. Bohemian Rhapsody
7. Tie Your Mother Down
8. Another One Bites the Dust
9. Sheer Heart Attack
10. We Will Rock You
11. We are the Champions
12. God Save the Queen

Queen on Fire – 8,7/10

Hot Space is truly one of the oddest Queen albums and is not mixable with the other studio releases because it’s so different. This album, recorded on the Hot Space tour, shows us that these songs always sounded better in live. There’s still difference with the old songs of course, but they mix remarkably well with the older material. Apart from that the live album is filled with all the energy and games a real Queen concert must’ve had.

The crowd goes insane as the band finally enters with opening track “The Hero”, thereby concluding their Flash Gordon intro suite and they pump some adrenaline with the fast version “We Will Rock You”, which just never looses its power. There are the necessary Space-songs like “Action This Day” that are sounding surprisingly better with the louder guitars and the acoustic drums. The ambience is unbelievable on this album with Freddie Mercury making the listener of this concert feel as if he were there with his eyes closed. His games with the crowd are also never getting old. The setlist is also quite refreshing with more older songs included than on Live at Wembley ’86, like “Fat Bottomed Girls”, with the great harmonies of the Queen choir being great as well live, “Play the Game”, “Somebody to Love” and “Save Me”. To my regret “Get Down, Make Love” seemed to be a live favorite in those days, but it’s at least fun to hear the audience go crazy at the sounding of John Deacon’s famous bass notes.

Not much can be said about this album, except that it’s a great live album and once again shows that Queen is one of the greatest live bands ever. This live album especially is great because it finally contains more than just one song from Hot Space. I will highly recommend this album to every Queen fan; it is essential to your live collection.

Highlights: “We Will Rock You [Fast]”, “Staying Power”, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and "Somebody to Love".

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Kayak - Merlin - Bard of the Unseen (2003)

1. Merlin
2. Tintagel
3. The Future King
4. The Sword in the Stone
5. When the Seer Looks Away
6. Branded
7. At Arthur's Court
8. The Otherworld
9. The Purest of Knights
10. Friendship and Love
11. The King's Enchanter
12. Niniane (Lady of the Lake)
13. The Last Battle
14. Avalon

Kayak goes Rock Opera – 8/10

Now Rob Winter left the band and is replaced with soon-to-seem great guitarist Joost Vergoossen, thus leaving Kayak as unrecognizable to the older lineups. The reunion only lasted for one album since almost every lead instrument has seen multiple musicians (except for the keyboards of course). Especially after the estranging Night Vision I bet Kayak wanted to show the fans they were still Kayak and not just a Scherpenzeel/Koopman collaboration, so they took an old idea from the shelve. Remember the LP Merlin from 1981? They decided to take this story, rework all the old concept songs and include lots of new ones as well, thus creating their first rock opera ever. They even started dividing roles among the singers and hired Cindy Oudshoorn as a guest singer to play the role of Morgan LeFay. Promising, isn’t it?

This might all seem like a lame publicity stunt among the fans, but the funny thing is this trick does work and the band has become Kayak again. The fact that opening song “Merlin” is the same track as on the 1981 album is recognizable, albeit that this version is re-recorded and a true old-men’s version. It’s as slow as a snail but has a little more balls to it when it comes to solo guitars. Heerink’s vocals do not reach as powerful as Reekers, but we must not set too many demands and give Heerink a chance on the new songs. “Tintagel” has been transferred from piano ballad to synthesizer-atmospheric track and again lacks the strength of the original. “The Sword in the Stone” is actually a little improved. In the old version’s break we had a few barbarians shouting some words and cheering, but here we have Heerink singing the same words so we can hear what they are in a nice melody. “The King’s Enchanter” has been transferred from medieval panflute rocker to modern synth-guitar rocker with Oudshoorn singing it, which also makes a little more sense when looking at the story. “Niniane” did not change a great deal, except for the higher sound quality and the different vocals. It still holds all the magic it did when first released in 1981. The best thing about the album is that the new tracks have the same medieval atmosphere as the old tracks and mix quite well. Perhaps it was a good thing to change the things changed in the old songs just in order to make them sound better with the new ones.

Now the concept is complete and we finally know how Arthur came to die. The roles are Heerink as Merlin, Oudshoorn as Morgan and Vunderink as Mordred. This results in great duet songs of two enemies such as in “When the Seer Looks Away” or “The Last Battle”. Heerink and Oudshoorn take the roles of Lancelot and Guinevere for one song, which is the sweet little love ballad “Friendship and Love”. Oudshoorn soon proves to be able to sound very scary as Morgan in “When the Seer Looks Away”, as soon as the song explodes halfway. Vunderink gives us a taster of his voice on the fast-paced rocker “Branded”, filled with the anger of Mordred, but it all goes wild in his duet with Merlin in “The Last Battle”, an 8-minute epic with the war of words at first but soon the music will depict a true battle with both guitarists going wild in their solos and the wild themes flying in. The death of Arthur will be ‘celebrated’ in the closer “Avalon”, a very touching ballad which made me weep when heard for the first time. It once again features a duet between Merlin and Morgan, but this time without them being enemies. There are of course some other tracks worth mentioning. “The Otherworld” is another 8-minute epic (how does Kayak manage to get all their long songs last around 8 minutes?) disguised in a mysterious piece of progrock, featuring an intro of at least three minutes. An ode to the great adventures of the Knights of the Round Table is “The Purest of Knights”, featuring this heroic main theme and powerful knight-worthy vocals by our dearest Bert Heerink.

It’s a funny thing, really, how I came across this album for the first time. Someone once let me hear a cassette tape featuring Kayak’s 1981 album Merlin. I really liked it and decided to go and buy it. He never told me there were two versions of Merlin, so I got this one instead. It never disappointed me, except for the speed difference on the title track. Other than that this album is worth the price tag and the name Kayak. This was my first Kayak album, and I really recommend anyone who is curious to start with this one. It gives a good example of the more modern Kayak.

Strongest tracks: “When the Seer Looks Away”, “The Last Battle” and “Avalon”.

Kayak - Night Vision (2001)

1. Icarus
2. Miracle Man
3. Cassandra
4. A Million Years
5. Water for Guns
6. The Way of the World
7. Hold Me Forever
8. Tradition
9. All Over Again
10. Life Without Parole
11. How
12. Carry on Boy
13. Good Riddance
14. Rings of Saturn

Still Kayak, yet different – 7/10

After a very successful comeback it’s hard to hold on to that line of success, especially when you just changed vocalist. Really, for the first album after a success you need some good ideas to at least compensate for the lack of familiarity in sound. After all, the addition of second guitarist and backing vocalist Rob Vunderink, who also featured on the previous live release, also gives a whole new dimension to Kayak, and a whole different sound. Well, the ideas are present, but they’re not half as good as they should have been. Yet I don’t understand one thing of it. When I look at the tracks there’s always something positive to say for each track, yet as an album it doesn’t work. On this record, Kayak sounded a lot less like Kayak by sounding real solid and sometimes even heavy. Alright, now they got two guitarists they need both of them to play something, and there are two different vocalists in the band, so it’s not very surprising this sounds all different. The name Night Vision suits the album very well, as it might be Kayak, but looked at through night goggles and thus sounding different.

Night Vision begins with “Icarus”, a track somewhat like “Close to the Fire” as they both open with 8-minute mid-paced epics with their somewhat mysterious atmospheres. “Icarus” is a good way to open this album as well since it shows us some well-composed progrock and some powerful vocals by newbie Heerink. The piano (and later synth) accompaniment sounds a bit stressful and knowing what will happen to Icarus in the myths there an excellent attempt at making the lyrics come alive. Somewhere in the middle the song collapses a little and falls into a depressing and sad prayer for Icarus not to fly to close to the sun, which is again a great lyric-theme-cooperation. “Miracle Man” is a mid-paced heavy song and a pretty dragging one. Place a heavy guitar underneath the song and you’ll get a downright metal song. It’s a pretty killer track but sounds very unlike Kayak at any point. Again there’re sad and depressing breaks after each chorus, and don’t worry, we’ll see more of those on this album. There are a few ballads on the album that don’t really stand out and are thus labeled as filler. Under this category fall “A Million Years”, “All Over Again” and “How”. All three are good to hear, but none of them will get stuck in your head. Fourteen songs after all is a lot and obviously do not contain solely diamonds. However, ballads like “Cassandra” and “Hold Me Forever” have a lot more character, thus resulting in at least one of them being played live in later years.

We return back to rock ‘n roll songs with fast-paced tracks such as “Water for Guns” and “Life Without Parole”. The former stands out with its great contrast between verse and chorus; swinging staccato in the verses and chaotic symphonic rock in the chorus, where Rob Vunderink grabs a piece of the lead vocals. The latter of the two features a good guitar riff and a light atmosphere with again Vunderink sharing lead vocals with Heerink. The two voices do sound very well together. Lesser rock songs turn out to be almost total failures, such as “Good Riddance” and “The Way of the World”. While I really don’t mind brass being added to rock music, they do, believe it or not, totally ruin the kickass ambience a good rock track has. Both these songs suffer enormously from the addition of brass, albeit synthesizer-fake brass. Apart from that, the songs are not very nice either. In the middle of the album Pim Koopman presents us with another 8-minute song called “Tradition”. The guitar riff is downright awesome and the song itself turns out to be among the better ones on the album, if only the depressing break would’ve been omitted. The “boy wants girl, girl wants boy”-part is not very bad in itself, but it returns quite often and there’s actually not a valid reason for the song to last 8-minutes. In “Carry on Boy” and “Rings of Saturn” we see catchy and AOR melodies we would have never thought Kayak would write, or record. Funny enough, I like them. The melodies are somewhat catchy and cheap, but they are cheerier than most of the album’s ballads and carry a positive ambience with them. They are unique for Night Vision.

Having given these descriptions, I don’t think this is a bad album at all. Sure, it’s not Kayak the way you are used to them (with exceptions), but that’s no reason to discard this album. I would definitely recommend this album to those interested, unless you are getting to know Kayak for the first time.

Strongest tracks: “Icarus”, “Miracle Man”, “Water for Guns” and “Tradition”.
Weakest tracks: “How” and “All Over Again”.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Kayak - When Hearts Grow Cold [Single] (2001)

1. When Hearts Grow Cold (live)
2. See See the Sun (acoustic live)

Nothing to see here – 6/10

When a live album is not that great, it’s worth to be spat at, but when a live single lacks what the album lacks, it’s less of a deal. After all, here we have only two songs, so we’re not expecting anything, especially not because there are no new songs on the b-side.

We have two tracks taken from Chance For A LIVEtime, both with Heerink on vocals, who tries hard but can’t top the original vocalists on these classics. The performance of the band is quite fluently, there are no mistakes as far as I can hear. “When Hearts Grow Cold” is amazing in studio, but I fear this live version does not capture the same magic. The second voice added to the chorus quite decreased the beauty, even though they did try. The acoustic version of “See See the Sun” is quite nice, as it’s good to hear the multiple voices work quite well in live. So in fact these two tracks CAN make you have a good time for as long they last.

The big question is, why release this single? What is so great about the main song that it needs a single release? If you would release the studio version with Max Werner as a single, now that would make sense. It could even become a small hit. But this version just doesn’t add anything, doesn’t do anything stunning and in the end is just reduced to being essential for extreme completists, to which I would recommend this. If you’re not like such, then ignore the existence of this very item.

Kayak - Chance for a LIVEtime (2001)

1. Close to the Fire
2. Crusader
3. When Hearts Grow Cold
4. Mammoth
5. Wintertime
6. Periscope Life
7. Sweet Revenge
8. See See the Sun (Acoustic)
9. Anne (Acoustic)
10. Anybody's Child (Acoustic)

1. Two Wrongs (Don't Make a Right)
2. Forever
3. Merlin
4. Niniane
5. Chance for a Lifetime
6. Starlight Dancer
7. Ruthless Queen
8. Full Circle

Chance Wasted – 3/10

What better way to celebrate a successful comeback is there than to release a live album where the fans can enjoy the classics mixed with the new songs and a good live ambience? It would also be the first REAL live album by the band and definitely something to look forward to. That’s exactly what I thought when I got this double-disc album from the store after managing to decrease the price, which was a good thing, since this is not something you’d want to waste much money on.

Kayak is a great band, with great and unique vocalists, but this live album just doesn’t capture it. The first thing you’ll notice immediately is... where is Max Werner? During the tour Werner was backed up by ex-VanderBerg singer Bert Heerink, and halfway he left the band and Heerink fully replaced him as the singer of Kayak. He doesn’t sing awful, not at all. But there’s something missing as he sings Werner songs. Above all, why not add some material with Werner; there have to be some recordings. It all sounds like one edited piece of pie anyways. And that’s the second problem, which I really dislike at live albums. They once again cut out all the communicating with the audience; the songs aren’t even announced, never! In the liner notes Ton Scherpenzeel so praises playing live with Kayak again and especially mentions the interaction with the audience as one of the highlights. Well show us how you do that then. Don’t fade away after a song; just let Heerink do a speech ON RECORD. This ruins entire albums. Scherpenzeel’s notes add: “This is for you to relive the memory of the tour...” Well, how can we relive it when we are estranged by the singer and we don’t hear audience speeches? There’s no live atmosphere. For all we know this could be Eyewitness Part Two.

Here’s a reason why Kayak should include the speeches, even though they’re in Dutch. Not only do they give the impression we’re listening to a live concert and not a studio LP with clappings, but also do they show how Kayak interacts with the audience. I’ve been at Kayak concerts and the speeches and talks are mostly funny and very nice to hear. So far I’ve heard only one live album by this band that understands what a live release needs, but the other joy I had to have from bootlegs. Recommended? No way. No wonder this abomination has been out of print, no one ever listens to it.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Kayak - Dream Child [Single] (2000)

1. Dream Child
2. Starlight Dancer (live)

A Surprising Dream – 7,4/10

When you hear the entire Close to the Fire album, you start to wonder if some songs would’ve made it as singles... but not this song. It’s a good track, nevertheless, but a single has some things a single needs to be a successful single, but this song lacks those things. It’s not material for airplay, it’s not that catchy at all and it’s just too mellow. Apart from that, the song still is good, just not good as a single.

The A-side features “Dream Child”, a mysteriously arranged ballad about a kid that can’t sleep. That’s about it. It begins with plucking on a synth-drenched guitar and the commanding vocals of Max Werner. In this beginning it even threatens to become a really powerful song, but after a promising break the chorus stays in the gentle vibes and arrangements. The song is not bad at all, but not a chartbreaker and not immensely good as a stand-alone song. It’s an albumtrack, and keeps its power and charms when listened right after “When Hearts Grow Cold” and right before “Frozen Flame”.

The B-side is worth buying this single... the only official true live recording with Max Werner! “Starlight Dancer” is an old favorite and still stands as one of Kayak’s live classics, but no other vocalist can capture the essence of this song as well as Max Werner. There has not been any official Kayak live recording with Max Werner released before or after, so this makes it pretty special.

To conclude this review, if you are a Kayak collector, you should get this for the live b-side. If you are not a collector, then don’t bother searching for this single and you won’t find it either.

Kayak - Close to the Fire (2000)

1. Close to the Fire
2. When Hearts Grow Cold
3. Dream Child
4. Frozen Flame
5. Forever
6. Worlds Apart
7. Crusader
8. Two Wrongs (Don't Make a Right)
9. Anybody's Child
10. Here Today
11. Just a Matter of Time
12. Full Circle
13. Ruthless Queen [*]

The Great Comeback – 8,5/10

About eighteen years after the breakup of Kayak in 1982 there finally appears a new studio album in store. It features almost the same lineup as on Royal Bed Bouncer and The Last Encore, which is my favorite lineup. The only difference is the absence of Johan Slager, who has been replaced with Rob Winter, thus not recapturing the magical sound of that very lineup. Furthermore, this was an album many looked forward too, and I don’t think they would have been disappointed.

Present is once more the somewhat raw and unique voice of Max Werner, who preferred to drum on the last Kayak albums before the breakup rather than sing. But we all rather hear him sing and we are given the joy of hearing him on the studio record for the last time. Bassist Bert Veldkamp and drummer Pim Koopman have both returned to Kayak as well, and this rhythm section still sounds as enchanting and subtle as ever. And of course, the always present Ton Scherpenzeel never dropped the value of his compositions. New guitarist Rob Winter is not Johan Slager, but nevertheless plays very satisfying. We get to hear the very impressive entrance to the album in the epic title track, changing from the mysterious intro with cold winds all the way to the adventurous and epic feel in the chorus. Not to mention the great flute melody that almost makes the song. The melody of the vocals leaves a powerful impression, especially with the power Max Werner gives to them. He sounds a lot fuller and lower on this album than on previous Kayak releases with his voice. The interplay is also nothing but a sign that Kayak returned to their fans not to play, but to demonstrate they are really back and not only for a one-effort. The massiveness of the title track is not really mirrored in the other tracks on the album. However, they’ve got their own beauty. “When Hearts Grow Cold” is a sad song with mostly piano and Werner. Like Kayak can do so well, the melody is incredibly beautiful, original and catchy. It’s magical. Just close you eyes and listen to the crying guitar of Rob Winter in combination to the piano and Werner’s sad vocals.

The album does not consist solely of massive epics and magical ballads. Track like “Two Wrongs” or “Just a Matter of Time” are happy pop songs heard and dismissed before on the Periscope Life album. Apart from that I think I can say there’s really good material on here. “Dream Child” recaptures the mysterious feel of the title track with powerful commanding vocals by Werner. There’s a sad epic in “Frozen Flame”, which might as well be the finest track of the album. Again the crying guitar theme makes the song and recaptures that magical feel of “When Hearts Grow Cold”. When Kayak go up-tempo they often produce less-quality tracks like “Two Wrongs”, but “Forever” is a true exception. It reminds a bit of “Dream Child”, but certainly has an own face as there’s much more energy in this track. The tension is built up brilliantly and this results in a pretty good rock song. Ballads like “Worlds Apart” and “Here Today” don’t end up as good as the earlier ballads, but still are decent songs, with both another sad theme. That’s quite depressing actually; all songs seem to have a theme related to lost love and failed relations (with the exception of “Close to the Fire” and “Full Circle”). “Crusader” gets noticed because of its strong guitars in the intro, soon swept aside by the main panflute melody which adds a cool ambience to the song. Halfway the power of the crusader decreases and there comes a soft break with the guitar weeping gently. After a few tears shed by Winter we get back to the great mid-paced main theme. It’s a great song... only a pity they go back to the guitar-cry-part somewhere near the end... a bit of a nasty way to end the song.

Two gems a bit more near the end are the last of your ear-worthy tracks. “Anybody’s Child” was written by Pim Koopman and is slightly anthemic in the chorus. It recaptures the magic set by “When Hearts Grow Cold”, but in a more cheerful way. A bit of a light between the dark themes of all the other songs. “Full Circle”, the album closer, is among the best tracks of the album. It starts off with a bit of a Caledonian folk gentle part and soon evolves into a wild folk dance with the drummer having a lot of fun. Guitarist Andy Latimer from Camel makes an appearance here, and I guess he does the well-sounding folk melodies. There’s a bonus track added to every edition, which is a re-recording of their biggest commercial hit “Ruthless Queen”, with Syb van de Ploeg from De Kast on vocals. I always hated this version. Van de Ploeg does not sing it well at all. They should not have included it.

All in all, Close to the Fire does not rank up with Royal Bed Bouncer and The Last Encore, but is a damn good attempt at doing so. This album will belong to any Kayak fan’s top 5 without question. Highly recommended if you like Kayak.

Strongest tracks: “Close to the Fire”, “Frozen Flame” and “Full Circle”.
Weakest tracks: “Two Wrongs” and “Just a Matter of Time”.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Kayak - Close to the Fire [Single] (2000)

1. Close to the Fire [radio edit]
2. Close to the Fire [album version]

Extract from the Comeback – 8,5/10

About eighteen years after the breakup of Kayak in 1982 there finally appears a new studio album in store. The title track was chosen to be the first single. I don’t know whether they expected commercial success again, but I doubt this track, though a masterpiece, would’ve made it to the charts.

There are two tracks on this cardsleeve release. “Close to the Fire” and its radio edit. Since the non-edit version easily reaches the 8-minute mark, it’s not an odd decision to release a radio edit as well. First the album version. It starts off very mysteriously with some kind of storm coming up; later on atmospheric synthesizers join the adventure and Max Werner comes in with his unmistakably recognizable voice, making sure we’re listening to Kayak, and not one of Ton Scherpenzeel’s many projects since 1982. After a commanding first verse, everything falls silent and recorders take over to play an epic melody. And then the song has really started with the same cold and mysterious atmosphere that lasts all the way to the powerful chorus. This is progressive rock at its best. The radio edit cuts away the mysterious atmosphere by completely removing the intro and the first verse. We instead begin straight away with the flute melody, accompanied with powerful drums by Pim Koopman. And the length has been reduced to a little over four minutes, which means an incredibly large part has been removed. Ah well, luckily we’ve got the album version too, which really signifies Kayak is back and strong.

All in all, this promises a lot for the comeback album Close to the Fire. I would gladly recommend this single to you, but since it’s pretty rare and expensive you would rather get a copy of the full album instead (if you can even find that one). The radio edit is not that interesting anyway and is just a little goodie for the real collectors.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Queen - Greatest Hits III (1999)

1. The Show Must Go On (live)
2. Under Pressure (Rah mix)
3. Barcelona
4. Too Much Love Will Kill You
5. Somebody to Love (live)
6. You Don't Fool Me
7. Heaven for Everyone
8. Las Palabras de Amor
9. Driven by You
10. Living on my Own (remix)
11. Let Me Live
12. The Great Pretender
13. Princess of the Universe
14. Another One Bites the Dust (mix)
15. No One But You (Only the Good Die Young)
16. These Are the Days of Our Lives
17. Thank God It's Christmas

The Third Chapter... and still not the final – 6,5/10

And then Queen decide to release another greatest hits album with a few more singles released after Greatest Hits II. This album is said to be Queen+, with the plus standing for material from solo careers and guest singers, probably from the Freddie Mercury tribute concert. This does take away the reputation of a title called “Greatest Hits”, but it’s of course another nice compilation, hereby concluding the Greatest Hits series, even though there’s still life to Queen in the future, if only without Freddie and John.

How do you compile a greatest hits album if you don’t want to publish stuff from earlier hit compilations and you have only one new album with not nearly enough hits? Quite simple that is! We’re in the techno age, mind! You make a remix of one of Queen’s bigger hits: “Under Pressure”, but now it’s the “Rah mix”. Mostly the same as the normal song, but with a beat underneath and a firm remastering. And there are some lines twisted and the intro is different. Apart from that I guess it’s nice to hear once, but I prefer the old version. And of course “Another One Bites the Dust” has been given a new face of disgrace with a rapper added... Unlistenable... The original version was pretty boring, but now it’s just repulsive. Alright that’s two songs, but it doesn’t make a compilation album... Take four relatively successful tracks from Made in Heaven, “Let Me Live”, “Too Much Love Will Kill You”, “You Don’t Fool Me” and “Heaven for Everyone”. Let’s see... we forgot some tracks on the previous Greatest Hits release, “Princes of the Universe”, “Las Palabras de Amor”, “These are the Days of our Lives” and the holiday favorite “Thank God It’s Christmas”. That makes ten songs... how do we fill the other half of the album?

Did we release any non-album singles between 1991 and 1999? Yes we did! Remember that live recording from the Freddie Tribute concert? And so “Somebody to Love” with George Michael was added. I guess this version is kind of good. George Michael adds a whole different atmosphere to the song, but that’s good, as he’s being himself. Talking about live, wasn’t there something with Elton John in 1997? Now you mention it, let’s include it too. “The Show Must Go On” with decent but not great vocals was added. Brian, Roger and John were sitting around the table with six empty cups of coffee for hours and hours on and on. Were they ever going to fill this compilation album? Then Brian said:
“What if I...”
“No, Brian!” said Roger.
“But how else...?”
“We’ll find a way...”
They are already a bit moody as we fall in this conversation. Suddenly John spoke:
“Why not? If we’re still finding a way after six hours of coffee then I’m eating my hat I just bought.”
“Yeah,” adds Brian. “I mean, we won’t add a lot of them...”
What are they talking about, you think? They added material from their solo careers... Hits from Freddie Mercury such as “Barcelona” with Montserrat Caballé, Freddie's solo cover "The Great Pretender" and a special remix of “Living on my Own”, and a hit from Brian May known as “Driven by You”. I think this addition is very odd. Wasn’t this a Queen album? Of course, they’re just promoting this stuff, but why isn’t stuff from Roger’s solo career added as well? My humble opinion likes that a lot more than “Driven by You”.

Glad they dealt with this they stared at the current tracklist.
“Something’s missing...” said Brian thoughtfully.
“Yeah, something from my solo albums...” suggested Roger.
“No, I mean something that should be on here... I mean, would you buy this?”
“Not even if it was free. But hey, that’s the record company’s problem. It was their idea after all...”
“What if,” John tried, “we write a new song? I’m sure those silly fans are dying for unreleased Queen material!”
“Yeah,” said Roger. “Probably so... but writing together without Freddie just seems so unreal...”
“Then let’s make a song about Freddie and dedicate it to him! The last Queen song ever as a homage to our friend!”
“Good idea!” said Brian enthusiastically. “I’m starting right away!”
And so “No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)” was born. And boy that song is so beautiful, almost makes me cry. It features a rare sharing of Roger and Brian on vocals with so much emotion put in the creation and just is one of the most beautiful and sensitive Queen songs ever.

All in all, this is a bit of an odd compilation, worth buying only for “No One But You”, since it features only on other out of print compilations. But of course, there are a lot of alternatives to get the song... iTunes, buy the physical single or be very nice to your friend. If not, then this is for collector’s only.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Queen - Made in Heaven (1995)

1. It's a Beautiful Day
2. Made in Heaven
3. Let Me Live
4. Mother Love
5. My Life Has Been Saved
6. I Was Born to Love You
7. Heaven for Everyone
8. Too Much Love Will Kill You
9. You Don't Fool Me
10. A Winter's Tale
11. It's a Beautiful Day (reprise)

Heavenly – 8,5/10

After the release of Innuendo in 1991, Queen certainly did not do nothing. In the time remaining Freddie Mercury recorded as many vocal samples as he could for what would later become the posthumous release Made in Heaven. Whether it is ethically right or wrong to let a sick man give all his energy to vocals won’t be discussed here, only the result. And the result is nothing disappointing at all.

Where Innuendo was a bit dominated by the dark luring of the upcoming death, Made in Heaven focuses mainly on the beauty of afterlife, commonly believed to be heaven. There are also messages in the lyrics that reach further than just the simple “It’s a Beautiful Day”. Since this album is a bit of a reprise for Queen in the ways they existed, there are some familiar songs for people who explored solo careers. “Made in Heaven” itself was first released on Freddie Mercury’s solo album Mr. Bad Guy in 1985. They maintained the vocals but filled up the otherwise bland instrumental section. It now sounds like Queen. It has these powerful drums at the beginning and the strong guitar riff to make a difference to the 1985 version. “Heaven for Everyone” was first released on the album Shove It in 1988 by The Cross, a solo band of Roger Taylor. The Made in Heaven version also sounds a lot more filled up and a lot better than the 1988 version. “Too Much Love Will Kill You” was first released on Brian May’s solo album Back to the Light in 1992. A few re-recordings later and the Made in Heaven version was ready. It’s a very strong power ballad with a slight reference to the AIDS disease. Last, but not least, “I Was Born to Love You” also featured on Mercury’s Mr. Bad Guy, but as a dance song. Here, it is a fast-paced rock track and easily defeats the older version, as is the case with most re-recordings here. They have all been Queenified.

The genuine song material also does not disappoint. “Let Me Live” sounds like a bit of a gospel track with a rare lead vocal sharing by Freddie Mercury, Brian May AND Roger Taylor. Only for that this song is worth listening to a few times. “Mother Love” is a more sensitive ballad with Brian May singing a verse as well. It takes the theme to another level, like you are seeing your life fly backwards in front of your eyes. The ending is in that case even more fitting when you hear the baby cry. The end of the song is the beginning of a life. “My Life Has Been Saved” previously featured as a b-side to “Scandal” in 1989 but has also been reworked and has changed the otherwise lead guitar in the intro-melody to a calmer atmosphere with piano and mature synths. With its driving force and lyrics this song becomes one of my favorites off the album. “You Don’t Fool Me” is more of a dance track with its continuous beat-like backing track and vocals. It has a quite good guitar solo though. “A Winter’s Tale” is the last composition ever written by the late Freddie Mercury and is a great ballad with a slight swinging atmosphere. And of course there are the “It’s a Beautiful Day”’s. The first is the album intro with solely piano and vocals (and backing synths). Quite enjoyable I’d say, but there’s a party going on in the reprise version where they added a rock section to conclude the album, according to the tracklist. But the tracklist lies, there are hidden tracks! Track 12 features nothing but a sample of Mercury shouting “Yeah!”, but Track 13 is complicated. It’s a 22-minute piece of music of surprises and outbursts. It’s less loud than the rest of the album in terms of recordings, but worth listening to once or twice. There’s an interesting explanation about this song on wikipedia, if you’re interested.

All in all, Made in Heaven is a good Queen album. It’s not to be looked at as is looked at at A Night at the Opera or Hot Space, because it’s not a normal album. It’s the last studio album to feature Freddie Mercury’s voice and for that fact alone this album is worth having. Highly recommended.

Strongest tracks: “Let Me Live”, “Made in Heaven” and “My Life Has Been Saved”.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Queen - Live at Wembley '86 (1992)

1. One Vision
2. Tie Your Mother Down
3. In the Lap of the Gods
4. Seven Seas of Rhye
5. Liar/Tear it Up
6. A Kind of Magic
7. Under Pressure
8. Another One Bites the Dust
9. Who Wants to Live Forever
10. I Want to Break Free
11. Impromptu
12. Brighton Rock (solo)
13. Now I'm Here

1. Love of my Life
2. Is This the World we Created...?
3. (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care
4. Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)
5. Tutti Frutti
6. Gimme Some Lovin'
7. Bohemian Rhapsody
8. Hammer to Fall
9. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
10. Big Spender
11. Radio Ga Ga
13. We Will Rock You
14. Friends Will Be Friends
15. We Are the Champions
16. God Save the Queen

Queen’s First Complete Concert – 8,6/10

So far we have seen two Queen live albums released, both featuring heavy edits, removal of speeches and atmosphere and the fact that they are compilations. The release of Live at Wembley ’86 after the death of one of the greatest vocalists ever Freddie Mercury features none of that. For the first time we have an official live release featuring a whole concert without edits or removals. And now we can finally give a good judgement on Queen’s live performance.

The concert was the concert before the last concert ever with Freddie Mercury. It’s from the Magic Tour, so we would have to count on some songs from that album. And we get them. “One Vision”, “A Kind of Magic”, “Who Wants to Live Forever”... they mix up terribly well with older songs like “Seven Seas of Rhye”, “Tie Your Mother Down” or “Another One Bites the Dust”. Queen is fun to listen to in live. Even though songs like “I Want to Break Free” or “Another One Bites the Dust” are just boring me on the studio record, they’ve got the atmosphere here. Freddie goes wild in his interactions with the crowd, thus making these otherwise quite boring songs come to life. There’s even some fooling around when they do a bunch of old rock ‘n roll covers such as “Tutti Frutti”, “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” and “Big Spender”. The crowd just goes crazy with the big hits like “We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions” and “Hammer to Fall”. It’s just so mighty to hear. This is a full Queen concert, and we missed that on previous live releases. It’s got everything, from Freddie playing the crowd just after “A Kind of Magic” all the way to the infamous Brian May guitar solo during “Brighton Rock”.

There’s no fooling around here: this is Queen’s finest live release for now. More to come, and perhaps even better to come? The main advantage of this one over Live Magic and Live Killers is the full concert experience without edits or removals. Highly recommended for Queen lovers.

Highlights: “A Kind of Magic”, “Hammer to Fall” and “We Are the Champions”.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Queen - Greatest Hits II (1991)

1. A Kind of Magic
2. Under Pressure
3. Radio Ga Ga
4. I Want It All
5. I Want to Break Free
6. Innuendo
7. It's A Hard Life
8. Breakthru
9. Who Wants to Live Forever
10. Headlong
11. The Miracle
12. I'm Going Slightly Mad
13. The Invisible Man
14. Hammer to Fall
15. Friends Will Be Friends
16. The Show Must Go On
17. One Vision

The End of Chapter Two – 7/10

As Queen survived the 80s and released lots of singles that became great hits, Queen Productions has decided to release another Greatest Hits compilation, especially after the big success of the first compilation. There’s no other goal to this compilation than to have all the greatest hits from 1982 to 1991 on compact disc, thus you can guess the tracklist without having looked at it.

So are there surprises in the tracklist? No of course not, since Queen wasn’t surprising us anymore in the 80s. Or am I wrong? Yes! The surprise is they included several songs from 1991’s Innuendo, including its title track and “Headlong”. Furthermore there are just the most successful hit singles such as “A Kind of Magic”, “Under Pressure”, “Radio Gaga”, “I Want It All” and “Friends Will Be Friends”. A lot of these songs are not bad at all and there one specific collector’s reason for this compilation: single edits! Yes, Queen decided to edit their beloved compositions for broadcast on air. Often the tracks are shortened and decreased in power, such as “I Want It All” or “Who Wants to Live Forever”, but there’s one song I’d otherwise hate and is quite worth your time on here. “I Want to Break Free” has been given an intro! It’s not really much, but it gives the song more content. Why the hell did this version not make it to the album The Works? Ah well, unfathomable are the ways of Queen...

Anyhow, if you really want to see an album that has all the big hits and single edits together, then I suggest you take a look at Greatest Hits 2. If you already have all the albums you should think very hard first. ‘Nuff said.

Queen - Innuendo (1991)

1. Innuendo
2. I'm Going Slightly Mad
3. Headlong
4. I Can't Live With You
5. Don't Try So Hard
6. Ride the Wild Wind
7. All Gods People
8. These Are The Days Of Our Lives
9. Delilah
10. The Hitman
11. Bijou
12. The Show Must Go On

Disclosure – 8,5/10

After an uneasy time all the way from 1980 to 1989, Queen has finally created an album that can live up to the classic 70s material. Unfortunately, it’s also the last studio album featuring both vocalist Freddie Mercury and 100% genuine songmaterial. A lot of lyrics feature a hidden undertone about Mercury’s upcoming death, thus making it a quite sad album. That doesn’t take away that this is probably more energetic than any album since Jazz and features progressive influences for the first time since A Night At The Opera. At the time of its release it went platinum and reached #01 in the UK for the third time in a row (or fourth if you count Live Magic).

As said before, the main theme is Freddie Mercury’s upcoming death and therefore there’s a dark atmosphere throughout this album with a lot of ambiguous meanings to the lyrics. Especially in the beginning, the progressive title track, the arrangements don’t hide the atmosphere. A mysterious synth-tone combined with the rolling of the snare drum and an exotic scale creates a haunting atmosphere right away. The song contains a lot of theme and mood changes and refers in the operatic break to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and this track is certainly of the same quality. Having said that, the album immediately sounds more like the classic material than any album released in the commercial 80s. The album continues with “I’m Going Slightly Mad”; a dramatic ballad teaser with quite innocent lyrics, given a negative load with the upcoming tragedy. There’s a special connection between this track and “These Are the Days of Our Lives”. The latter is an even gentler ballad with the potential to bring tears to your eyes. Another great ballad would be the almost instrumental “Bijou”. It mostly features as an interlude with a beautiful guitar solo before the epic end to the album with “The Show Must Go On”.

And that brings us from ballads to epic tracks. “The Show Must Go On” is perhaps one of Queen’s best tracks, again given a dark load in the lyrics. Definite highlight here, and on the entire album, is vocalist Freddie Mercury, who, despite his disease, still has a vocal range of at least four octaves, as he shows here. This is, besides quite admirable, also very surprising. At the time of the recordings of Innuendo he does not seem to have given up any power, feel or range yet. This is also clearly audible in the equally epic “Don’t Try So Hard”. I always have the feel this is the twinbrother of “The Show Must Go On”. Same dark synth-tone used and both are very haunting and impressive. It’s quite unique for this album. There’s also enough rock material on this album, beginning with the May-penned “Headlong”. Together with “The Hitman” these are the most obvious rockers. Tight riffs, good feel, definitely rock songs. The only problem I have with these is that they forgot how to make an end to them. Just repeating the chorus and the riff until we’ve reached the five-minute-mark is not pleasing me. Otherwise great songs though. Less obvious rockers, but rockers nevertheless, would be “I Can’t Live With You” and “Ride the Wild Wind”. Especially the last one is a peculiar track with some of Mercury’s lower notes and an odd atmosphere...

And of course, like on any other Queen album, we’ve got the necessary duds. “All Gods People” sounds like it could’ve been on a gospel, if only for the Africa-sounding rhythms. This song can either be a refreshing spotlight in the middle of the darkness or a returning pimple on an otherwise smooth skin. And there is of course the notorious “Delilah”, Mercury’s ode to his cat. It is, besides terribly boring, breaking the album and especially notable for Mercury imitating the “meow” of a cat on different pitches. Fairly obsolete and totally uncalled for.

Innuendo is an album of differences. While most songs carry the dark atmosphere, there are some songs that deliberately break away from the darkness, resulting in a very varying journey. If you can take the journey, then Innuendo is for you. I recommend this album to all Queen fans and to people who would like to become a Queen fan.

Strongest tracks: “Innuendo”, “Don’t Try So Hard” and “The Show Must Go On”.
Weakest track: “Delilah”.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Queen - The Miracle (1989)

1. Party
2. Kashoggi's Ship
3. The Miracle
4. I Want It All
5. The Invisible Man
6. Breakthru
7. Rain Must Fall
8. Scandal
9. My Baby Does Me
10. Was It All Worth It
11. Hang On In There [*]
12. Chinese Torture [*]
13. The Invisible Man (12" version) [*]

Magic Accomplishes Miracles – 7,5/10

They’ve given the message now; whatever they were doing or trying in the early 80s, it was all just some experiments. They are really back to rock ‘n roll now, albeit in the style of their time. Though one could think A Kind of Magic was a one-time effort, they actually tried to accomplish the same kind of material for The Miracle. This album, too, contains five singles that climbed various charts, namely “Miracle”, “Breakthru”, “I Want It All”, “The Invisible Man” and “Scandal”. In the eyes of hitlovers this release is just another album they know only a few songs from (albeit this album contained more hits than average), but what is it apart from that?

Let me get one thing straight. Where A Kind of Magic could be seen as somewhat magical, The Miracle is in no way a true miracle. Surely, they managed to entertain once again, but repeating the same formula twice is never a golden idea. The rock ‘n roll meets mature 80s synth pop features once more. There’s one big improvement to the predecessor though: the songs together form an album. They really fit together, which is debatable with A Kind of Magic. The problem of this album is mostly in the songwriting, however. The style might be overall the same; there are some disappointing tracks on here decreasing the value of the album. Good examples are “My Baby Does Me”, which doesn’t really stand for anything. It’s just the cooked synth-sound and Freddie, with a dash of drums from Mr Taylor. “Rain Must Fall” falls under the same category, although this one can be enjoyed at times.

The rest of the album features mostly sugar and spice. The sugar part features sweet tracks like “Miracle” with its cheesy lyrics but addictive epicness, “The Invisible Man” with its driving bass line and “Scandal” with its very melodic verses and supposedly heavy guitars. The spice part is where it all gets more interesting. The album is surprisingly opened by the duo “Party” and “Kashoggi’s Ship”. The former begins oddly with drums only and then Freddie Mercury joins in, with a heavy swinging guitar riff joining in halfway. This description might not suffice, but I can assure you that this move rejected some fans. “Kashoggi’s Ship” is the continuation of the party begun in “Party”, this time packaged in some sort of rock song with heavy chorus on the guitars. There’s a funny ambience in this intro, which makes them special. Furthermore we have “I Want It All”, which is surprisingly heavy for a mainstream rock single, especially the solo part. Also “Breakthru” tends to kick multiple asses at once with a slightly heroic melody in the chorus and a fast-paced rhythm to keep the energy. True highlight, however, is “Was It All Worth It”. I will always keep saying Queen’s better tracks are hidden on the albums, not between the hits. This is a fine example of that very statement. It contains a great heavy guitar riff, an ingeniously epic main melody and unpredictable changes of themes. A great way to close the official album.

Since every CD release comes with three bonus tracks, I might as well involve them in my review. “Hang On In There” is there to add to the spice part of the album and is a nice addition. “Chinese Torture” is probably the latest way of torturing someone’s ear, made in china. But I think Brian May was just moody and was making some loud noise and recorded it for fun. “The Invisible Man (12” version)” is an interesting extended version of the original song, but if you don’t like the original there’s no way you’ll like this one.

All in all, The Miracle is a nice album. It’s great to see Queen is back to making rock music again, even though this album is just a confirmation of that. It’s a good album, but not one of the best, but then again... the 80s aren’t the best of times for music. If you desperately search a Queen album from the 80s, I could recommend either this one or A Kind of Magic. The decision is yours.

Strongest tracks: “Was It All Worth It”, “Breakthru”, “Party” and “I Want It All”.
Weakest track: “My Baby Does Me”.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Queen - Live Magic (1986)

1. One Vision
2. Tie Your Mother Down
3. Seven Seas of Rhye
4. A Kind of Magic
5. Under Pressure
6. Another One Bites the Dust
7. I Want to Break Free
8. Is This The World That We Created...?
9. Bohemian Rhapsody
10. Hammer to Fall
11. Radio Ga Ga
12. We Will Rock You
13. Friends Will Be Friends
14. We Are the Champions
15. God Save the Queen

Where’s the magic? – 1,5/10

Remember Live Killers? It didn’t really bother me a lot, but at least we had full songs being performed, though assembled from different concerts. It was a bit of a best of Queen live. If you thought that one was pitiful, then you definitely must consider listening to Live Magic. It adds an entirely new dimension to live albums; a new low in the history of live releases.

Let me tell you about my ultimate live album. What I value highly in live releases is the ambience, the spirit. An obligation here is the presence of an audible audience. Without an audience you can hardly name it live. This audience must be challenged. We don’t only want to hear them clap to the songs; we’d like them to be played. That’s where the frontman comes in. A frontman should play the crowd with games, should comfort them when the guitarist needs to fetch himself a new instrument, should be in contact with the crowd and should involve them in the show. And for fans that do not know every song, or just to get the fans excited, the frontman should announce the next track every now and then. Next, it would be great to have a full concert experience. One full concert on disc, that’s what we want. Full songs, full speeches, full frontman activities and full atmosphere. Apart from that, it’s even better to have the live songs sound differently than on the album. That’s a piece of art and talent, to make the same songs sound different in concert than on the album. If there’s an album that features all of this, you’ve got your ultimate live album.

Live Magic is everything my ultimate live album is not, except maybe for the frontman activities. Freddie Mercury plays the crowd for a short time after “Another One Bites the Dust” and loyally announces the tracks. Furthermore, there’s some cutting and editing in almost every track on the album. Didn’t I say I wanted full tracks? This is awful. The audience is not being challenged. No speeches, nothing. This makes it not a good live recording. There are speeches at every show, even if they’re very short. Though the songs might sound different than on the album for some times, the fact that most of them are reduced to just one verse and one chorus makes it a shitty live release. The song “I Want to Break Free” is being announced by the audience with the band joining them instead of Freddie, which is a bit funny, but clearly proves some editing. Same with “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The middle part is just cut away. A lot of songs have been left out of the album, making this not a full concert. So they left out some songs, they left out parts of songs that did make it to the album and they removed the speeches. How much less inspiring can a live release get?

Still did not get the message? Live Magic is a horrible live release and should never have been released. If you are in search of a live recording from the Magic Tour then get Live at Wembley instead. Avoid this at all costs.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

May 2010: Kayak and Queen month II

Kayak and Queen month part II

May 2010 will be the second month with Kayak and Queen in the spotlights and will cover the remaining items from their discography. For older material from the bands check this post.


From Kayak, only material from the reunion in 1999 will be reviewed, all the way up to the present.

2000 – Close to the Fire [Single]
2000 – Close to the Fire
2000 – Dream Child [Single]
2001 – Chance for a LIVE time
2001 - When Hearts Grow Cold (live) [Single]
2001 – Night Vision
2003 – Merlin – Bard of the Unseen
2005 – Nostradamus – The Fate of Man
2006 – Act of Despair [Single]
2007 – Kayakoustic
2008 – Coming Up For Air
2008 – Undecided [Single]
2008 – The Anniversary Box
2009 – Letters From Utopia


The material that will be reviewed from Queen in this second special month will just pick up where we left in april, in 1986, and then all the way up to the material with Paul Rodgers.

1986 – Live Magic
1989 – The Miracle
1991 – Innuendo
1991 – Greatest Hits II
1992 – Live at Wembley ‘86
1995 – Made in Heaven
1999 – Greatest Hits III
2004 – Queen on Fire: Live at the Bowl
2005 - +Paul Rodgers – Return of the Champions
2007 – Queen Rock Montreal
2008 - +Paul Rodgers – The Cosmos Rocks

Hopefully you’ll like the reviews, and if you have something to say about the reviewed albums than don’t hesitate and please do.