Mercury rising: the definitive Freddie

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Submitted by: Richard Orchard

Freddie Mercury solo and with Queen ... one of the great rock stars of all-time.

The enigma and the gentleman that was Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of Queen, is already the subject of major book but ultimately who he really was may perhaps be best understood in a remarkable new 10 CD collection that compiles his solo work with a DVD, interviews and photographs.

"We used to listen to Indian music, folk music, English music and he would just pick up the record and sing; he had a variety of tastes in music. We used to go to functions and parties and he would always sing because they always asked him, and he used to feel so proud to make everyone happy. even at that age." - Jer Bulsara, mother of Freddie Mercury.

FREDDIE MERCURY, The SOLO Collection, 10 CD and 2 DVD Collection, Definitive Book and Box Set, Release Date: 23 October, 2000

With 128 music tracks, many previously unheard, a 120-page photo book, interview tapes released for the first time, and a two-hour new documentary on his life, Freddie Mercury: The Solo Collection meticulously assembles in one definitive package the life and works of the man who was born Farrokh Bulsara, and became known to the world as Freddie Mercury, incomparable, extraordinary, and as writer Sean O'Hagan says in his appraisal of the artist and man: "the like of which we will not see again."

Public property as the posturing, mercurial lead singer of Queen, with whom he shared twenty years and nearly 200 million record sales, there was, however, much about Freddie that either remained concealed or simply became eclipsed by the rock stadium roller coaster that Queen rode through three generations. While the masses adopted as anthems the all-conquering Queen rock signatures of the band's 70's and 80's hey-days - We Will Rock You, Radio Ga Ga, Under Pressure, Another One Bites The Dust - few seemed to be aware that at the same time, away from Queen, Freddie was busily getting on with channeling his inexhaustible love for music into solo projects. He was tireless in the pursuit of new musical adventures, some intensely personal projects, others providing the excitement of collaborations with writers and performers who fired his imagination, such as his well documented love affair with the Spanish opera singer, Montserrat Caballe. There were also tracks with less well known musicians and songwriters such as Eddie Howell and Billy Squier who Freddie produced and wrote with simply because they provided interesting diversions..

Just how much Freddie achieved in his forays away from Queen is likely to surprise those who think of Mercury's solo career as being confined to a handful of hits, most notably, the posthumous No.1 Living On My Own; the title song from Dave Clark's 1986 stage musical Time; his cover version of The Platters' classic The Great Pretender, and his flirtation with opera with Montserrat Caballe which produced the Olympic anthem Barcelona.

Apart from the three albums which are the central pieces of this collection - Mr. Bad Guy (1985) Freddie's only true solo album, Barcelona (1988) , and The Great Pretender (1992 US tribute album) - it houses dozens of tracks which show the true extent of Freddie's solo work with three CD's of songs, and versions of songs which were never released at the time. They also provide a fascinating insider view into Mercury at work. Listen, for example, to Freddie's improvised jam recording, When This Old Tired Body Wants To Sing (Rarities II) in which Freddie calls a halt to the session in his own inimitable style.

Some ignorance of Freddie's output is understandable. Not all of his solo singles were widely accepted at radio; two tracks many consider among his finest tracks - his versions of the Beach Boys' I Can Hear Music and Goffin-King's Goin' Back, released as the A and B sides of his first solo single, surfaced under the name of Larry Lurex (a play-on-words joke at th