For Queen fans, 1991 began in great style with the brilliant "Innuendo" single, which entered the U.K. charts at No.1. A month later came the album, another instant chart-topper, followed by three further hit singles, "I'm Going Slightly Mad", "Headlong", and "The Show Must Go On". And then October saw the release of the long-awaited "Greatest Hits II", which also went straight to No.1. Meanwhile, Brian May's solo single finally surfaced on November 25th, and the Cross had their third album, "Blue Rock", issued in Europe in September (it's due for release in Britian in January, incidentally). All this, however, was overshadowed by the tragic death on November 24th of the band's irreplaceable lead singer, Freddie Mercury--one of the most successful and innovative writers of the last twenty years. I've apid tribute to his unique talent elsewhere in this issue. This feature, meanwhile, is a detailed review of the complete set of American Queen CDs issued in 1991 on the Hollywood label. They were meant to be the definitive word on the subject; but as we shall see, they have once again let Queen fans down--badly.
In the November 1989 issue, I reviewed the U.K. Queen CDs released by EMI on the 5" and 3" formats between 1986 and 1989. The two years since then have seen major developments in the complex situation surrounding their back catalogue, which are likely to affect the way in which these discs are issued in Britian later this year. For the moment, we only have the American discs to judge, and in this review I have tried to encompass a broad spectrum of opinions, not just my personal feelings. However, I think it is only fair to point out from the outset that these views may not reflect those held by other members of the Queen fan club or by the band themselves. We should begin by recalling the principal flaws on the original British discs and outlining the background to the Hollywood release in 1991.
Firstly, the original EMI discs issued in Britian in 1986 and 1987 were littered with a variety of mistakes ranging from minor errors, such as the lack of lyric booklets for "Queen", "Queen II" and "Jazz", to fundamental engineering errors where the ending of one song appears at the beginning of the next one, as on "Queen II", "Sheer Heart Attack", "A Night At The Opera" and "A Day At The Races". (This only became clear when you tried to access individual tracks on the discs, of course.) The sound quality on "Queen", "Queen II", "News Of The World" and "Live Killers" suffered from poor reproduction, and the Japanese vinyl equivalents are to my mind audibly superior. But at the time of going to press, these sub-standard discs were still on sale in the U.K. The CD singles set issued by EMI in 1988 was a complete shamble. Not only did it reproduce the errors on the albums, but the track listing was incorrect and even the track listing was incorrect and even the covers had numerous mistakes on them. One of the major criticisms was that the set completely missed many of the band's major singles. "Keep Yourself Alive", "Now I'm Here", "Save Me", "Play The Game", "Thank God It's CHristmas", "Friends Will Be Friends" and "Who Wants To Live Forever" were all ignored; and all of these, except "Keep Yourself Alive", were top 30 hits! These unfortunate omissions also led to the rare B-sides, "A Human Body" (1980) and Blurred Vision" (1985) [writer's note, also "Soul Brother" (1981)] being left out, as was the remixed "Backchat" and the edited live version of "Love Of My Life" [writer's note: also the edit of "Who Wants To Live Forever" and the 12" mixes of most of their songs remian unavailable on CD]. The net result for Queen fans was simply frustration. So how do the U.S. remasters on the Hollywood label fare by comparison?
BATCH ONE: (issued March 1991) 1. Sheer Heart Attack- bonus tracks: "Stone Cold Crazy" 1991 remix This was Queen's first big hit album in the States, and a wonderful introduction to