rhyeking wrote: I mentioned in the Happiness? thread that there were three albums I’d put on frequently which formed a solo trilogy of sorts. They were:
Back To The Light
The Great Pretender
You could argue that The Great Pretender shouldn’t count; it’s little more than a remix collection and an uneven one at that. I won’t disagree. It is was it is, an attempt to “update” Freddie’s sound.
I’d still like to take a look at this release, because I think it’s better than it gets credit for.
My first exposure to the music on it came in the form of two videos played on a Freddie Mercury Spotlight on MuchMusic, both featuring the remixes from this album: “The Great Pretender (Malouf Mix)” and “Love Kills (Wolf Remix)”. I had not heard the original versions, so hearing these, while still discovering Queen itself (I had yet to acquire all the albums) was a revelation. Soon after, I found the Mr. Bad Guy CD at Sunrise Records in Oshawa. In the winter of 1994, I got The Great Pretender for Christmas.
At the time, still pre-internet, I didn’t know that all but one song was significantly altered from its original. Honestly, I didn’t even realize the MBG tracks were remixed before I actually played them. Imagine my surprise.
The opening track, of course, was “The Great Pretender.” I played it for my dad, a big old-school rock and roll fan, and he loved it as much as I did. Freddie’s version was always a favourite of his. For a while, I assumed this was the only version, because it was the only one I’d heard until I found the 1992 7” re-issue of the Original Version. I like the original, but prefer the remix.
Next came a decent remix of “Foolin’ Around,” a song I knew from MBG. This was the point where I discovered that the six Mr. Bad Guy tracks were remixes (or at least the next five would be). I liked this remix then and I like it now. It doesn’t do too much or change the feel on the song.
Then came the first song I’d not ever heard, “Time.” Again, not knowing it was a remix, I took it for what it was. It was great song then and even after discovering the original (a few years later) I still think it’s an okay remix, though I prefer the Original Single Version.
“Your Kind Of Lover” started out like the original, with the piano, but then went into questionable dance club territory. Oh well, you take the good with the bad, I suppose.
The only track not remixed on this album was “Exercises In Free Love.” At first I didn’t know what to make of it, but I liked it! Was it an instrumental? There were no lyrics so what the hell was this? I didn’t know anything of the Barcelona album at this point other than it existed. So, this was just a beautifully odd Freddie track for me.
And it was the perfect, perfect lead into “In My Defense.” This was an absolute knock out track which rivalled even Queen’s best work in my opinion, then and now. I heard the Original Version when I found the 1992 7” single and think they are equally good for different reasons.
Then, to lighten things up, the “Mr. Bad Guy” remix. I like the rock feel just as much as the symphonic original.
“Let’s Turn It On,” an okay song from MBG, but this...this...well, it didn’t grab me, to say the least. I could stomach it, but just barely.
Now, here’s a curiosity that I was not even aware of until I got the Freddie Mercury Solo Collection boxed set: the edition of The Great Pretender I own has the 1993 Radio Mix by No More Bros on it INSTEAD of the 1992 Album Remix. The booklet says it’s the 1992 version, the same as would appear on GH3, but the actual CD has the Radio Mix. Strange, but true. When I got the boxed set and put on TGP CD I was like, “Wait, that’s the wrong version!” But some research told me the boxed set was correct and my store-bought TGP was an anomaly. Does anyone else have this same pressing?
Anyway, I loved this remix and for my copy of the album, it certainly sounds better than the standard pressing. It adds so much to the feel of the album.
“My Love Is Dangerous,” another okay song from MBG, this remix I enjoyed more. I like the counterpoint female vocalist and the overall rock feel. This mix doesn’t screw around.
Finishing the album was the track I had taped on VHS from the aforementioned FM Spotlight. What a great remix. It’s heavy and not having heard the original before seeing the video, I thought this was awesome. When I heard the original, I loved it for different reasons. For The Great Pretender album, this remix is perfectly done.
Overall, I can see why people don’t like this album. If I’d owned the original versions and then this came out, I might agree that it was a bit of a miscalculation or that some other type of collection might have been better. But for five of the six songs, this came first for me, right or wrong.
Only two remixes didn’t do it for me, but the whole collection still holds together nicely (at least for my LOMO Radio Mix Edition...I don’t listen to the standard edition found on my copy of the boxed set).
I love Exercises in free love......The version on barcelona might even be better.