Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lover of life, singer of songs ... a hell of a talent

Will there ever be such a consummate performer and powerful singer as Freddie Mercury ever again? I hope so, but with quality such as this ... it is hard to imagine.

Being best known for his remarkable work with Queen, Mercury is no less a talent on his solo work. He didn't produce many solo albums ("Mr. Bad Guy" and "Barcelona" were the only legit records he put out in his lifetime), but his personality and style are stamped upon each song he recorded and released.

Seeing as how his individual solo albums can be difficult to locate, and how the extensive Freddie Mercury box set that chronicled pre-Queen material, solo material, remixes and alternate takes was produced in such a small quality (and commands hundreds of dollars for a copy), locating Mercury's solo materials can end up being a costly (in time and money) endeavor.

That's what makes this 2-disc "Lover of Life, Singer of Songs" collection so worthwhile; you really do get the highlights of his solo work here. From the moving ballad "In My Defence," to the deliciously overblown "The Great Pretender," to the majesty of "Barcelona," to the dance perfection of "Living on My Own," the different personalities and talents and directions of Freddie Mercury are on display here.

You get plenty of album standouts ("There Must Be More to Life Than This," "Foolin' Around," "Love Me Like There's No Tomorrow," "Mr. Bad Guy"). Each of these songs packs a wallop, and his vulnerable and fun sides are put on display.

You also get early treats (the first single releases to bear Freddie Mercury's vocals, though under the name of Larry Lurex: "Goin' Back" and "I Can Hear Music") and remixes (the second disc is largely composed of those).

I listen to this collection several times a year, and I always get wrapped up in the zest for life that Mercury injects into his music. Even the more melancholy ballads demonstrate the sheer love he has life and for people. He was a hell of a singer, a magnificent songwriter and a performer for the ages.

Too often, the circumstances of Mercury's death, the gossip about how he lived his life and the body of work he put together with the other members of Queen all get in the way of material that is both engrossing and entertaining in its own right. Mercury went to nightclubs that had a lot of dancing ... so he made dance music. He loved the dramatic and was engaged by ballet dancers and opera singers, so he penned and performed music that suited both arts. He had a love for funk, and he could laugh at himself as easily as he strutted his stuff. His multifaceted personality is so perfectly captured in his rendition of "The Great Pretender" that one can't help but smile in appreciation.

"Lover of Life, Singer of Songs" gives you 35 songs of Mercury magic. Some of the tracks are remixes. Some of the tracks are unfinished exercises and demos. One track is even a piano performance done in tribute to him. All of these tracks build into a body of work that (while in some cases show their era ... namely the Eighties) demonstrate the sweep of Mercury's talent.

If you're a Queen fan, this set is the bow on the whole package.

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