Review Summary: The end result being an album that beginning to end is never boring, always keeps you interested, but more importantly is a great and fantastic listening experience from start to finish.
We’re gonna take a little sidestep from the ‘Queen’ albums today (well kind of), and look at the ‘brilliant’ ‘solo debut’ album from ‘lead singer’ ‘Freddie Mercury.’ Released in ‘1985’ and called “Mr Bad Guy,” is an album that ‘for once’ gets it right, and it is a miles better than any ‘studio album’ ever realised by ‘Queen.’
Anyway, just a little side information.
The first member of ‘Queen’ to coincidentally do a ‘solo effort’ was ‘drummer’ ‘Roger Taylor’ and his ‘1977’ single “I wanna testify,” which was a cover by a band called “The Parliaments.” In ‘1983’ ‘guitarist’ ‘Brian May’ released his ‘album project’ Starfleet. It was surprising, at the time, however that both the drummer and the guitarist of the band has released some form of a project or another, yet the lead singer had not. By 1985, twelve years after the release of their ‘debut album,’ all that would change.
Originally meant to be called “Made in Heaven” (Eventually the name of Queen’s final album, released in 1995, with Freddie Mercury on vocals), the album would also include the ‘UK top 20 hit’ “I was born to love you,” and eventual UK ‘number 1’ hit “Living on my own.” (Although the 1993 version of this song was a remix done by ‘No More Brothers’).
‘Mercury,’ for his first solo effort, would call in every musician he could afford to have’ (There’s even an orchestra for the title song), and would give them one order “Play whatever notes you have never played before.”
The end result being an album that beginning to end is never boring, always keeps you interested, but more importantly is a great and fantastic listening experience from start to finish. Otherwise 11 fantastic ‘Pop Songs’ that are original and meaningful.
Yes, Mercury does kind of abandon his ‘Queen’ persona, but never without losing the wit and charm that made songs such as “Killer Queen,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Somebody to Love” great. In otherword’s it’s everything that made Queen great, finally moved forward into the next level, and ‘for a change’ it’s all on one STUDIO ALBUM.
Of course this isn’t just a bunch on “Bohemian Rhapsody’s,” or “Somebody to Love’s,” in “Mr Bad Guy” Mercury was wise enough to know that he was way past doing that, what we have instead is an album that experiments and succeeds in mixing Pop with Rock, Soul, Dance, and even at times Reggae (yes you heard that right), but it’s ‘Mercury’s’ vocal talent that wins out here as he takes whatever musical challenge is chucked at him, and makes it his own.
The opener, “Let’s turn it on,” is a full blast in your face ‘Party/Dance/Pop Song,’ it has an infectious beat as Mercury declares that he’s ready to ‘Turn it on, and get us all dancing,’ what also sells the song is the playful ‘Brian Mayesque’ guitar solo that is almost having a fight with the dance beat synthesizer’s as the song ends, now that’s just too cool to explain, you gotta listen to it yourself.
“Made in Heaven,” opens with a serious piano beat, and includes one of the best opening lines that Mercury has ever written:
“I’m taking my ride with destiny,
willing to play my part,
living with painful memories,
loving with all my heart.”
It’s one of the first of many reflective songs that ‘Mercury’ writes about his own life. Now, I’ve never gone much into Mercury’s own past but all know how it would end, sadly apart from maybe parts of “Innuendo” we never really got a feeling of ‘Mercury’ the person, but throughout this album when ‘Mercury’ can’t produce a great and catchy Pop tune, he is able to churn a brilliant, yet honest, reflective song, which has a meaning and purpose, something he was never able to do with Queen. The song was also ‘Queened up’ on ‘Queen’s’ “Made in Heaven,” and although it sounds good there, it sounds epic on “Mr Bad Guy.”
The first single, and another song that would be ‘Queenified’ on “Made in Heaven,” was the delicate ‘Pop’ ‘top 20 UK hit’ “I was born to love you.” It’s a great Pop song and its energy levels are taken to the extreme. What also works is that for a change Mercury is singing this and all the other songs on this album as if his life depended on it, and works here is despite the fact that the subject matter is cliché, Mercury is able to pull it off because there is actual determination and meaning on ‘how’ he sings a simple verse like “I was born to love you, every single day of my life.” Mix that with the middle serious yet ‘beatous’ middle section instrumental then you have one hell of a song.
‘Mercury’ is also able to produce a ‘Chill Out’ tune in “Foolin’ Around.” It is kind of a continuation of the previous song but this time ‘Mercury’ has the girl but doesn’t like the fact that she ‘fools around’ with him. The guitar in the middle again fighting with the synthesizers is awesome. I’m gonna admit this one of the best guitar/synthesizer albums I’ve heard in a long time, one of the best of the 1980’s, that’s for sure.
The piano based “Your Kind of lover,” is another love Pop song. But again its Mercury’s vocal ability and the soulful nature of the song that make it work perfectly. Also the fast bass and fast piano playing in this song work perfectly in unisom together.
One of the highlights of the album is the title song. It’s best described as a Led Zeppelin “Kashmir” style track but taken to the extreme. Again the vocals are top notch and even when he sings a lyric as daft as “Can’t you see, I’m Mr Mercury, Woo Ohhh, Spread your wings and fly away with me,” he gets away with it because he sings it so seriously and with so much heart that it ends up intentionally funny or just damn cool.
“Man made Paradise,” is maybe the first filler on the album, but saying that it’s still a very good song, and has a great piano intro, and again Mercury’s vocals are spot on. What it maybe lacks is a suitable chorus as it does seem to be transfixed on the song, still it beats the hell out of the chorus on “Sweet Lady;” and everything else including a quirky ‘Brian Mayesque’ guitar solo works, and works well, including the vocal harmony section that ends the song.
The next song “There must be more to life than this,” is excellent. Whilst such a song on an album such as ‘The Works,’ might have seemed to come out of the blue, on this album it doesn’t because it follows in the vein of “Made in Heaven,” and “Foolin’ Around,” hell even “Man Made Paradise,” in being a reflective song. You see it’s ok to do a ballad like this as long as it’s spread throughout the album, and this song certainly is.
What it leads to is one of Mercury’s finest lyrical efforts in “Living on my Own.”
“Sometimes I feel I’m gonna break down and cry,
nowhere to go,
nothing to do with my time,
I get lonely,
oh so lonely,
living on my own.”
The song is as infectious as hell and has a brilliant jazzy piano solo in the middle section. Also Mercury performs some vocal improvisation at the end (Most notable because he would perform a similar vocal improvisation during the bands famous Live Aid performance, although he also did during ‘The Works tour.’ The vocal impro ends with a ‘Michael Jackson’ style ‘whooo.’
“My love is dangerous,” starts of with an infectious “reggae style beat.” Yes you heard that right, but what sells it is the heaviness of the beat and again, I’ll say it again Mercury’s dangerously lovely vocals. And what really sets the song apart from its pretenders is the zinging guitar solo that ends the song. Wow who would have thought that Rock and Reggae could combine so coolly? (Well The Clash knew, but Mercury proves here that he can more than match his own).
“Love me like there’s no tomorrow,” is a ok soft ballad, and actually feels like the last song, especially when Mercury declares “This is our last goodbye.” Not one of the strongest on the album to be honest, but to be honest it’s short enough for you not to hate it, and the brilliance of what was heard before makes you forgive it.
Mercury took the musical breakthroughs of “The Game,” and “Hot Space” mixed them together, and took it to the next level, before coming out with “Mr Bad Guy.” This is what 1984’s (bar “Radio Ga Ga”) album “The Works” indeed ‘Queen’s’ ‘1980’s’ career should have been. It wasn’t a big commercial hit at the time of its release, probably because it didn’t have too many obvious ‘Queen style medleys,’ but musically and for the sheer fact that not only is it a huge musical step forward it also happens to be consistently brilliant, it stands as one of the best ‘Queen based’ albums.
I will admit though, this may take time for die hard ‘Queen fans’ to digest, as this was not made for them, but made to be a ‘great album.’ Otherwise, it needs continued listens to be appreciated and you don’t need to dig ‘Queen’ to do so.
Also may I recommend you buy the "Freddie Mercury, Solo" album, which includes this album, and all other songs you'll need of Freddie Mercury.