I’m still not sure about The Miracle, and remember, I’m a Queen fan, they were the band I loved growing up (this was the 70’s of course), even ‘Hot Space’ didn’t drive me away; if you’ve read my love letter to it here, you’ll see how deep my regard for Queen is.
And yet, their 1989 album The Miracle leaves me in two minds; it seems sometimes too light and yet always warm, always welcoming despite some really difficult moments.
As Louder Sound said;
‘Released in 1989, The Miracle has a poignant back story. As May would recall: “We were dealing with Freddie’s deteriorating health and pulling together to support him.” In these circumstances, Mercury delivered extraordinary performances, most powerfully in I Want It All and Was It All Worth It, the latter, for all its dry wit, now reading like a bittersweet farewell.’
And now there’s a deluxe The Miracle, with a big book, posters, vinyl and multi discs, John Deacon’s sweat sock (OK, not that last one) but a bit load of booty.
Is it worthwhile?
The Album, The Miracle
When the big beat of ‘Party’ (even with those thin 80’s drums) kicks the doors of this album down and it’s followed by the swaying riff of ‘Kashoggi’s Ship’ (hmmm…), the album seems uncompromising. And as a rocker at heart, this is a good thing.
Queen lovers would expect a sumptuous ballad to appear now and although the lyrics can be a little trite, those plucked strings and big intentions work so well in the title track.
And ‘Was It All Worth It’ ends The Miracle, despite Freddie answering the rhetorical question with ‘yes, it was a worthwhile experience’ melds overwrought drama, crushing guitars and playfulness.
What Doesn’t Work So Well
This is going to be divisive; I can’t abide ‘I Want It All’. The best Queen rock tracks have light and shade, they spin, and they sway, this lead-off hit from The Miracle is just a big lump of granite with no inlay. And that sudden jog halfway through? I can almost hear the engine revving.
An insipid Santana? Welcome to ‘Rain Must Fall’, all perky synth and steel drums, plus a cry of ‘Flo Jo’ (presumably for Florence Griffith-Joyner, gold medal-winning runner who crossed over into the mainstream media) which just seems like a disappointing attempt to catch the zeitgeist, something prevalent in The Miracle.
That sort of synth bass is there again for ‘Breakthru’, a mid-paced train ride feel with an almost worth-the-ride soaring chorus.
I just don’t know. It’s a Dance track. A non-specific Dance track, with an insistent bass and stabs for toy town synths and each band member being introduced, which creates an unusual/funny ‘see right through…John Deacon…’ I’d prefer to think it was done purposely. I shouldn’t like this seemingly behind-the-times track, but, but…it’s fun. You have to work with it and succumb to it or else it doesn’t work.
A mixed bag, as you would expect. There are backing tracks which we’ve already heard really, live tracks from 1974 and 1977 of which ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ is a precise rush and ‘Melancholy Blues’ is a seldom heard treat.
But it’s the early versions of those The Miracle songs which are the best things here; ignore the B sides like ‘Stealin’ which just seems like a jam, an early Bad Company sound ‘Dog With A Bone’ and ‘Hijack My Heart’ which sounds like Taylor singing one of his songs from his excellent solo debut ‘Fun In Space’ – this one works.
The Miracle is bound to be seen through the prism of Freddie Mercury’s changing health – I first thought something was wrong when I saw the video for ‘Breakthru’ – and so lines like ‘the best years of my life are in no way over, unused on the finished version of ‘Kashoggi’s Ship’, have a poignancy, whilst the early version of ‘Party’ allows more Brian May guitar and some funky forays too.
But the real success of these tracks is the insight into a band working on The Miracle Mercury telling the band how he sees it going and then the band jamming on ‘I Guess We’re All Falling Out’, his delighted shout of ‘fab!’ after a rockier ‘Was It All Worth It’ and the first thing we hear on this disc, Freddie informing them ‘I find the drums too loud.
This is a real success, a band who know what they’re doing and what get to hear how they do it.
Was It All Worth It?
The Miracle, an album overlooked by many, revered by few, but with an undeniable something, listening to this box set in the round; yes, it was a worthwhile experience.