The last studio album British rock band Queen with Freddie Mercury
Made in Heaven is the fifteenth and currently final studio album by British rock band Queen, released on 6 November 1995 on Parlophone and Hollywood Records.
After Freddie Mercury's death, John Deacon, drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May worked with vocal and piano parts that Mercury recorded before his death, adding fresh instrumentation to the recordings.
Both stages of recording, before and after Mercury's death, were completed at the band's studio in Montreux, Switzerland. The album debuted at #1 in the UK where it went 4× platinum. According to The Guardian, it has sold 20 million copies worldwide.
HistoryThe album was recorded in a much different way from Queen's other studio albums. In early 1991, months before his AIDS-related death, Freddie Mercury recorded as many vocals as he could, with the instruction to the rest of the band: Roger Taylor, John Deacon and Brian May, to complete the songs later. Put to tape during this time were primarily "A Winter's Tale", "Mother Love" and what would eventually become "You Don't Fool Me".
On the video Champions of the World, May described these sessions with Mercury as such:
“By the time we were recording these other tracks after Innuendo, we had had the discussions and we knew that we were totally on borrowed time because Freddie had been told that he would not make it to that point. I think our plan was to go in there whenever Freddie felt well enough, just to make as much use of him as much as possible, we basically lived in the studio for a while and when he would call and say, 'I can come in for a few hours', our plan was to just make as much use of him as we could, you know he told us, 'Get me to sing anything, write me anything and I will sing it and I will leave you as much as I possibly can.'”
After Mercury's death, the band returned to the studio in 1993 to begin work finishing the tracks. May has described in interviews that Taylor and Deacon had begun some work in 1992, while May was on tour promoting his Back to the Lightalbum. Upon his return in 1993, May felt they were not on the right path with the music and that they more or less started from scratch with the three of them working together with producer David Richards.
With less than an album's worth to work with, the band decided to revisit previously recorded material. The band did not discuss whether Mercury had any input before his death regarding which songs might be considered. The idea was to take existing songs on which Mercury sang and rework them as Queen songs.
In 2013, Brian May said about the album "[Made in Heaven] was possibly the best Queen album we ever made. It has so much beauty in it. It was a long, long process, painstakingly put together. A real labour of love."
Song information"It's a Beautiful Day"
Years before Freddie Mercury started recording solo material, he created a sound clip of himself experimenting on the piano at Musicland Studios in Munich in 1980 during the sessions of The Game. Later, for the use of this album, the song was extended to two minutes and 32 seconds. The more classical section, without Mercury's improvisation, was put together by John Deacon."Made in Heaven"
Originally from Mercury's Mr. Bad Guy, this song, along with the other Mercury solo track "I Was Born to Love You", was given special treatment by Queen for this posthumous album. The band merely re-worked the music to a "Queen sound", and placed Mercury's previous vocals over the new music."Let Me Live"
"Let Me Live" is a lively rock ballad which features a rare sharing of the vocals between Mercury, Roger Taylor and Brian May. The song was completed in 1995 after Mercury's death. This track was originally recorded with Rod Stewart during sessions for the 1984 album The Works. Once finished in 1995 for Made in Heaven, Queen made one 11th-hour change to the song to avoid legal action. Part of the backing vocals featured a lyric too closely resembling Erma Franklin's "Piece of My Heart". It is not known if Queen took it upon themselves to make the change preemptively or if their record company told them to do so. Ultimately, the potentially problematic bit was mixed out and the track was released. Promo cassettes from the US feature the unaltered backing track. Early Mexican and Dutch CD pressings are reported to have this alternate version as well."Mother Love"
"Mother Love" was the final song co-written by Mercury and May, and was also Mercury's last ever vocal performance. Mercury's vocals for Mother Love were recorded between 13–16 May 1991. On his website, May discussed the writing process he and Mercury had (writing both separately and together, and conscious of the nature of the song and the lyrics). Upon reaching the final verse, Freddie told May that he had to go and "have a rest", but that he would return later and finish it. After that, Freddie never made it back to the studio, and thus May sang the last verse on the track.
The song features a sample from a live sing along session recorded at Queen's famous 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium, and a sample from the intro of the studio version of "One Vision". It also features a sample from a cover of "Goin' Back", a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, for which Mercury had provided lead vocals in 1972. The cover was released as a b-side to "I Can Hear Music", a Ronettes cover, by Larry Lurex, not long before the release of Queen'sdebut album. The sound bursts between the sing along and the "Goin' Back" sample are apparently a few seconds of every Queen track ever recorded, put together, and then rapidly sped through a tape machine. At the very end of the song, a baby is heard crying."My Life Has Been Saved"
"My Life Has Been Saved" was started as an acoustic track composed mainly by Deacon in 1987–88. Producer David Richards helped him out doing the demo and the keyboards, then Mercury sang on it, and later on the entire band recorded it. The Made in Heaven version is different from that of 1989 (which originally featured as the b-side to the single "Scandal"), although it uses the same vocals from Mercury. Deacon plays guitar and keyboards as well as his usual instrument, bass guitar."I Was Born to Love You"
"I Was Born to Love You" was originally recorded (piano, vocals, synths) by Mercury on 25 May 1984, for his Mr. Bad Guy album, as a late addition (when told by the record company that the album needed "a single"). May, Taylor and Deacon remixed it and added their instruments, turning the song into fast-paced rock, mainly featuring hard rock guitar from May. That track became popular in Japan during 2004 when it was used for the theme song of a television drama named "Pride" (プライド). This version also contains samples of Mercury's ad-lib vocals from "A Kind of Magic", from the 1986 album of the same name, and from "Living on My Own", from his Mr. Bad Guy album. The music video for this version of the song, also made in 2004, is composed mainly of clips from the Mercury solo video and from Queen: Live at Wembley. There is also a version performed by May (singing intro vocals and playing a 12-string guitar) and Taylor (singing lead vocals)."Heaven for Everyone" "Heaven for Everyone" was a track Taylor wrote and tried out with Queen in 1987, although according to some sources it was written with Joan Armatrading in mind to sing it. Whether she turned it down or Taylor withdrew his song is unclear, but it was recorded for his other band The Cross. One night Mercury came to visit The Cross at the studio and after some drinks he gave them ideas of how to sing the song and ended up recording the lead vocals for it. Mercury appeared on the UK version of their album "Shove It" as guest lead vocalist on the song, with Taylor doing backing vocals. The roles were reversed on the single and the American "Shove It" version. Mercury's vocals were then used for the Made in Heaven release, with a couple of different lines and May singing backing vocals instead of Taylor, with Richards adding several arrangement ideas. Released as a single in 1995, the song's music video commemorates Mercury, and also contains footage of Georges Méliès seminal 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon. "Too Much Love Will Kill You" "Too Much Love Will Kill You" was composed by May, Frank Musker and Elizabeth Lamers sometime between the Magic and Miracle sessions. They wrote it in the US and Mercury sang on it. However, there were some problems with the companies representing publishing rights for Musker and Lamers so they could not release the song properly on The Miracle. At the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert May played the song on piano and sang it for the first time in public, and then released it as part of his solo album Back to the Light. The Queen version is a new arrangement. The guitar solo used differs from the one on May's album, however May played variations of the Made in Heaven solo in live renditions as early as 1992. The song was awarded Best Song Musically and Lyrically at the 1997 Novello Awards.
This song was also performed by Queen and Luciano Pavarotti in 2003, with Pavarotti singing the latter parts of the verses in Italian."You Don't Fool Me" "You Don't Fool Me" was one of the last tracks recorded for Made in Heaven and came about in an unusual way. May has explained on his website that Richards more or less created the framework of the song single handedly, building from bits of lyrics recorded just before Mercury's death. May has said that before Richards' work, there was no song to speak of. However, after Richards edited and mixed the song (including a bit of harmonies recorded for "A Winter's Tale") he presented it to the band. May, Taylor and Deacon then added their instruments and backing vocals and were surprised to end up with a finished song that had begun as nothing. The style of the song is reminiscent of their 1982 album Hot Space, and a comment over that featured on their Greatest Hits III album. The theme of the song could also be a continuation of the story told by prior Queen songs "Play the Game" and "It's a Hard Life". "A Winter's Tale" Main article: A Winter's Tale (Queen song)
"A Winter's Tale" is a ballad written and composed by Mercury at his apartment in Montreux, Switzerland. It is the last song Mercury solely composed entirely (the music for "Mother Love" is by May). It is the only song in Queen's history to have been recorded and released with Mercury conducting the vocals prior to music being completed.
It has since been branded as one of few Christmas songs from the band. Whether this was the intention is unknown."It's a Beautiful Day (Reprise)"
A heavier rock version of "It's a Beautiful Day", that is the same in the beginning but later turns into rock. It contains "Yeah" and samples from "Seven Seas of Rhye"."Yeah"
"Yeah" is the shortest song on the album and in Queen's song catalogue, lasting only four seconds. It consists of Mercury only saying the word "yeah", which is taken from the song Don't Try Suicide from Queen's The Game album.Track 13
Track 13 was an experiment by Richards with an Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler. He took the opening chords of "It's a Beautiful Day" and made them loop, and then added Mercury's voice through strange echoes. May and Taylor also added some ideas to the track. This track is only available on the CD edition of the album and the aforementioned promo cassettes.
Standard cassettes of the album end with the shortened "It's a Beautiful Day (Reprise)", fading out after Track 12 ("Yeah"), where this untitled track would continue on. Track 13 can be purchased also as part of the full album or as a separate piece from Queen's official online store.
The LP (vinyl) edition of the album has only the first few seconds, which run into the run-off of the groove on the record, which actually means that if a listener has a record player which does not have an automatic stop activated at this point, it will play indefinitely, consisting only of the few seconds looped over constantly.
Track 13 created a good deal of surprise and confusion among fans, given its ambient musical nature and its sheer length, neither of which have much precedent in Queen's catalogue (the longest of Queen's prior songs, "The Prophet's Song" from A Night at the Opera, running a mere 8:20). The album's last listed track (all formats) is track 11: "It's a Beautiful Day (Reprise)". After, Freddie Mercury is heard loudly saying "Yeah", which at four seconds long comprises the entire Track 12. Fans took to calling this track by that monosyllabic name. The ambient music underneath this track continues into Track 13, which ebbs and flows for another 22:32, and ends with Mercury calling out "Fab!"
Two schools of thought emerged amongst fans: one was that these were to be considered not only separate tracks, but separate "songs"; the second was that tracks 11, 12 and 13 were all one song ("It's a Beautiful Day [Reprise]") and that the splitting of it was a deliberate tongue-in-cheek gesture by the band. Initially, the band were content to maintain the air of mystery around Track 13. Over time, May has discussed it and shed a bit more light on it, such as the aforementioned creation by David Richards and the subsequent involvement by himself and Taylor.
Made in Heaven received generally positive reviews from music critics. Critics praised its upbeat nature and quality of music after the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991.
Q magazine wrote: "Ten new tracks (and one reprise). No filler. No shame. An essential purchase for Queen fans, certainly, but even without its special significance, Made In Heaven is probably a better album than Innuendo and a fitting swan song by one of the most incandescent groups in rock. Made in Heaven is also the last musical will and testament of a star who was never going to be turned into a saint, but whose grandstanding performances were, right to the very end, always marked by reckless enthusiasm and a rare generosity of spirit."
The Sunday Times described the album as "essential listening".
Entertainment Weekly wrote: "It's the perfect theatrical epitaph for a life dedicated to gorgeous artifice."
The Guardian stated: "When a band have the controls permanently set at full-tilt, as Queen did, burn-out is inevitable, for the listener, if not for the band. When we eventually reach the drum-crashing finale, "It's a Beautiful Day", which kicks in with Mercury's umpteenth randy-rottweiler howl, it feels as if far more than 70 minutes has passed. That's where the aforesaid lyrics save the day. Predominantly written by Mercury, they are effectively farewell notes. He poured out his heart, and his words have a throat-aching poignance. Even the record's opening verse assumes a painful significance."
Jerusalem Post wrote: "Somehow Mercury and Queen's ability to make a joyful noise in the face of pain and death makes this a very comforting album to have around in shaky times."
The Times stated: "Nor are there any obviously half-baked, or patched-up numbers. Most, however, are as good as anything that Queen came up with in their later years. How good that is, as always with Queen, is largely a matter of taste. "Mother Love", the last recording that Mercury made, is a song of truly heartfelt pathos. Despite its overdue delivery, Made in Heaven stands up remarkably well as the closing chapter in a spectacular pop odyssey."
Allmusic wrote: "Made in Heaven harked back to Queen's 1970s heyday with its strong melodies and hard rock guitar playing, topped by Mercury's bravura singing and some of the massed choir effects familiar from "Bohemian Rhapsody". Even if one did not know that these songs were sung in the shadow of death, that subject would be obvious. The lyrics were imbued with life-and-death issues, from the titles. The odd thing about this was that Mercury's over-the-top singing had always contained a hint of camp humour, and it continued to here, even when the sentiments clearly were as heartfelt as they were theatrically overstated. Maybe Mercury was determined to go out the same way he had come in, as a diva. If so, he succeeded."
- Freddie Mercury – lead and backing vocals, piano, keyboards, programming on "Mother Love"
- Brian May – guitars, keyboards on "Mother Love", "I Was Born to Love You" and "A Winter's Tale", piano on "Too Much Love Will Kill You", backing vocals, lead vocals on "Let Me Live" and the last verse of "Mother Love"
- Roger Taylor – drums, percussion, keyboards on "Heaven for Everyone" and "You Don't Fool Me", backing vocals, lead vocals on "Let Me Live"
- John Deacon – bass guitar, keyboards on "It's a Beautiful Day" and "It's a Beautiful Day (Reprise)"
- Rebecca Leigh-White – backing vocals on "Let Me Live"
- Gary Martin – backing vocals on "Let Me Live"
- Catherine Porter – backing vocals on "Let Me Live"
- Miriam Stockley – backing vocals on "Let Me Live"
- David Richards – keyboards on "My Live Has Been Saved" and "Too Much Love Will Kill You", co-production, engineering, mixing supervision
- Justin Shirley-Smith – co-production, engineering
- Joshua J. Macrae – co-production, engineering
- Mack – recording of additional material in the 80's
- Kevin Metcalfe – mastering
- Richard Gray – artwork, cover photograph of Irena Sedlecká's Mercury sculpture in Montreux
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