Friday, April 16, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Let Me Live

Last week, I reviewed a song from Queen's self-titled debut album released in 1973 (see here). So I thought it was fitting to this week review a song from Queen's last album released twenty-two years later in 1995. This week's Queen Song of the Week is Let Me Live from Made in Heaven. This is the last album to feature Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon as Queen. The album is the product of RT, Dr. May, and Deacon (in his last official work with Queen) creating songs using bits of old recordings by Freddie Mercury. Of course, Mercury died in 1991 hence the album's title.

Let Me Live was released as a single in the U.K. in 1996 and peaked at #9 on the charts.

Let Me Live is credited to the entire band reflecting a change that they made in the late 1980s. Mercury's vocals are thought to have been recorded in the early 1980s and may have been the result of a jam session with Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck. Neither Stewart nor Beck are featured on the final version of the song. Unfortunately Mercury only recorded about 90 seconds of vocals and the lyrics of the song had never been completed. To finish the song, RT sang the second verse and the bridge and Dr. May sang the final verse. The band enlisted several gospel vocalists because RT and Dr. May couldn't recreate Queen's signature vocal layering sound without Mercury.

This song is really lovely and David R. Fuller's video is amazing. I really get choked up at the fan-created Queen retrospective music videos (see the song '39 here) and this one in particular is stunning. The visuals span the band's entire career and focus on the member singing lead vocals for each particular verse (with John Deacon sprinkled throughout). It's so obvious watching all this footage that the band really were great friends and makes Mercury's early death even more tragic.

Many might think that the intro and outro choir portions of Let Me Live sound similar to Janis Joplin's Piece of My Heart. An earlier version actually sounded even more similiar and Queen changed the song at the last minute (it's unclear if they were told to change it or made the decision themselves). The original version had already been released in the U.S. and is available here.

That the surviving members of the band managed to turn 90 seconds of vocals into this absolutely stunning song is a real testament to what great musicians they all are. This is the only Queen song that Mercury, RT and Dr. May all sang lead on and it works out really well - they all have such great voices and such differing styles, but somehow it all works into the mood of the song.

The gospel choir mades the song reminscent of Somebody to Love and Queen's earlier work which required them to work tirelessly in the studio overdubbing vocals and piecing bits together with scotch tape. However, it shouldn't be lost on the listener than in the 1970s, Queen could do all the vocal overdubs themselves. In 1995, without Mercury, they couldn't.

Currently many Queen fans are itching for a box set of the group, including unreleased tracks and alternate versions of songs. However, many suspect that the best of what's available in the archives was used for Made in Heaven and anything released now would be a disappointment. A Freddie Mercury box set, released in 2000, makes reference to a forthcoming Queen box set so fans continue to hold out hope!

Happy Listening!

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