Friday, July 23, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Too Much Love Will Kill You

I've gone on (and on) about RT's solo work, but while he was the first member of Queen to launch a solo career, he's not the only member. Both Dr. May and Freddie Mercury had solo projects of their own so in honor of Dr. May's birthday, which was on Monday (click here), I'm featuring one of his solo songs as the Queen Song of the Week.

Dr. May has released two full solo studio albums: Back to the Light in 1993 and Another World in 1998. He's also released a live album Live at Brixton Academy in 1994, the Star Fleet Project album in 1983, and the soundtrack to the movie Furia in 2000. I'd polled some other Queen/Brian May fans and the general consensus was that Back to the Light was the album to which I should listen first.

With this in mind, I requested and received Back to the Light for my birthday last month. Abbie and Izzy (the dogs) were sweet enough to buy me the CD and I was excited to listen to it. So Husband and I played my new CD for the first time on the way to the MMRF race. I wrote down our initial reaction because I thought it was rather funny. I was slightly worried when I wasn't crazy about the album, but have since discovered that it takes most people 2-3 tries to appreciate.

Here's a quick synopsis of our conversation during the album:

The Dark (an instrumental intro to the album)
Husband (Erroneously thinking we're listening to Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders' self titled first album). Wow, he's taking this Queen thing a little seriously. Why is there an overture that sounds like Queen?
Me: Brian May likes overtures. He wrote them for a few Queen albums.
Husband: Oh this is Brian May? Weird.

Back to the Light
Husband: Wow, he's really straining to reach those notes, isn't he?
Me: I think you have to consider Brian May's solo work to be a trade-off of sorts as contrasted with Roger Taylor. With RT, you get a great voice but the songs aren't written/arranged as well, but with Dr. May, you get better written/arranged songs and a weaker voice.

Love Token
Me: Did RT write these lyrics? They are straight up 100% literal and absolutely not what I'd expect from Dr. May.

I'm Scared
Husband: Did he just say "scaredy cat?"
Me: (Checks the liner notes) Yup

Last Horizon
Me: This reminds me of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure!
Husband: Wyld Stallyns!

Let Your Heart Rule Your Head
Husband: I like this song.
Me: Yeah, Dr. May does well with the random folky, bluesy genre (see '39 here)

Overall Impressions
Me: I'll give it another listen. I didn't like Electric Fire the first time I heard it and now it's my favorite RT solo album. Dr. May at least deserves the same consideration that RT got.
Husband: Brian May really is a "guitar virtuoso". The guitar solos were all amazing, but there were too many. I guess that's what you get with a Brian May album though...

But, readers, I did listen to the album again. Several more times in fact and it really is a great album! It takes some getting used to Dr. May on lead vocals for every song and I'll be honest, his voice is nowhere near as good as Freddie's or even RT's, but he does sing well!

The highlights of the album for me are Back to the Light (which remained stuck in my head for the first week after Husband and I first listened to the album) and Resurrection (featuring the late drummer Cozy Powell and probably written an octave too high for Dr. May's comfort zone, but nevertheless has a great riff and beat!)

This week's Queen Song of the Week is the first song on Back to the Light that really grabbed me. I will admit, however, that I had already heard the song prior to getting Dr. May's album so it still took me a few listens to really appreciate.

Too Much Love Will Kill You was written by Dr. May, Frank Musker, and Elizabeth Lamers. It was released as a single in the U.K. in 1992 where it spent 9 weeks on the charts, peaking at #5.

Queen recorded a second version of the song with Freddie Mercury on vocals (click here). That version appeared on Queen's 1995 album Made in Heaven. It was released as a single in 1996 and peaked at #15 on the U.K. charts.

A topic of discussion amongst Queen fans has long been whether Dr. May's version or Freddie's version is better. Personally, I prefer Dr. May's version: it's much more emotional whereas Freddie's version is better on a technical level and Freddie's version gives the song a bit too morbid of a twist for my liking (especially considering the song appeared on the album released four years after Mercury's death...from AIDS).

Now for anyone interested in checking out a Queen member's solo career, I'm always going to recommend starting with RT's solo stuff. But once you've acquired all seven of his solo/The Cross albums, definitely consider branching out to Dr. May's solo material. I plan on getting Another World, his second solo album, next and when I do, I'll review it for you all!

Happy Listening!

Happy Belated Birthday, Dr. May! I'll see you later today!

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