FEATURE: The Ten Best Vocal Performances from Freddie Mercury

FEATURE:

 

Image result for freddie mercury 

The Ten Best Vocal Performances from Freddie Mercury

_________________________

TOMORROW would have marked the 70th birthday…

Freddie in Munich working on his first solo album, Mr Bad Guy

Picture (and photos underneath song titles, except Barcelona and Radio Ga Ga) taken from the book, FREDDIE MERCURY: The Great Pretender

 

of Queen legend Freddie Mercury. The Zanzibar-born, British-based titan of music died on 24th November 1991 from an AIDS-related death – and with it, one of music’s greatest ever vocalists left us. Say what you want about Queen – and most people do – but you cannot deny the peerless genius of Freddie Mercury. Whilst his band played on the camp side of music – the songs rarely defined by composure or subtlety – everything was made to sound essential and affirmative by Mercury’s wonderful, planet-destroying voice. Whether entranced by his once-in-a-lifetime perfomance at Live Aid in 1985; the lung-busting power of Somebody to Love or the heartbreaking curtain call, The Show Must Go On. In honour of the icon’s birthday: I have whittled down his ten finest vocal turns for your delectation…

_____________________

Barcelona (ft. Montserrat Caballé)Barcelona

Image result for freddie mercury barcelona

Montserrat Caballé provided the beauty and grace whereas Mercury produced a performance of sublime power and absolute intensity. After Barcelona was selected to host the 1992 Summer Olympics: Mercury was approached to write a theme song. Caballé was a hero of Mercury and he leapt at the opportunity to sing with her – the two would go on to make an album (Barcelona) that was met with mixed reviews. The title track shows what Freddie Mercury is all about: theatre, grandeur, and above all, immense passion.

 

 

Under Pressure (ft. David Bowie)Hot Space

Freddie backstage at the Rainbow Theatre, London in November 1974

Recorded for the 1982 album Hot Space and featuring the sadly-departed David Bowie: another incredible duet where Mercury, matched with an exceptional singer, steals the show. Hot Space possessed few standout tracks – a malady of Queen’s early-‘80s work – but this song has endured and continues to stun. If you isolate Mercury’s vocal you can see the detail, drama and technique involved. Seemingly effortless and another day at the studio: a sublime, unstoppable performance few of his peers could even conceptualise, let alone match.

 

 

Bohemian RhapsodyA Night at the Opera

Freddie at a photoshoot in Primrose Hill in north London in September 1974

It is hard to mention one of the greatest songs ever (according to most critics) are ignore the voice that scores it – even though Mercury’s is not the only voice on the track. Aside from the multi-layered, technology-pushing ambition of the vocal tracks: it is Mercury’s singular performance that defines the track. Starting seductive and affected in the opening verses: it mutates into a hot-blooded belt before coming down to land in the final seconds. It is impossible to truly decompartmentalise and deconstruct the elements of that single vocal: such is its complexities, skill and nuanced. Another world class turn from a vocal giant.

 

 

Crazy Little Thing Called LoveThe Game

Images taken by Freddie's bandmate Brian May using a stereo camera. 'I almost always carried a stereo camera with us on tour, and there are many pictures of us on-stage and off in this medium,' says May. 'These pictures can be viewed by the 'magic eye' technique, relaxing the eye so the two images form one, but the best way is to use a stereo viewer. The result is a 3D image, which is very lifelike.'

Reportedly written in the bath by Mercury (you can picture the scene!) it is one of the most surprising and un-Queen songs in their cannon. Mixing ‘50s Rockabilly with Doo-Wop: it is infectious, finger-snapping joy one cannot help sing along to. Given its insatiable cool and tease is Mercury, who proves he is just as mesmeric and sensational when taking the power levels down – one of the most focused and natural performances from his career. Not all Queen songs compel you to come back time and again and just lay back: Crazy Little Thing Called Love is an infectious and head-spinning joy because of Mercury’s suaveness and ice-cold authority.

 

 

Somebody to Love A Day at the Races

Freddie with his parents Jer and Bomi Bulsara on a visit to his Kensington flat

This is when Mercury searched his soul and regretted his lack of love life and romance. What followed was a look inside his psyche and a transcendent revelation: Somebody to Love is a stunning investigation of faith, passion and fulfilment – Mercury’s voice interweaved into a Gospel tapestry that has been ranked among the greatest vocal performances of all time. Not only one of Queen’s most famous and celebrated songs: its vocal must surely be considered one of Mercury’s most impressive and wide-ranging. Sing along at your peril: there are few singers that have the lung capacity and range to pull it off!

 

_____________________

 

Another One Bites the Dust The Game

Performing in red leather trousers and crepe bandages

The Grammy-nominated, chart-riding smash Another One Bites the Dust was one of Queen’s most successful and commercial tracks. Released in 1980 for The Game – it was actually composed by the band’s bass player John Deacon. This is Mercury on the attack and standing tall: few have the panache and personality to bring every note and emotion from the song with such conviction. Those who define Freddie Mercury’s vocals always use the same three words: power, soul and passion. All of these come together but are joined by venom, grit and panache – showing just how many sides Mercury had to his vocal armoury.

 

 

Radio Ga Ga Live Aid

Image result for queen at live aid

Maybe it was the occasion or the crowd was in a unified spirit: Queen’s legendary performance got everyone singing and utterly hypntoised. The band mesmerised from start to finish: it was the moment Freddie Mercury proved he was one of the greatest voices music has ever seen. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the set was Radio Ga Ga. A little indirect and unemotional on the original album (The Works): here, it was turned into something life-affirming and biblical. Getting the crowds clapping, singing and in one another’s arms: surely one of the finest live performances of any time period.

 

 

Living on My Own Mr. Nice Guy (solo album)

At Freddie's 39th birthday party at Mrs Henderson's in Munich, Germany. He invited his close friends to cross-dress then filmed them for a video for his solo single, 'Living on my own'. His record company banned the video. The full version wasn't seen until the re-release of the track in 1993. This is one of the tamer shots of the evening.

Wanting to move away from the band and take a break from Queen: Mercury released his first solo album in 1985. It was not hugely well received but proved he could exist outside the band and stretch his wings. Living on My Own is classic Mercury all the way through – vocal affectations and changing pace; sexuality, flair and vivacity in spades. Another Freddie Mercury song where confidence and authority are in no short supply. Remixed in 1993 and hitting the number one spot in the U.K.: the first number one of Mercury’s career.

 

 

Love of My Life A Night at the Opera

Freddie studied at Ealing Art College, where his contemporaries included Peter Townshend and Ronnie Wood. It was here that he started thinking about pursuing a career in music. In his final year of college, he joined Ibex. Here he relaxes with other members of the band in Kensington.

On an album that contained the bombast and majesty of Bohemian Rhapsody: few bands would be able to put a song like Love of My Life alongside it and see it flourish. If anything, the song is an equal par due to Mercury’s tender and heartfelt performance. Written for his then-girlfriend Mary Austin, and one of the purest songs in the Queen back catalogue, it became such a fan favourite Mercury often had to stop singing and let the crowd take over. It shows the song resonated and connected with the masses: one of the key reasons is a knee-buckling, soul-kissing vocal turn from Mercury.

 

 

The Show Must Go On Innuendo

Performing in New York during the A Night at the Opera tour. Freddie loved the city, for a time he owned a flat there. He told friends that in New York he felt he could behave more like an 'ordinary person'.

Featured on the twelfth and final Queen album: The Show Must Go On is unarguably the greatest example of Mercury’s insane abilities. Recorded whilst ailing and near-death, it is a testament to the resilience and determination of the singer. Brian May challenged him at the studio and asked whether Mercury could perform (whilst so frail). Mercury exchanged a coy smile (vodka in hand) and simply said “I’ll fucking do it, darling” and slammed his vodka down. Recorded in a single take; he lacerated the vocal and the rest, as they say, is history. Few vocalists could get within touching distance in full health: pale and ill Mercury put everyone to shame and helped create the Queen frontman’s fitting epitaph. Not one to let things get him down or be defeated by life: it is a bold and phenomenal statement of intent and defiance. Listen to and try and battle back to the tears: it shows Freddie Mercury is very much alive and inside all of us.

 

 

_______________________

 

Even if you are not a Queen fan – almost having to defend a terrific band against needless criticism – but nobody can deny or ignore Freddie Mercury and what he gave to music. Not only one of the most charming, quixotic and charismatic personalities even to walk the Earth – surely the biggest and most sensational vocal talent we have ever seen. It seems unlikely we will ever see another singer approach Mercury’s talents and passion – a true one-of-a-kind. You imagine he’d still be singing had he lived and who knows what he could have accomplished? In his relatively short, but highly sparkling career, Freddie Mercury established himself an absolute…

Image result for freddie mercury

GIANT of music.

Advertisements

One thought on “FEATURE: The Ten Best Vocal Performances from Freddie Mercury

  1. Josh, that was a wonderful tribute you put together for Freddy. I agree 100% with everything you said about him. That’s exactly how I feel about him as a singer and your take on each song you selected are exactly my thoughts as well. I get chills when I hear Freddy sing and “The Show Must Go On” certainly does challenge me to keep my eyes dry. He was amazing and I feel sad he left us so soon and in such a cruel way. I miss David Bowie and George Michael as well… David’s duet with Freddy in “Under Pressure” is one of my favourite songs and George Michael’s cover of “Somebody to Love” is incredible too. Thanks again for putting this all together and so glad to see someone else who thinks so highly of Freddy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s