Discipline Reviews: Queen - The Miracle (1989)

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THE MIRACLE

If you look past the bizarre cover, there's actually an album in there also!

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Artist: Queen
Released in: 1989
Genre: Pop Rock
Label: Parlophone, Capitol, Hollywood
Producer: Queen, David Richards
Length: 41:13 (52:12 with the bonus tracks)
Tracks: 10 (13 with the bonus tracks)
Best Track: The Invisible Man, or maybe Was It All Worth It

TRACKS: 1) Party; 2) Khashoggi's Ship; 3) The Miracle; 4) I Want It All; 5) The Invisible Man; 6) Breakthru; 7) Rain Must Fall; 8) Scandal; 9) My Baby Does Me; 10) Was It All Worth It; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) Hang On In There; 12) Chinese Torture; 13) The Invisible Man (12" Version)

Introduction

So, Queen. I'd rather become deaf than listen to someone sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" again, I am mildly indifferent towards "We Will Rock You", "We Are The Champions", "Killer Queen" and "You Take My Breath Away", but I love the rest of their songs. Some critics loathe them, and yet a good chunk of the world agrees that they are one of the greatest groups to have graced this planet. And yet, I don't hear a lot of people talking this album at all.

I mean, yeah, people don't really talk a lot about The Works or A Kind Of Magic (both of which came out after Hot Space), but you'll hear someone sing "I Want To Break Free" or "Princes Of The Universe" once in a while. The Miracle, though? Fuck it, I've never heard anyone sing "The Invisible Man". Not even fucking "I Want It All"! What's gone wrong? Were the 80's really so bad that almost no one talks about the albums they released in the decade?

It seems like it, which... is kind of sad, really. Hot Space wasn't that good, but it wasn't even close to bad either. A Kind Of Magic (which is actually the soundtrack to the film Highlander, which I highly recommend you see with a friend so you can laugh your ass off at how silly and awesome it is) was actually pretty damn good, and The Works... The Works had "Is This The World We Created?" and "Radio Ga Ga", so it gets a pass for me.

Otherwise, maybe the one person I know which talked The Miracle was anime reviewer Bennett The Sage... and even then, it's because the title track was in his top 10 horrible song by otherwise good artists. Could it seriously, honestly be that The Miracle was so terrible that no one dares to talk about it out of fear of being devoured by that monstrous symbiosis of the four members of the group on the album cover?

Let's find out.


The Album

The Internet has terrible taste: I'm gonna go straight up and say that this is the best album that Queen had released in the 80's, and it's up there in my top 5 favorite albums by them. You can disagree with me, that's cool, but I'm going to laugh quite a lot if you really think it's that bad. The thing is that, aside from the obvious synthesizers added in, this is pure Queen. Hell, it looks like they're pulling a bit of a joke on themselves also!

Let me explain: Queen's influence sort of caused the idea of arena rock to become popular. Their songs were big, bombastic, funny, emotional, hysterical, all that sort of stuff. And the thing is that what they expressed really translated well to something that thousands of people would gather around to watch. And in this album, they cover all the bases, in a more tongue-in-cheek way. Well, it's not like they're being sarcastic, but think about this: the title track is the old "world peace" anthem, "I Want It All" is the rocking "top of the world" anthem, "The Invisible Man" is the dance track, "Was It All Worth It" is the ending anthem, etc.

The one thing that isn't there, I think, is the ballad. The closest to that is "My Baby Does Me", and, while I certainly like the laid-back sleazy feel it has, it's pretty much the weakest song on the record. Otherwise, it's got all of the songs that a music critic would scorn because they "pander to the masses" or some shit like that, except that they're executed in a way that intentionally doesn't call for real action: for instance, "I Want It All" is an excellent rip-snorting rocker, but it doesn't make you get on your feet and break shit.

And maybe that was lost a bit on both the fans (maybe not the fans) and the critics (definitely the critics), which would explain why everyone sort of disregards its existence like it was their step-mother. Which is a bit of a shame because, aside from a bit of synthesizer abuse at the second half of the album, this is just the kind of charming music by Queen you'd get in something like The Game. Well, except not exactly. But it's a good album, I'd say.

The record begins with a sort of "suite", but it's more that the first track leads into the second directly. The first song, "Party", is a bit of a continuing escalation, and I really like it. It's got a good groove, and while the lyrics are "blunt", I suppose, they work perfectly. I mean, I listen to that and I want to party! "Khashoggi's Ship", which comes up right after, isn't as prone to inciting parties, but to compensate, it's got a really awesome guitar part, and the "no one stops my party" line is something I can't help but want to sing along to.

I never sing along to songs. My voice is low as all hell, so I can basically sing none of the songs that I like.

But the album only gets awesome when it comes up with "The Miracle". Sure, it sounds cheesy as fuck (it is, don't be surprised), but think about this: vocalist Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS and guitarist Brian May was recovering from his marital problems at the time when they recorded this album. And they decided that, starting with this one, all the songs would be credited to Queen. And just to really put down the fact that they're going to stand united together, they made this monstrocity on the cover.

Yeah, that's right, there's a reason why it's there! It's because, technically, they've all become a singular entity in terms of writing! The problems Brian and Freddie were going through probably explain why this album seems overtly cheerful: they're sticking through it all, and the title track is a perfect example of that. According to the song, a miracle is the Tower of Babel, open heart surgery, the Mona Lisa and drinking tea on a Sunday morning. That seems kind of silly, but it is a miracle that all of those things even happened at all.

They also refer to trying to achieve world peace, but they're not exactly leaving it up to God: all those miracles are man-made, which means that we could stick together, try to do that miracle ourselves, and finally have peace on Earth. Either that or I'm a real fanboy, considering I dedicated three paragraphs to the meaning of this one song. My only complaint is the fact that the bridge about four minutes in segues really awkwardly into the last part. Otherwise, it's a good tune.

"I Want It All" is the obligatory rocker, but I like it also. It definitely isn't as overplayed as "Another One Bites The Dust" or... any of Queen's other songs, for that matter, the guitar has a nice crunch to it, the solo is incredible, and it's got the right amount of drive. It sounds a bit weakly executed, but otherwise, it's not the worst "the world is mine" tune that they have ever done. I don't think they ever did a bad song like that either.

Now, here comes my favorite: "The Invisible Man" is a dance track. There's quite a bit of synthesizers. But I just fucking love it. Not only is the bass part simple but memorable, but the vocals are good enough to make up a sweet groove in of themselves, the way that a few of the instruments and some of the vocals go from the left speaker to the right is actually really sweet (not to mention that guitar solo), and the chorus is excellent. Maybe if there were dance tracks as good as this in Hot Space, that record would have been much more enjoyable.

After that, however, I fear that the quality dips a bit. The songs are still good, but they don't have the same impact, and there aren't as many highlights as on the five first tracks. But there's still a few things to look at: for example "Breakthru", which begins with some nice vocal harmonies, is a very joyous tune that almost makes me want to run down the street and jump hundreds of miles into the sky in joy. But I'm not going to do that, because, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to finish this review.

"Rain Must Fall" has Latin American percussion which I'm pretty sure is synthesized, but I kinda like how it all sounds regardless. It's kind of bittersweet: there's going to be some bad things, but that's life. Meanwhile, "Scandal" is another rocker, and it suits the name. The main appeals of this song are the guitar part and every part where the melody and the instruments start escalating. It's quite scandalous in how good those parts are.

That was a terrible pun, I apologize.

And then we have the worst song in the track, "My Baby Does Me". As I've said before, it's a sleazy, laid-back tune (it's a pretty good break after 8 songs, in fact), and I definitely would not skip it under any circumstances, but I dunno. It has the same amount of mojo as the other songs, but it's not the same kind, you know? But that's no matter, because it comes right before "Was It All Worth It", which is fucking awesome. Sure, the premise is nothing groundbreaking, but that doubting but optimistic execution rocks my goddamn face off. I know that it was worth listening to this album, at least.

But we're not done yet, as the CD version has three extra tracks: those include the awesome rocker "Hang On In There", which has a nice jam in the last minute or two, the short instrumental "Chinese Torture", meant to evoke the kind of terror someone would get when going through Chinese water torture, and a longer version of "The Invisible Man", which was a very wise move. I personally wouldn't have really cared at all if they had put a longer version of "Breakthru" on there instead.


Conclusion

So here you go: the Queen album no one ever talks about (even if pretty much no one in real life seems to know more about them than what they heard in the first Greatest Hits compilation and Night At The Opera). It's not the best thing ever, but hey, if you really wanted proof that Queen is much more than just a singles band, one of the best tracks on this album is not even a single. That's good enough for me, at least.

I wouldn't see you getting this album first, though: if you've already gotten yourself most of the classics like News Of The World, Jazz, Innuendo and Sheer Heart Attack, though, I'd say that you could consider it. I don't think it's much more than a footnote in the band's discography in the context of singles, considering I've never heard anyone singing any song from that record in my entire life up to now, but you shouldn't regret that purchase.

Personal Rating: ****½
Recommendation Rating: ***
Lettered Rating: Beta


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