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Messenger of the Gods
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  • Released to coincide with what would have been Freddie Mercury's 70th birthday, the excellent 2016 double-disc anthology Messenger of the Gods: The Singles brings together all of the legendary Queen vocalist's solo A-side and B-side singles. Originating from a variety of projects, including Mercury's one and only proper solo album, 1985's Mr. Bad, these are all the songs released under Mercury's name and not as Queen singles. Nonetheless, there was some cross-pollination and several of these songs were later reworked as Queen tracks. While Queen were primarily known for their muscular, guitar-oriented rock, they were also innovators who experimented with funk and dance grooves. Mercury himself was always an eclectic artist whose tastes ranged from early rock & roll to disco to classical music. Not surprisingly, he indulged in all of these genres on his many solo endeavors, collaborating with several pop production icons including Queen associate Reinhold Mack (T. Rex, Electric Light Orchestra, Deep Purple) and disco giant Giorgio Moroder. Subsequently, many of the tracks featured here -- including the synthy "Living on My Own," the yearning ballad "Made in Heaven," and the soaring, Eurovision-ready anthem "I Was Born to Love You" -- lean in a pop direction. Of course, he never completely gave up rock, and cuts like the dramatic "In My Defence" and the emotive "Time," both extracted off the soundtrack to the Dave Clark musical Time, are swaggering power ballads that don't sound at all out of place within his oeuvre, with or without Queen. Mercury also had a keen ear for covers, especially ones that seemed to reflect his own glamorously mutative persona, as he did with his cheeky 1987 version of the Platters' "The Great Pretender" and his cinematic 1973 take on the Gerry Goffin and Carole King composition "Goin' Back." Notably, we also get Mercury's genre-bending duets with operatic soprano Montserrat Caball?, including "The Golden Boy," "Overture Piccante," and "Barcelona," with Mercury's multi-tracked vocals set against Caball?'s soaring timbre. Overwhelming in both their articulate beauty and emotional depth, these duets sound even more innovative 20 years on, as they clearly prefigured the rise of artists like Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, and the classical crossover genre as a whole. Ultimately, Messenger of the Gods reveals Mercury as an artist well ahead of his time, unbound by genre constraints, whose immense talents and charisma remain as indelible as ever. ~ Matt Collar
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