Monday, 9 September 2013

Queen 'Innuendo'

Chart Peak: UK 1

Yes, we're more than a week into the months already and I haven't started an album yet. It doesn't leave a lot of time for a double album so as a quick diversion I'm going to make a one-off excursion into the overseas Now albums.

I happened across this South African Now 14 in a charity shop in Pinner a couple of weeks ago. At least, I eventually concluded it was South African from the "made in RSA" legend on the CD. Discographical info is pretty scant online, but I did succeed in finding that a Now 14 was released there in 1991, which would tally with the release date of the songs featured here. Sleeve notes for the album are literally non-existent (the inner pages of the booklet are blank) so I can't tell you which are the two bonus tracks. Nor have I been able to find any South African charts for this period; there seems to be no tradition of a singles sales chart in the country, only airplay charts in any case.

At least we have the songs, and it's tempting to quip that nothing changes anywhere in the world, with a Now album from another continent still opening with a Queen track. Ironically, 'Innuendo' is one of the few Queen inclusions that doesn't open a UK Now or even a side of one - it's the very last track on our Now 19. Of course, Queen appearing on a South African album immediately prompts thoughts of the controversy about them playing Sun City in the previous decade; but by 1991 they were effectively incapable of performing anywhere and of course by the end of the year Freddie Mercury was dead. Though he wasn't open about his illness at the time, it's easy to find hints of it in hindsight; the title track of the last album the group released in his lifetime is grandiose even by Queen standards, a clear attempt to do another 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. In fact 'Innuendo' is slightly longer than their signature hit, composed from multiple sections with all four band members having contributed to the writing. There's even a star guest: Steve Howe from Yes on guitar in the middle section. Inevitably, the effect is contrived and Roger Taylor's typically platitudinous lyrics do little to help, even as they nod to the mood of the early 1990s by bemoaning political division. Mercury's vocal power is sadly already diminished and the song falls between two stools: too overcomplicated to work on it's own terms but not overblown enough to be proper Queen.

Available on: Innuendo (2011 Remaster)

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