Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Album: A KIND OF MAGIC
The records that Queen released in the ‘80s don’t get the same respect as the landmark albums they released in the prior decade, especially in the U.S., but fans who dismiss that era are missing out on some great music. I briefly lost interest in them during the Hot Space and The Works era (two albums I later grew to appreciate in a big way), and it took the 1985 single “One Vision” to reignite my interest in Queen. That aggressive, hard-rockin’ song appeared in a slightly different version on their next album, A Kind Of Magic. Most of the songs were written for the movie Highlander, making this a quasi-soundtrack to that movie although, ironically, “One Vision” was featured in another motion picture, Iron Eagle. Perhaps these movie connections kept American fans away, not realizing that this was a full-fledged Queen studio album. While UK fans embraced it, sending the multi-platinum A Kind Of Magic to the top of the charts, in the U.S. it was their lowest charting album since 1974’s Queen II.
I’m not suggesting that this is a lost classic but it has been unfairly overlooked for 30 years and a number of songs should be more highly regarded. The super-catchy “A Kind Of Magic” features not one but two of Brian May’s most playful & melodic guitar solos. The symphonic “Who Wants To Live Forever” is a bombastic ballad (for most bands “bombastic” would be a criticism, but not for Queen) featuring a powerful Freddie Mercury vocal performance. “Friends Will Be Friends,” a rare collaboration between Mercury and bassist John Deacon, is a great lighter-waving anthem. Deacon’s sappy ballad “One Year Of Love,” a personal favorite, is saved by Mercury’s incredible vocal acrobatics. Drummer Roger Taylor delivered the percussive “Don’t Lose Your Head,” which is reviled by some fans but I’ve always enjoyed it. Even hard rockers like “Gimme The Prize (Kurgan’s Theme)” and “Princes Of The Universe” are fun if ultimately lightweight. These come across as more fleshed-out versions of music from their 1980 Flash Gordon soundtrack. Hopefully this post will help raise awareness of A Kind Of Magic for people who either dismissed it or weren’t aware of it, and they will share the love with other fans. Then I recommend doing the same thing with its follow-up, 1989’s The Miracle, but that’s a discussion for another day.