Officially marking Freddie Mercury’s 70th birthday, and unofficially the 25th anniversary of his death, this retrospective collection of singles is appropriately understated in its packaging, available as both a multicoloured box set of 13 vinyl singles and a lavish double CD.
Though his slender canon of non-Queen material spans just one solo album and the operatic Barcelona collaboration with Montserrat Caballé, the late singer covered a lot of ground, from the shiny Synclavier synthfunk baubles Living On My Own and Love Kills to the heart-bursting power ballad In My Defence and gospel-infused confections like The Golden Boy.
The most atypical inclusions are both sides of Mercury’s fabled pre-Queen single as Larry Lurex, consisting of the Beach Boys covers I Can Hear Music and Goin’ Back, where his voice sounds smooth, genderless and almost unrecognisable.
Of course, Mercury’s solo work has been anthologised many times before, and there’s nothing new or even rare here. The sterile 80s production gloss, the champagne-soaked tax-exile hauteur, the cod-classical trills and scat-jazz vocalese excursions have all undeniably dated. But offbeat oddities like the reggae-inflected My Love Is Dangerous and the sub-Queen raunch-rocker She Blows Hot And Cold are worth revisiting for historical curiosity value.
It’s also striking how Mercury’s operatic duets with Caballé, once critically scorned for their excess-all-arias kitsch, sound almost subtle in our era of symphonic metal and stadium prog. Crucially, the best tracks here have a real emotional kick, Farrokh Bulsara’s tender humanity and romantic vulnerability peeking out from behind his superhero alter ego’s preening, prancing bombast.