Freddie Mercury - Messenger Of The Gods: The Singles album review

Birthday present for Zanzibar’s most famous musical export

Freddie Mercury Messenger Of The Gods: The Singles album cover

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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.

Freddie Mercury Quiz

Asteroid named in honour of Freddie Mercury

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.