WHO IS HE? The late, great Queen frontman who’s currently enjoying his latest posthumous romp in the spotlight, thanks to the acclaimed 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
WHAT IS THIS? A three-CD/one-DVD compilation featuring upgraded and updated versions of his two solo albums — 1985’s synth-pop outing Mr. Bad Guy and 1988’s Barcelona, an orchestral collaboration with opera diva Montserrat Caballe — along with a disc of non-album singles, various mixes and edits, plus a couple of rarities.
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A mish-mash of sounds and styles and sources and settings. Which, to be fair, is pretty much the way the mercurial Mercury approached his solo career. Trouble is, that’s also the way others have handled his work since his 1991 death — there have been umpteen remixes and reissues and compilations, but no definitive collection of Mercury’s solo years. Never Boring could have been that. Instead, it further muddies the waters by remixing and refurbishing some tracks yet again. And it doesn’t include many of the rarities included on previous sets (notably the exhaustively massive 12-disc Solo Collection from 2000). So while it certainly deserves credit for shedding some new light on Mercury’s solo work, Never Boring ends up feeling more like a timely bit of holiday product than a truly definitive historical document.
WHAT SHOULD IT BE TITLED? Mercury Rising. Again.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? While reading the 120-page hardback book full of rare and previously unpublished photos, quotes from Mercury and an introduction from Rami Malek, who famously portrayed Freddie on screen.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Theatrical, grand, romantic, audacious, diverse, adventurous, opulent, stylish, sophisticated, passionate.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? The rarest cut is the previously unreleased Time Waits For No One, a piano ballad fashioned out of a recently discovered old demo refurbished with new instrumentation. Speaking of time, it’s been kind to Mr. Bad Guy, which is actually more enjoyable and substantial than I remember it being at the time.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS SAY? ‘It may not be the ultimate Freddie box set, but at least it lives up to its title.’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? Only a couple of times, most likely — though you might add a few of these cuts to your Queen playlist.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE FABRIC, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Gold lamé — decorated with sequins and feathers. And maybe some lace and bedazzling.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? If you saw the biopic more than once, you’re probably already holding one in your hands.