The Miracle was the first Queen album I ever listened to in its entirety. It’s also the first of theirs I ever bought physically. I still remember unwrapping that CD, equally afraid and in awe of that iconic, disturbing cover. And while The Miracle didn’t do badly (going platinum in three countries and hitting the top of the UK albums chart), it’s an odd album to introduce you to Queen.
It’s not the classic high of 1975’s A Night at the Opera, raw rock ‘n roll of News of the World or grandiose gloss of the band’s 80s years. It’s never really mentioned individually against the likes of The Works or A Kind of Magic. But, nevertheless, it was my point of puncture, if you will, into the mad, glam powerhouse of Mercury, May, Deacon and Taylor. I adored this album for months on end.
But now I find myself drawn back to it, and wanting to see if, looking back, it really is that good an album. And whether it stands up to the test of time. This is Queen’s The Miracle reviewed.
Queen’s thirteenth studio album opens with ‘Party’, and it’s an odd choice to kick off proceedings, for sure. Think about Queen’s other albums for a moment – particularly of this period. 1982’s The Game opened with ‘Play the Game’. ‘Radio Ga Ga’ introduced fans to The Works, and uniting ‘One Vision’ made A Kind of Magic instantly unforgettable. My point is, Queen know how to start a record. And I’m not saying The Miracle‘s ‘Party’ is an awful choice, but it’s not nearly as memorable as any of those.
I used to really love the double-part opener of ‘Party’ and ‘Khashoggi’s Ship’, and now I realise how messy they are. It gives me the distinct feeling that the band were trying to recapture the musical scope of Queen II, but to little avail. The harmonies in both songs are elating, and full of high energy which is a great start, but quite forgettable outside of that. I do like how both songs bleed into one another, though, much in the same vein as ‘The March of the Black Queen’ and ‘Funny How Love Is’ on the band’s sophmore release.
Funnily enough, the title track is the antithesis of the album’s opener for me. I used to dismiss ‘The Miracle’ as bland and far too long. I never understood quite why it was given the single treatment. But now I see a real maturity and complexity to the track. Disregarding the awesome accompanying video, it shows hints of what’s to come on the band’s next album, Innuendo. ‘The Miracle’ still isn’t mindblowing to me, but a great track in the later Queen canon, nonetheless.
Man, if I had one wish in this world, it would be to hear ‘I Want It All’ performed live. By now (1989), Queen had completed their final tour with Freddie at the helm (1986’s ‘Magic Tour’ to promote A Kind of Magic) and the frontman himself was too tired and too ill to perform another. It’s thought that Mercury was diagonised with AIDS two years before the release of The Miracle, and so any songs released from this point onward never saw a live rendition.
Which sucks for a million different reasons. One of them being that ‘I Want It All’ is one of the best songs Queen have ever put out. It was probably the first of theirs I ever heard, and it rocks. Brian May – who composed the song – stands out on both guitar and vocal duties; in a truly beautiful canon section. But even when dressed like an accountant in the music video, Freddie lets loose in full force. ‘I Want It All’ is by far the peak of The Miracle. And it’s a high one, at that.
‘The Invisible Man’ is so 80s. I mean, it’s so 80s. And the video is even better. It’s somewhat novelty for a Queen song, perhaps, but still proves catchy – even if you’re listening just to hear Freddie list off every band member. ‘Breakthru’, meanwhile, is the song that got me into Queen in the first place (along with ’39 from A Night at the Opera) and it means a lot to me because I associate it with a very personal part of my life.
But with emotional bias out of the way, it’s just as kickass. It’s one of Queen’s most underrated, though I’m aware this is more because the band did so much as opposed to it being actively forgotten. ‘Breakthru’ packs an epic, explosive chorus with a nice message to boot.
The Miracle, admittedly, does suffer from its fair share of filler, and ‘Rain Must Fall’ is another example. It features some incredibly cheesy synth, but that’s not enough to save it. It’s middle-of-the-road; Queen’s ‘Simply Red moment’. ‘Scandal’, on the other hand, is the record’s most underrated moment. ‘Scandal’ was released as the fourth single from The Miracle, and even got its own video, but never gets a look in beside that. Inspired by the papers’ interest in his recent divorce, it’s Brian May shedding off that calm demeanour and getting as vicious as he can get. And good on him. The papers hounded the band around that time. Unhinged Bri sometimes makes for the band’s best music (just look at ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ or ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’).
And just listen to the guitar on ‘Scandal’. In true Queen fashion, May recorded the keyboards and guitar in one take; and Mercury did the same with his vocals.
It’s a running theme of this album to pack a great song against a pretty poor one, and that trend refuses to let up. ‘My Baby Does Me’ is the lowest point of The Miracle. It’s as if Queen attempted a ballad that also serves as, uh, boudoir accompaniment, and screams like an offcut from 1980’s Hot Space. This lowdown, speakeasy number is better left forgotten.
Again, The Miracle doesn’t have a particularly strong opener, and it doesn’t have the best candidate for its finale, either. That being said, ‘Was It All Worth It’ has gone up in my estimations since the first time I put this album on. It features some thunderous presence from May and Taylor, with lyrics that sound suspiciously like a goodbye letter from Mercury. In many ways, it’s ‘The Show Must Go On’s more defiant, aggressive brother. Not a patch on that one, but solid all the same. It’s climax packs an experimental opera of nigh-Innuendo proportions.
And there we have it, all ten tracks of Queen’s thirteenth album (and penultimate record before Mercury passed, tragically). No, I don’t love it as much as I did three years ago, when it was the only Queen release I had in my collection. The Miracle suffers from some slapdash lows that, for the band’s standards, are pretty barrel-scraping. But where the album delivers, it delivers. ‘I Want It All’, ‘Breakthru’ and ‘Scandal’ are nothing to sneer at – they mark the best rock numbers of the band’s lengthy career.
In conclusion, I have to be awkward in my verdict and say that The Miracle is… just alright. Half of it is great, and half of it is a bit naff. It’s far from a ‘must have’ for Queen fans, but more than worth a listen. It has the darker notes of a band just before their end, but also proves a testament to how the group, and Mercury, never intended to go out with anything other than a triumphant jeer.