The voices of Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury together will be heard for the first time this year as Queen trawl through their back catalogue and unreleased studio tapes.
The song There Must Be More To Life Than This, with vocals by Mercury and Jackson, will be released on a Queen hits and rarities collection in a version which mixes original recordings with modern production (by noted studio wizard William Orbit), much in the manner of the recent Michael Jackson release Xscape. The Jackson/Mercury duet is one of three Mercury songs in the collection.
That Jackson album had songs which were partially recorded through the 1980s and 1990s and given contemporary sound treatments by a number of producers. It was controversial for its appropriation of material which, in theory, Jackson had not considered good enough to release at the time.
There Must Be More To Life Than This was recorded between 1981 and 1984, but never completed. Begun as a Queen track (written by Mercury for the 1981 album Hot Space) the song didn’t have a completed vocal initially and Mercury took the instrumental version to Jackson’s home studio in Los Angeles and recorded his vocals.
No more was heard of the track in the next three decades, during which both Mercury and Jackson died and Queen for a while became better known for the jukebox musical based on their songs, We Will Rock You.
However, the remaining active members of Queen, Roger Taylor and Brian May – who have been touring, including in Australia this year, without bassist John Deacon but with Adam Lambert filling in for Mercury – asked Orbit to fashion a final version of the Mercury/Jackson song.
Early reactions from fans of both artists seem positive, with declarations of “too much awesome in one place”, “heart skips a beat” and “OMG” on Twitter. Critical reaction is slower to come but may not be quite as positive for what could be described as an undercooked ballad whose lack of spark might explain its languishing in the vaults for 30 years.
The song is one of three rarities on a new compilation, called Queen Forever, which also has a previously unfinished song from the same The Works sessions, Let Me in Your Heart Again (written by May and sung by Mercury), and a ballad version of a solo hit Mercury recorded with Giorgio Moroder, Love Kills, which originally was played in the studio by Queen.
On both tracks May and Taylor have recorded some new instrumental and vocal sections, augmenting the original recordings. None of the new recordings will be released as singles or separate tracks and will be available only on Queen Forever, which is out November 7.
by Bernard Zuel