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A KIND OF MAGIC

Queen

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ttaylor102003
3 stars Well, I like parts of this album. However the first half is mostly pop garbage filler, except for Friends will be friends, which is still pop, but its better. However this album is not prog in any way. The second half dominates. All these songs were used as the Soundtrack to Highlander, a movie about immortals who can only die by having their heads chopped off. So anyway, Who Wants to live forever is a great emotional song (which Brian May sings part of). Then comes Gimme the Prize, a terrific heavy metal song with great lyrics and vocals, and guitar riffs and such. Don't Lose Your head is the worst of the Highlander songs, but it is still pretty good. Now Princes of the Universe. This song has always had a special place in my heart. See, when my family got together to film a really cheaply made fantasy movie, we used this song as the credits. This songs dominates. Great vocals from all around, great riffs, great everything. Forever, an instrumental conclusion to WHo Wants to Live forever, closes the album in fine style.

So this album is pretty good if you're a Queen fan (you might even like the pop of the first half). If you're not, it will be hard to get into, but either way, its the second half (The Highlander song [great movie by the way]) that you're getting this for. Highlights are: Who wants to Live forever, Gimme the Prize, Princes ot the Universe, and Friends will be Friends. However, Don't Lose Your head and forever are also good.

Report this review (#41055)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is quite ordinary. Very 80s pop sounding, because that's all it really is. This is the bad side of Queen, when they went synth crazy, not that synth's are necessarily bad however Queen here are going for a heavy sound on most tracks and the core of the music, in which everything is built around is made up entirely of cheesy 80s production. I read a review of this album in Rolling Stone and they said it was "heavy plastic" and i think that is probably the best way to put it. Heavy but not dense or convincing.

Having said that there are a few moments in this album that redeem it somewhat. "Who wants to live forever" is one of Queen's best songs. Parts of "Gimme the prize" verse are decent, and "Princes of the Universe" has it's moments, but sadly even these songs with the exception of WWtLF can't escape the poor production.

Report this review (#41393)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
davidlevinson
4 stars I Really liked this album. It starts out with a great rocker "1 Vision". The rest is a little on the poppy and melodic side but the tunes are quite enjoyable. Side 2 of the album (Mostly the songs from Highlander) were great and powerful songs as well. From the power ballad "Who Wants To Live Forever" right to the metal-anthem (one of many) Princes Of The Universe! If there is any latter year albums by Queen to get, you gotta get AKOM
Report this review (#58001)
Posted Saturday, November 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Let's see if we can squeeze anything good of the famous band that went pop: the year is 1986. You're right, not much. Especially not much from the progressive rock point of view.

For the beginning, let us eliminate two awful fillers: "One Year Of Love" and "Pain Is So Close To Pleasure". Avoid these tracks at all costs. Give them a try only if you are fan of cheesy SPANDAU BALLET-like ballads.

Two down, nine to go. Let's move further: "One Vision", "A Kind Of Magic", "Friends Will Be Friends" and "Who Wants To Live Forever" were all present on the chart, and they are all well-known so I won't give them much attention here. The only exception here is "Who Wants To Live Forever", beautiful ballad (with slight touch of prog perhaps), and possibly the best song utilising Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. I'm not a big fan of digital technology and tiny, belly, plastic synth sounds, but these synth pads are just gorgeous and they work perfectly well here. This is the most well-known song from the movie "Highlander". However, this album is not a soundtracks in its entirety, but 4 songs were included in the motion picture, and "One Vision" was included (I think) in the movie "Iron Eagle".

One more fact, slightly off-topic: speaking of synthesizers in "Who Wants To Live Forever", I think that DX7 synth (along with Brian's guitar) represented the trademark of the QUEEN sound in the 80's in a same vain that Freddie's Bechstein piano in the 70's.

The remaining tracks were all included in the "Highlander movie": "Don't Lose Your Head", "Gimme The Prize" and "Princes Of The Universe". All of these are silly, heavy-metal-pop songs in the vain of POISON or EUROPE...oh my God. However, they are not bad at all, they are all high-quality pop tracks, with excellent guitar works from Mr. May, and 80's sound mannerism (that sounds nice to my ears simply because of nostalgic reasons). Brian is providing us solo on the guitar imitating Scottish bagpipes (aha!! prog-folk!! gotcha!), there are some sounds from the movie included (not in a terrible way like on "Flash Gordon"), and last but not the least, there are occasional spice of prog.

Bonus tracks are "Forever", lovely, piano-driven, instrumental version of "Who wants to live forever" and it is excellent. The extended version of "One Vision" is not to be confused with the "Blurred Vision", a B-side of "One Vision" maxi-single from 1985.

This album is essential if: you are a QUEEN fan, you are 80's heavy-pop fan, you are Christopher Lambert fan.

I really can't deny the fact that this album is a good one, actually. Not comparable to QUEEN peaks, but really an enjoyable listening. However, I won't rate it with three stars simply because it won't appeal to the most of the prog rock fans. Two and a half stars rounded to two, but these two are well-deserved ones. Not bad.

Report this review (#102359)
Posted Sunday, December 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars To me, with the release of this album Queen had demonstrated a real decline in their career, musically. It's probably this album was a success commercially but as usual I did not pay attention to a commercial success. If it happens the music is good and commercially successful, ten it's really okay. Through "A Kind of Magic" Queen tried to proof their existence in pop and rock arena. Some songs featured here are industrial in nature - with many loops and programming. This is a good example that even with virtuosity in skills of its individual member there must be good vision and direction on the music which ties all core competence into one cohesive whole: good music and tight compositions. Of course, I'm not saying this is a bad album but it's definitely below the standard of their potentials. Some tracks with good lyrics include "One Vision" and "Friends Will Be Friends". Other tracks that I consider good are: "Gimme The Prize" which represents the classic sound of Queen through Brian's guitar work, and "Don't Lose Your Head". This track reminds me to Saga as the portion of keyboards is quite dominant and the music flows like in a loop fashion. "Princes of the Universe" is actually not a bad track at all.

Overall, I would not recommend you to buy this album unless you are a die hard fan of Queen. For this, I clearly understand as you might be wondering how the band sounds like a decade after its existence in rock music. Keep on rockin' ..!

Report this review (#121021)
Posted Monday, May 7, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars After their great performance during the fantastic "Live Aid" concerts, one was expecting something better than such an album from "Queen".

The second soundtrack from the band. Slightly better than the awful "Flash Gordon" (but some people might tell you that it sucked so much that it was not difficult to do better). Surprisingly, the opening number "One Vision" will not appear on the "Highlander" movie but well on "Iron Eagle" released a year later. This is a typical "Queen" song : bombastic vocals, great chorus and a catchy melody. Fully pop- oriented as the following and title track. These songs don't belong to their most praised ones by their early fan database (but who from them are still fans in 1986? I wasn't any longer to be honest).

Mercury is just doing too much of a circus during "One year Of Love". Almost a pastiche of himself! Press next to avoid this syrupy and useless ballad (even if some good sax is featured). This album seriously lacks in great song writing, but of course there has been a long time since the band released a very good album, and this one is not even close to reach this level.

Mostly pop-oriented it holds some very weak songs : "Pain Is So Close" sounding as a poor Hall & Oates number. Press next. Pop is the word on this album, but I admit that "Friends Will Be Friends" holds many of the ingredients that made "Queen" famous. Some fine guitar notes are sustaining this good number after all. The last two songs were not featured in the movie.

This album is also more on the soft side than usual (at least these awful disco beats are mostly omitted). "Who Wants To Live Forever" is a very poignant song and even if heavy orchestrations are featured I succumb to its fantastic construction. Brilliant vocal section, atmospheric (but short) instrumental middle part and a bombastic final part ending rather smoothly. Did you say "Queen"?

I guess that by this time, one has the right to say : "Can Queen still rock"? Yes, they can. The heavy rock "Gimme The Prize" is there to prove this but this song is a weak example of their rocking angle. Totally uninspired.

The band reverts to their poor sound from the eighties with "Don't Lose Your Head". Electro beats full of synthetic sounds. Press next. Please. Some Rhapsody like vocals to start the closing Princes Of The Universe which is a good rock song where melody also plays an important role. This song brings us several years back in their repertoire. One of my fave from this average work. Needless to tell you that you shouldn't expect any prog in here. Maybe for their next album?

Two stars.

Report this review (#160559)
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars "There can be only one!"

In the 70's Queen was primarily an albums band. They did release singles even back then, but the album was clearly the important format for them (as for most Rock bands in the 70's, especially for those with any progressive aspirations). In the 80's, however, Queen (again, like many other Rock bands in those times) transformed into more of a singles band. If I'm not mistaken, every track from this album was either an a-side or a b-side on a single! Further, as many as five of the album's nine tracks had music videos made for them! All this is strong evidence that the album format was not as important as singles and music videos at this time and, sadly, the album suffered somewhat as a result. However, there is a loose concept or common theme to several of the songs on A Kind Of Magic (due to the fact that these songs were written for the film Highlander) that helps to hold it together very well in the end.

The most obvious sign of the fact that the band put priority on making strong singles and music videos rather than making a strong album is the presence on this album of a few songs that do not stand up very well on their own. In the 70's the songs that were released as singles were almost never the most interesting or best songs, but in the 80's - and particularly so on the present album - this was clearly the case. Several of the songs from this album are very good and a few of them are even truly excellent!

The album opens on a high note with One Vision and closes in even stronger fashion with the powerful Princes Of The Universe. Who Wants To Live Forever is, however, the centerpiece of the album. This is a truly beautiful song! Brian May gets a rare vocal performance here at the start of the song and his voice fits in perfectly and blends very well with the much more powerful voice of Freddie. The vocals, the lyrics, the guitars, the drums and the full symphony orchestra make this track into a very powerful and emotional moment. This is simply a great symphonic power ballad, and a definitive Rock classic. A true masterpiece song! Friends Will Be Friends is a real arena anthem with a strong chorus and great guitar play and a great instrumental break and guitar solo. The vocals are, needless to say, simply excellent.

Even though several songs from this album were used in the film Highlander, only Gimme The Prize has obvious connections to the film, incorporating pieces of conversation from the movie. Otherwise, this song is the hardest rocking and most guitar oriented track on this album. Sadly, I think that the dialogue from the film is slightly distracting and takes away from what otherwise could have been a another great song. It does, however, have an amazing guitar driven passage that starts at 2:36 into the track. This part sounds like it is inspired by the music of the Scottish highlands i.e. the melody sounds Celtic. I really love that part! The title track, on the other hand, is not a big favourite of mine. The beat is a bit too static and funky for my tastes. However, the song is saved by some really great guitar work towards the end.

One Year Of Love, Pain Is So Close To Pleasure and Don't Lose Your Head are the least good songs here and they are among the least good songs Queen ever recorded. But in the context of the other songs here, they still work to my satisfaction. The first of these songs includes a saxophone part which is very unexpected on a Queen album. Needless to say, these songs bring the album down a bit. But thankfully, they are reasonably well hidden among the other, far better, songs.

This album is, admittedly, uneven. The cover art is quite awful too, which further distracts from its value. But the better songs are so good that I cannot but give this album a high rating despite the few weak moments.

A Kind Of Magic was the best Queen album since A Day At The Races and remain highly enjoyable for me today after many years of listening.

Report this review (#189927)
Posted Wednesday, November 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I just noticed, that after reviewing every sound Queen has slapped on record, I somehow missed this disc, a late 1980's Queen that was little by little trying to find their old sound. After their comeback in 1984 with The Works (and I say comeback because of the tragedy that was Hot Space in 1982), this is just another step in the direction they were attempting to achieve, with the regular number of ballads, rockers, and middle-of-the-road pop. I honestly don't feel like writing one of those 10 page reviews like I did for their other releases, so I'll make it pretty short and sweet.

This opens with the Queen rocker One Vision, written about their triumphant Live Aid appearance in 1985. Pure rock that leads into the pure pop of the title track. Most of this album was written as the soundtrack to the movie Highlander, A Kind Of Magic included. Listen, however, to the BETTER and more stripped down version that plays over the end credits of the movie. This poppy album version is the worse of the two. We then move on to the first ballad One Year Of Love. Another track from the movie, this is actually a very beautiful and emotional song that includes a wonderful sax accompaniment. We fall into the not-so-great-pop of Pain Is Close To Pleasure with Freddie's falsetto vocals killing what may have been a much better song, and then into Friends Will Be Friends, an 80's anthem in the vein of their 1977 Champions.

Who Wants To Live Forever, yet another of the soundtrack songs, could possibly be one of Queen's most emotional ballads. It not only showcases an orchestra, but also Brian singing lead vocals for the opening portion...a rarity of 1980's Queen, although it did happen one or two other times. Not counting Don't Lose Your Head, as this die-hard fan finds this piece of garbage a complete throwaway Queen song, the remaining two tracks Princes Of The Universe and Gimme The Prize are amazing slices of hard rock, even bordering on heavy metal at times. Freddie's vocals are simply amazing as he basically growls and shrieks through these numbers like a man possessed...Highlander movie star Christopher Lambert has a cameo in the video for Princes which until recently one one of the harder to find video released in Queen's catalog.

As before, I mentioned unreleased tracks and oddities on all the other releases, but from this release there really wasn't more than some instrumental remixes and 12 versions. There are a few very rare, obscure demos floating around on the net, including a version of Heaven For Everyone and several of Freddie's piano / vocal slave tracks...apart from that, what you hear is what you get. Their follow-up album, The Miracle was much better in almost every way, but this is certainly worth the price of the CD just for the amazing ballads and the few hard rocking tracks that actually feel a bit inspired.

Report this review (#191008)
Posted Saturday, November 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Queen at the peak, but the comercial peak not musicaly. Another chart album in Queen's career, another 2-3 pieces in top 100, money, money everywhere but what about the music. Not much about this album to talk about, at least from progressive perspectiv this is a zero album, in fact I stopped to judge a Queen album from prog view from Jazz from 1978, the last intristing album both for usual listner and for prog conoseurs aswell. From that album I only say my opinion as a usual listner, this time is Kind of magic from 1986. From here I can extract only 2-3 good pieces that I like:Don't Lose Your Head, Kind of Magic and One Vision, the rest are not realy bad, but totaly unintristing for my taste. Queen took a wrong path sincee The game, a pop orientation with some rock flovours here and there, with this album is no diffrent. So a 2 star album for me, weaker than The works and mmuch weaker then the next one The miracle. Fans only.
Report this review (#209100)
Posted Saturday, March 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars A Kind of Magic ? 1986 (1.6/5) Nearly one star. 7 ? Best Song: Pain is so Close to Pleasure Ohh boy, what a [&*!#]! Magic? Yeah, it'd take a [%*!#]ing mystical wizard to come up with something as mindboggling and terrible as this album. Ugh, I hate being so rough when Works was so solid, but this is a dip, the big dip, too. It's a bigger dip than from Day to News, and that's saying quite a lot. What's wrong with it? It might as well not even be a Queen record. It sounds half like the Temptations, half like Elton John's 1980's crap, and I'll throw it in there and say the electronic recording techniques sucked the life out of everthing. I can't hum a single line, and the melodies suck ass. It's much worse than Pink Floyd's biggest gaffes in the 1980's (mainly just Momentary Lapse of Reason), which showcases both bands as meagerly paying tribute to their former selves. 'Pain is so Close to Pleasure' is the only immediately accessible song on here that doesn't make you go screaming out of the room in a heated panic. I thought at the very least they'd hit me with something memorable or stadium-ready, but it's more along the lines of thin adult contemporary and new-soul. The overpowering synth washes are a predominate mark of the album as well, like the opening and background to the vilely slow 'Who Wants to Live Forever', and the songs are anemically empty. What a disgrace, friends.
Report this review (#445884)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

I have to say: I love Queen too much to give low ratings for their albums. When I did, meant that they had reached rock bottom (to read Flash and Hot Space). But after a great shift in The Works they continue to enchant me with A Kind of Magic.

This album is a sort of unofficial soundtrack to the movie action / fantasy Highlander - six of the nine songs here are played in the film - and is probably the biggest selling album of the band (except for the compilation Greatest Hits). You probably know a song here.

Beginning with hauntingly powerful One Vision, one of three songs that are played on Highlander (although present in the film Iron Eagle). His remarkably clip begins with a reference to the classic Bohemiam Rhapsody, besides being the only time you can see the members in the studio - in my opinion is heard either version of the clip, with 4 minutes, or studio, with only 1 minute more. The next song is the title track (this is the first Queen album to have a title track), and here the brand of '80s pop band comes up. But God, I love it! Mainly because it was this song that made me raise interest in the Queen, about two years ago. Then comes the slow ballad One Year of Love, a song that is weak start, but then gains strength with a beautiful saxophone solo and some string orchestrations. Unfortunately the next song Pain Is So Close to Pleasure is a waste of time - it was not good or if it was a band consisting of any of that decade, let alone the majestic Queen. But things are recovered in time with the excellent Friends Will Be Friends (a song I already knew, but only now I recognize).

But if there were errors in the A-side, they are easily forgotten with what I see as one of the most beautiful and powerful songs of all time. Who Wants to Live Forever. The apex of the album, this song is in my heart in a way that I am not able to describe - I can only say that I am completely in love with her from beginning to end. Gimme the Prize is a strong rocker, with some lines from the movie (which work better here than the awful dialogues in the songs from Flash). The title of Don´t Lose Your Head is an obvious reference to the theme of the movie, but I must point out that keyboards here remind me somehow of that period Genesis - Tony Banks, are you? Finally we have the heaviest song ever the Queen: Princes of the Universe! man, this is not of this world, and believe me that his three and a half minutes in length are highly complex and progressive!

Although this album and others that the band released can then be viewed as a synthesis of the garbage that reigned in the 80's I totally disagree: I think there is much good stuff to be found here, and surely the Queen had already sacred like a giant rock, though they were on a quest for redemption, looking for original and unique sound that had early in his career. The end of this path is probably in his last two albums, The Miracle and Innuendo.

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Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
Necrotica
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars After some of the disappointment caused by 1982's dance-influenced Hot Space and 1984's bland rehash The Works, Queen needed an album that would bring them back into the spotlight. While 1986's A Kind of Magic was mostly a return to form in retrospect, people weren't really convinced back then to buy it. The album only managed to go Gold in the U.S. (and for such a popular band like Queen, that was unheard of back then) and was widely considered another disappointment. So looking back on the record, did it really deserve these distinctions? Definitely not.

While A Kind of Magic is pretty inconsistent in spots, there's also some fantastic music going on here. Stylistically, Queen decided to take the "rehash formula" of The Works and expand upon it, also adding much more hard rock that was reminiscent of their 70s heyday. More importantly, it feels as though Queen sounded more fresh and inspired when it came to the songwriting and arrangements. Along with maintaining a nice array of varied riffs and more textural arrangements, there's some really heartfelt and beautiful stuff to offer as well. Essentially, this record represents the first step in pulling Queen out of the quicksand they put themselves in musically.

The album takes most of its lyrical inspiration from Highlander, giving many of the heavier tracks a more "epic" feel. This is mostly represented with songs such as the string-laden hard rock opener "One Vision," the slower and more distorted "Gimme the Prize," and album highlight "Princes of the Universe." The latter is particularly notable for featuring more of a heavy metal influence than the other songs, Brian May laying down some hard- hitting rhythm guitar work. The harmonized vocals are as fresh now as they were back then, providing those traditional bombastic arrangements we all know and love. "One Vision," while still rooted in 70s hard rock, begins drenched in lavish strings provided by a synthesizer played by Brian May. This gives a great backdrop for the rest of the song to build from, and the musicianship in the hard rock section that follows is as tight as ever.

The ballads can be hit-and-miss, but some are pretty great. I could go on for hours and hours about how good "Who Wants to Live Forever" is, for example. Beginning with a quiet, emotional verse sung by Brian May over a Yamaha keyboard, Freddie Mercury takes over on the next verse as the song builds steam. There's a really melancholic undertone to the piece, but once the chorus kicks in, sadness is all but forgotten. This is one of the great choruses in the history of rock music, combining beautiful harmonized vocal work from Freddie with a nicely orchestrated backdrop for said vocal melodies to follow. Once Brian May sings the final verse, "Who waits forever anyway," the song ends with food for thought for the listener and represents closure for a perfect piece of music. The other ballads can be good, but definitely don't reach the same level. "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure" and "Friends Will Be Friends" are your typical Queen affairs, and "One Year of Love" is just way too sappy at times, but the songs are at least serviceable ballads.

Unfortunately, the album is indeed very flawed. The ballads, as I said, are just kind of decent with one great exception, but two songs almost kill the album unless you're willing to look past them: the title track and "Don't Lose Your Head." The former is an extremely boring mid-tempo number that brings almost nothing to the table; it really feels like a B-side to The Works. The stretch from the middle to the end is particularly painful, with a bunch of melodies and vocal harmonies going absolutely nowhere while John Deacon just sits in the back and plays his bassline aimlessly. "Don't Lose Your Head" is also annoying, being an entirely forgettable dance number forged out of Hot Space's songwriting template. The vocals are a bit bland compared to Freddie's typical singing quality, and the programmed drum track just makes you wish for Roger Taylor to return to the kit as quickly as possible.

The reason this still gets a 3.5, though, is because the music that works well works REALLY well. The rockers are fantastic, the ballads range from decent to fantastic, and the music sounds like Queen returning to their old 70s glories with an 80s coat of paint. Despite some songs that almost derail this experience, I'd still recommend it. It's worth trudging through the flaws to get to the good stuff... or in this case, the wonderful stuff.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

Report this review (#1445703)
Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | Review Permalink

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