A Kind of Magic

A Kind of Magic is the twelfth studio album by the British rock band Queen, released on 2 June 1986 by EMI Records in the UK and by Capitol Records in the US. It was their first studio album to be recorded digitally, and is based on the soundtrack to the film Highlander, directed by Russell Mulcahy.

A Kind of Magic
Queen A Kind Of Magic.png
Studio album by
Released2 June 1986[1]
RecordedSeptember 1985 – April 1986
StudioMusicland, Munich, Germany; Mountain, Montreux, Switzerland; Townhouse, London;[1] orchestra recorded at Abbey Road, London[2][3]
GenreHard Rock
Length40:42
Label
Producer
Queen chronology
The Complete Works
(1985)
A Kind of Magic
(1986)
Live Magic
(1986)
Singles from A Kind of Magic
  1. "One Vision"
    Released: 4 November 1985 (UK)
  2. "Princes of the Universe"
    Released: 12 March 1986 (US)[4]
  3. "A Kind of Magic"
    Released: 17 March 1986 (UK)
  4. "One Year of Love"
    Released: 5 June 1986 (ESP)[5]
  5. "Friends Will Be Friends"
    Released: 9 June 1986 (UK)[6]
  6. "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"
    Released: 20 August 1986 (US)[7]
  7. "Who Wants to Live Forever"
    Released: 15 September 1986[8]

A Kind of Magic was Queen's first album to be released since they had received acclaim for their performance at Live Aid in 1985. It was an immediate hit in the UK, going straight to number one and selling 100,000 copies in its first week. It remained in the UK charts for 63 weeks,[9] selling 600,000 in the UK alone. The album spawned four hit singles: the album's title track "A Kind of Magic", "One Vision", "Friends Will Be Friends",[10] and "Who Wants to Live Forever", which features an orchestra conducted by Michael Kamen, while the last track, "Princes of the Universe", is the theme song to Highlander.[11]

Although Queen would release another two albums with Freddie Mercury, A Kind of Magic would turn out to be his last album promoted with a concert tour, due to his diagnosis with AIDS the following year.

Background and recording - A Kind of Magic and HighlanderEdit

The album enjoys the status of an unofficial soundtrack for the 1986 film Highlander, for which no official soundtrack album was released. The title, "A Kind of Magic", derived from one of the lines character Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) says to describe his immortality.[12] Six out of nine songs on the album appeared in the film, although in different versions. The three songs that did not appear in Highlander are "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure", "Friends Will Be Friends" and "One Vision," which was featured a year earlier in the film Iron Eagle. Conversely, a recording of "Theme from New York, New York" made specifically for a scene in Highlander does not appear on A Kind of Magic, and in fact has never been released in album form to date. According to a statement by band member Brian May on the Greatest Video Hits 2 DVD (2003), at least at that point, he had the intention to work on a proper Highlander soundtrack in the future. In one scene, a snippet of "Hammer to Fall" plays on a radio, a song from the previously released The Works album.

SongsEdit

Side oneEdit

"One Vision"Edit

After Queen's contribution to Live Aid, Freddie Mercury was enthusiastic about the band and soon after called them to go to the studio and write a song together which became "One Vision". All four band members were credited as songwriters, however Roger Taylor stated in an interview with Australian TV that originally it had been his song, with lyrics reflecting Martin Luther King Jr. He joked "that rotter Freddie" changed all his lyrics with additions like "one shrimp, one prawn, one clam, one chicken", and even name-checked John Deacon. Brian May played the opening synth section using a Yamaha DX-7. The sessions were filmed and later released on the 2003 DVD set Greatest Video Hits 2. The song does not appear in Highlander, but was used in the 1986 movie Iron Eagle.

"A Kind of Magic"Edit

"A Kind of Magic" was written by Taylor. He has admitted writing down some lyrics, which proved to be the basis for both "One Vision" and "A Kind of Magic", something made obvious by the demo of the song appearing for the first time on the 2011 Universal bonus EP, which mixes some lyrics. Later on, unbeknown to Taylor who was off to the US for a few days, Mercury took it over, "polished" the lyrics, added the bassline, some connectors and re-arranged the structure. Regardless, the new, more pop-oriented version was still credited to Taylor. It was this version that was featured on the album, released as a single and included their auxiliary live musician, Spike Edney, playing some keyboards. The heavier, rockier alternate version, also making its official debut on the 2011 Universal bonus EP, played during the end credits of Highlander. The song was covered by Elaine Paige in 1988 on her album called The Queen Album. "A Kind of Magic" is technically the first true album title track in the band's discography, although the song "Sheer Heart Attack", which appeared on News of the World, was actually written for the album of the same name, and the songs "Play the Game" and "More of That Jazz" were variations on their respective albums' titles.

"One Year of Love"Edit

"One Year of Love" is a song by Deacon. The album version features him playing Yamaha DX7 synth, a string orchestra conducted by Lynton Naiff and a saxophone played by Steve Gregory. Deacon decided to substitute the guitar components with a saxophone solo after a discussion with May, who does not appear in the song. It was released as a single in France and Spain only, and appeared during the bar scene in Highlander. It was also covered by Elaine Paige on The Queen Album in 1988 and later by Dutch singer Stevie Ann in 2006.

"Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"Edit

"Pain Is So Close to Pleasure" was written by Mercury and Deacon. Beginning as a riff idea by May, Deacon and Mercury subsequently turned that into a Motown-style song, with Deacon playing rhythm guitar. A slightly remixed and reworked version was released as a single in 1986, reaching No. 26 on the Dutch charts. The title also appears as a line in "One Year of Love". This would be one of the last times Mercury would sing a Queen song completely in falsetto.

"Friends Will Be Friends"Edit

"Friends Will Be Friends" is a song by Mercury and Deacon, with lyrics written by Mercury.[13] It is one of the last of Mercury's piano ballads, and in some ways is a musical similitude with older Queen material, such as "Play the Game" and "We Are the Champions". It did not feature in Highlander. It was noted as being a modern update of the 1970s Queen rock anthems "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You" and reached No. 14 in the UK. During the Magic Tour, the song was played between "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions", the traditional ending songs of Queen live performances.

Side twoEdit

"Who Wants to Live Forever"Edit

"Who Wants to Live Forever" was composed by May and sung in the album version as a duet between himself and Mercury. Synths parts are played on a Yamaha DX-7 by May, and the orchestra was arranged and conducted by Michael Kamen. Deacon did not participate, and Taylor played some drum-machine parts and contributed backing vocals. Percussion was taken over by the orchestra as well as double bass, in spite of Taylor and Deacon miming those parts respectively in the video. It serves as somewhat of a "love theme" of Highlander, as it adds to the sub-plot of the movie. In the film, Mercury sings the opening of the song as well, unlike the album version, which has May singing.

"Gimme the Prize (Kurgan's Theme)"Edit

"Gimme the Prize" was written by May. This song is widely known for its heavy metal features, it is featured in Highlander, and also samples various lines from the film, most notably "I have something to say: It's better to burn out than to fade away" and "There can be only one", spoken by actors Clancy Brown (The Kurgan) and Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod) respectively. Director Russell Mulcahy states in the DVD commentary that this was his least favourite of the band's songs used in the film because he does not like heavy metal. May also commented to a Japanese magazine in 1986 that both Mercury and Deacon hated the song.

"Don't Lose Your Head"Edit

"Don't Lose Your Head" was composed by Taylor and features singer Joan Armatrading in a vocal cameo. The song takes its name from a line spoken in Highlander, and is played for a short time when Kurgan kidnaps Brenda. The song then segues into a cover of "Theme from New York, New York", though it is only a small clip. It is also featured in an episode of Highlander: The Series titled "Free Fall". An instrumental version of the track entitled "A Dozen Red Roses for My Darling" is featured as the B-side to "A Kind of Magic".

"Princes of the Universe"Edit

"Princes of the Universe" is the film's theme song and the only song on the album for which Mercury received sole credit. It is quite a complex and heavy work, demonstrating Queen returning to their hard rock and heavy metal roots. The song is played in the opening credits of Highlander.[14] The music video uses clips and scenery from the movie, as well as a cameo by Christopher Lambert, who fights with Mercury on part of the film set at Elstree Studios, London on 14th February 1986. The song's name comes from the original working title of the film.[1]

SinglesEdit

  • Queen recorded "One Vision", released in the UK on 4 November 1985, the first after their much-lauded appearance at the Live Aid concert. It did well on the charts, reaching No. 7 in the UK and making the top ten throughout Europe. The song appeared in Iron Eagle.
  • "A Kind of Magic", released in the UK on 17 March 1986, reached No. 3 on its home chart. While charting well everywhere else, it peaked at No. 42 in the US and has been played on radios mostly in New England (similar to their first single "Keep Yourself Alive"). Russell Mulcahy, director of Highlander, directed the song's accompanying video.
  • "Friends Will Be Friends", released on 9 June 1986, reached No. 14 in the UK and made the top 40 throughout Europe.
  • "Who Wants to Live Forever", released on 15 September 1986, reached No. 24 in the UK. The National Philharmonic Orchestra featured in the song's video, along with 40 choirboys and two thousand candles.
  • "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure", released in the US and parts of Europe only.
  • "One Year of Love", released in France and Spain only.
  • "Princes of the Universe", was never released as a single in the UK. It was, however, released as a single in Australia, and became a mild hit, reaching No. 28 in the Spring of 1986. The song has been a cult favourite, due to Highlander, in the US. It was also used as the theme music for the Highlander television show which followed the film in 1992–1998. The music video featured Christopher Lambert and the band on part of the film set at Elstree Studios, London on 14th February 1986, and is cut with scenes from the film. The song also appears on Greatest Hits III.[15] It was released as a single in the Netherlands on 28 February 2000.

TourEdit

ReceptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [16]
Chicago Tribune    [17]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [18]
Kerrang!     [19]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [20]

Rolling Stone described the album as "heavy plastic", concluding: "This band might as well put some pomp back in its rock. Its members are never going to make it as dignified elder statesmen".[21] The Times described the album as one of "the most spectacularly successful releases this year", yet questioned its appeal, asking, "why does it not extend to those of us who are given the records to review?"[10] People Weekly wrote: "There's hardly a personal expression, let alone an intimate one, in this album... The group can be dazzling. In this case they're just overbearing".[22] Kerrang!'s Paul Henderson wondered "how much of the album is the 'real' Queen and how much is the result of the constraints/musical slant imposed upon them by writing material to go with a movie", concluding that "only a band of Queen's stature (...) could put out an album of such diverse songs without disappointing a sizeable portion of their fans".[19]

In a retrospective review, Greg Prato of AllMusic wrote: "It may not have been as cohesive as some of their other albums, but A Kind of Magic was their best work in some time".[16] Queen biographer Mark Blake wrote: "The album's confused origins made for a somewhat uneven listening experience... only the title cut and 'Who Wants to Live Forever' were songs that would survive the album's natural shelf life. Like every Queen record since Jazz, A Kind of Magic was a so-so album, cleverly loaded with two or three potential hit singles".[23]

In the 1994 edition of The Guinness All Time Top 1000 Albums, the album was voted No. 171 in the all-time greatest rock and pop albums.[24] In 2006, a national BBC poll saw the album voted the 42nd greatest album of all time.[25] In 2007, Classic Rock ranked A Kind of Magic the 28th greatest soundtrack album of all time.[26]

Track listingEdit

All lead vocals by Freddie Mercury unless noted.

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."One Vision"5:11
2."A Kind of Magic"Taylor4:24
3."One Year of Love"Deacon4:27
4."Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"
  • Mercury
  • Deacon
4:21
5."Friends Will Be Friends"
  • Mercury
  • Deacon
4:06
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
6."Who Wants to Live Forever"MayMercury and Brian May5:15
7."Gimme the Prize (Kurgan's Theme)"May 4:33
8."Don't Lose Your Head"TaylorMercury with Joan Armatrading4:38
9."Princes of the Universe"Mercury 3:33
Total length:40:42
  • Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–9 on the CD release.
Extra tracks (CD release only)
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
10."A Kind of 'A Kind of Magic' " (Second half of the extended version of "A Kind of Magic"[28])Taylor 3:38
11."Friends Will Be Friends Will Be Friends..." (Extended version of "Friends Will Be Friends"[29])Mercury, Deacon 5:58
12."Forever" (Piano version of "Who Wants to Live Forever"[27])MayInstrumental3:20
Total length:52:58
Bonus tracks (1991 Hollywood Records CD reissue)
No.TitleLength
10."Forever"3:20
11."One Vision" (Extended Version)6:23
Total length:50:25
Disc 2: Bonus EP (2011 Universal Music CD reissue)
No.TitleLength
1."A Kind of Magic" (Highlander version)4:22
2."One Vision" (Single Version)4:00
3."Pain Is So Close to Pleasure" (Single Remix)3:57
4."Forever"3:20
5."A Kind of Vision" (Demo, August 1985)3:23
6."One Vision" (live at Wembley Stadium, July 11, 1986)5:12
7."Friends Will Be Friends Will Be Friends..."5:59
Total length:30:13
Bonus videos (2011 iTunes deluxe edition)
No.TitleLength
8."One Vision" (Extended promo video[30])6:28
9."Princes of the Universe" (Promo video[31])3:31
10."A Kind of Magic" (live at Wembley Stadium, July 11, 1986[32])6:46
Total length:46:18

PersonnelEdit

Track numbering refers to CD and digital releases of the album.

Queen

  • Freddie Mercury – lead vocals (all tracks), backing vocals (1-6, 9), keyboard (2, 4, 5, 9), sampler (1, 4, 5)
  • Brian May – electric guitar (all but 3), backing vocals (1, 5, 6, 9), synthesizer (1, 6), sampler (1), lead vocals (6)
  • Roger Taylor – drums (all but 3), backing vocals (1, 2, 5, 6, 9), drum machine (2, 6, 8), synthesizer (2)
  • John Deacon – bass (all but 6), electric guitar (4, 5, 8), synthesizer (3, 4), sampler (3, 4), drum machine (3, 4)

Additional personnel

Charts and certificationsEdit

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[53] Platinum 50,000*
France (SNEP)[55] Gold 206,000[54]
Germany (BVMI)[56] 3× Gold 750,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[57] Gold 7,500^
Poland (ZPAV)[58]
2008 Agora SA album reissue
3× Platinum 60,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[59] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[60] 2× Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[62] Gold 500,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ "Queen – A Kind Of Magic (1986, Gatefold, DMM, Vinyl)". Discogs.com.
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  5. ^ "Queen singles".
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  7. ^ "Queen singles". Queen Vault.
  8. ^ "Queen singles".
  9. ^ A Kind Of Magic Chart Stats. Retrieved 15 August 2011
  10. ^ a b A Kind of Magic review. The Times. 21 June 1986. Archived at queenarchives.com
  11. ^ Bartkowiak, Mathew J. (2010) Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film p. 19. Retrieved 15 August 2011
  12. ^ "Quotes from "Highlander"". IMDb.
  13. ^ Brian May (30 July 2006). "Bri's Soapbox". brianmay.com. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  14. ^ Freestone, Peter (2001). Freddie Mercury: An Intimate Memoir by the Man who Knew Him Best. London, UK: Omnibus Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-71198-674-9. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  15. ^ "Queen – Greatest Hits III". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  16. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "Queen A Kind of Magic review". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  17. ^ Kot, Greg (19 April 1992). "An 18-record, 80 Million-copy Odyssey". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  18. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. p. 2248. ISBN 978-0857125958.
  19. ^ a b Henderson, Paul (26 June 1986). "Queen 'A Kind of Magic'". Kerrang!. 123. London, UK: United Magazines ltd. p. 12.
  20. ^ "Queen: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  21. ^ Coleman, Mark (9 October 1986). "Queen – A Kind of Magic". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  22. ^ "'A Kind of Magic' review". People Weekly. 25 August 1986. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012 – via QueenArchives.com.
  23. ^ Blake, Mark (2011). Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen. Aurum Press. ISBN 978-1845137137. Archived from the original on 31 December 2018. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
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  31. ^ "Queen "A Kind Of Magic" album and song lyrics". UltimateQueen.co.uk.
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  51. ^ "Hitparade.ch – Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1986". Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
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  54. ^ "Les Albums Or". infodisc.fr. SNEP. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
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  56. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Queen; 'A Kind of Magic')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
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External linksEdit