Queen At 50 Reviews – The Miracle – Collector’s Edition Box Set

The large, square, dark navy cover for the box set of The Miracle by Queen. The words Queen is in the centre, in red lettering with a thin orange outline, with a long curving tail on the Q. Below that, The Miracle is written in slightly smaller orange lettering. And beneath that, the words Collector's Edition are in slightly smaller white text. There is a border of thin red and orange lines around the edge of the cover.

Back in the first lockdown in 2020 I started doing an occasional Queen At 50 series, celebrating Queen‘s 50th anniversary by doing very in-depth reviews of some of their albums. The posts have been very sporadic due to all sorts of other things keeping me busy, as well as the level of detail they contain, but it’s always been my intention to continue the series when time permits.

And now I have the opportunity to do a Christmas special, as the band recently unveiled a new edition of their 1989 album The Miracle. When it was first announced I eagerly pre-ordered the full Super Deluxe Collector’s Edition & Press Pack as an early festive treat for myself, so I thought I’d do a detailed review now that I’ve had time to go through it and savour its contents.

The set was retailing at £169.99 (plus shipping), but I took advantage of a 10% discount code that I received from their store for my birthday a few months ago. So I was charged £127.99 for the 8-disc box set, £25 for the press pack and £6.26 shipping, making £159.25 in total. And that’s not bad at all, considering how much you get.

There are cheaper editions too though, depending on what you can afford, including the 8-disc set without the press kit, a 2-disc edition consisting of the album and the sessions, and a download version that covers all 4 music CDs, plus there are related items of merchandise. So there’s something for everyone.

I’ve made an unboxing video to go with this post, where you can see my initial reactions to the contents of the set, and there’s an unboxing video by Brian May as well. Queen have also posted a couple of short documentary features about The Miracle to coincide with its re-release, which you can see here and here.

So in this post I want to review the set in full, to give my thoughts on all the music tracks and videos, the memorabilia, the book and the radio interviews – which means there’s a lot to cover here, and I hope you enjoy it!

Introduction & Contents

This is a fantastic box set for a great album, one which came at a difficult and life-changing period for the band. After their hugely successful (and ultimately final) tour in 1986 they were completely exhausted, and thus agreed to take a break to focus on solo projects for a while. But during this time Brian had to deal with the breakdown of his first marriage and, unbeknownst to the public, Freddie received his AIDS diagnosis.

So they only ventured back to the studio together when they felt they had the right headspace, motivation and energy to do so, rather than bowing to pressure from record labels, the media or the public. And the decision paid off, as they got back into the groove feeling very much refreshed. They also worked very closely on writing every song, which resulted in the liberating decision to collectively credit all of the tracks to the band as a whole for the first time, not to the individual members who came up with the original ideas.

So they ended up being extremely productive together, recording far more songs than they needed. Several songs that didn’t make the final cut ended up as B-sides or used on other albums, but some have never seen the light of day until now.

And so here, in this massive set, we get a deeper appreciation of the work involved in creating their 13th studio album, and we’re able to celebrate its many wonderful tracks in a variety of ways:

Press Pack

This replica of the original promotional kit, that was supplied to the media in the UK & North America, is from the very limited edition of the Collector’s set, so I’m lucky I pre-ordered it early enough.

The pack consists of a folder that uses the same great design as the album itself, with the 4 conjoined faces of the band members on the front, and the array of eyes on the back.

The folder contains:

  • Press Release – This includes comments from the band members about getting back to the studio after a 3 year sabbatical, their decision to collectively credit the writing of the songs to Queen as a whole, how they sometimes take on other roles during recordings, the musical style of the album, the title song and the title of the album. Freddie also explains why he doesn’t want to tour any more, though obviously he doesn’t mention his AIDS diagnosis, as it wasn’t public knowledge at the time (but his bandmates knew). It also shows a list of the tracks, including 3 that were exclusive to the CD version at the time (Hang On In There, Chinese Torture and the 12″ mix of The Invisible Man). And there are catalogue numbers for the CD, LP and cassette releases.
  • Biography Booklet – This has 8 pages, not 16 as stated on their website. It includes a 6-page biography that summarises the highlights of the band’s career very well, including their formation, albums, Bohemian Rhapsody, touring, Live Aid, solo projects, and of course their new release of The Miracle. There are some nice little facts throughout, and a few quotes from Freddie and John. It’s all complemented by a lovely colour photo of the group as the centre spread (it’s a large version of the image that’s in the booklet with my old CD copy of the album), a second picture of them in the same outfits later on, and a discography of their albums and singles on the inside back cover.
  • Photo Cards – 2 black & white glossy versions of the colour photos from the biography booklet, which are very nice.
  • Teaser Tape – A 3” mini-CD featuring 18 minutes of extracts from all 10 songs on the album, which had been on cassette in the original press pack. I don’t currently have a drive that can play this, but that doesn’t matter.

Posters & Photos

A big black envelope in the 8-disc set includes some very nice colour imagery:

  • A tall poster (56 x 84 cm / 22 x 33 in) of the album cover, with the 4 singles that aren’t the title track listed across the bottom.
  • A wide poster (81 x 28 cm / 32 x 11 in) split into 4 panels, each containing a head shot of one of the band members.
  • 4 square glossy cards (20 cm2 / 8 in2) with individual copies of the head shots from the wide poster.
  • 2 postcards (21 x 15 cm / 8.25 x 6 in) with a negative image of the 4 conjoined heads from the album cover, each against a different colour background. Small text on the back explains that these designs appeared on certain versions of the final single, The Miracle.

The Book

The hardback book at the heart of this set contains a sublime treasure trove of material, with lots of amazing photographs (many previously unpublished) and some very interesting text to read.

Within the book you get:

  • The Discs – The 4 CDs of music are on the inside front cover, while the interviews CD plus the DVD & Blu-ray are on the inside back cover. They’re all in secure pockets so they can’t easily fall out, and the video discs are within their own square slipcases. I’ll get to the contents of all those later in this post.
  • The Miracle: A Worthwhile Experience – This introductory chapter spans 8 pages, 3 of which contain an essay talking about the break they took after their 1986 tour, their return to the studio, their prolific songwriting, their decision to credit every song to the whole band, the creation of the distinctive album cover, producer and engineer David Richards, and the promotion of the album when it was released. The chapter also includes 3 full-page images of the band together, one of which is an outtake from the photo session used for the press pack above, where Freddie and Roger are having a laugh together. And it concludes with a double-page spread showing a huge collage of merchandise relating to the album and its singles.
  • I Want It All / Breakthru / The Invisible Man / Scandal / The Miracle – Each of these chapters begins with a page of brief yet insightful notes and stats about the making of the video in question, including comments from Brian and Roger that are lifted from the DVD commentary, alongside a large photo from the video shoot. Then there are several more pages of stunning photos from the making of each video and publicity shots, which are an absolute joy to look through. Breakthru and The Miracle have particularly striking images, due to the obvious fun they had on the railway, and with the incredible children who impersonated them.
  • Fan Club Letters – A double-page spread showing handwritten letters that the band members wrote for the quarterly magazine of their international fan club , with typed out transcriptions so you can read them. Among the letters, Freddie announces their return to recording, John provides updates on their progress as well as sending an amusing holiday postcard, Roger gives some details about the filming of their video for Breakthru, Brian apologises for the fact that they’re not touring, and Freddie thanks the fans for all their support while indicating their intent to return to the studio to make their next LP.
  • Press Reviews – 2 pages of reviews from a wide selection of publications in very small print, talking about the album, the singles, the videos and how the album was promoted on TV and in the shops. They include a few interesting facts along the way, and there are a few quotes from the band, as well as their manager Jim Beach and EMI manager Tony Wadsworth. In one case there’s an assertion from Freddie that: “Queen can’t go on forever. There will come a time when we’ll call it quits – and it’s likely to be sooner rather than later.” It’s rather poignant in hindsight, given what we now know in hindsight about his condition, and his passing just a couple of years later.
  • The Miracle: In Queen’s Own Words – 2 pages of comments by the band members about each of the songs on the album. Some are straight from Brian and Roger’s DVD commentary, and there are quotes from Freddie and John too. It’s a nice summary of their thoughts.
  • Tracklistings – 4 pages listing the contents of the LP, CDs, DVD & Blu-ray, with a bit of additional information and quotes from the band members. There are some nice overview notes alongside the tracklisting for the Sessions disc, but there isn’t detail provided for each of the tracks individually, whereas there are notes for every track on the Alternative Miracle disc. It seems a bit strange considering the Sessions disc is the most intriguing and important one in the set, and in comparison my box sets for The Beatles have a fair bit of detail about their session tracks. Recording dates and reflective comments by Brian or Roger would have been interesting for instance. Still, the music speaks for itself in many ways, as it’s wonderful to have the tracks available to us in the first place, and we do have the other text in the book, the DVD commentaries and the radio interviews that give us a great insight into how the band were working at the time, so we can’t complain too much.

The Album

In this set you get 2 versions of the album:

  • A gatefold-enclosed vinyl record that contains the original long-lost LP cut, including the beautiful song Too Much Love Will Kill You, which was originally intended to be part of the album but removed at the last minute. It was eventually released on Made In Heaven instead, after Brian had premiered it at Freddie’s Tribute Concert and included his own version on his solo album Back To The Light. The LP is useless to me, as I have no means of playing it, but as I wanted everything else in the set I can live with it, and the 10% discount effectively nullifies its cost.
  • A CD containing the 2011 remastered versions of the standard 10 tracks, thus excluding Too Much Love Will Kill You. The 3 bonus tracks from the original CD release are also omitted here, as they have a new home on the Alternative Miracle disc in this set.

The tracks on the CD are therefore:

  1. Party (2:25) – Originating from a jam session, this is a catchy opening to the album that invites you to “come back and play”, now that the band have returned after their 3-year absence. It’s particularly notable for Roger’s punchy drums, and the nice guitar solos that make good use of the stereo channels. The end of the track dovetails straight into the next one.
  2. Khashoggi’s Ship (2:49) – This fun song about taking things to excess continues the rocking party feel, and refers to a huge private yacht that was owned by billionaire Adnan Khashoggi.
  3. The Miracle (5:02) – This is such a beautiful, celebratory song about the wonderful things in life, including references to things like The Taj Mahal, test tube babies, Jimi Hendrix, Sunday mornings with a cup of tea, the Mona Lisa, and ultimately the dream we all share about peace on Earth. And there are sublime layers of music and vocals throughout. The ending, where the conflicting guitar solo and vocals resolve their differences to come together in harmonious friendship, is a lovely touch.
  4. I Want It All (4:41) – Written by Brian, having been inspired by Anita Dobson (who would later become his second wife), this is an absolute banger that you can’t fail to rock out and sing along with. But if you’ve only ever heard the Single Version, as used on Greatest Hits II and in the music video, then this longer album mix catches you unawares at first, with a guitar intro replacing the vocals, plus an extended guitar solo in the middle that’s even more stunning than it already was in its edited form.
  5. The Invisible Man (4:03) – Composed by Roger, who provides solid percussion here as always, this is another wonderfully catchy track that’s like a chocolate box full of tasty delights, including that earworm of a bassline, the emphatic vocals, a gorgeous guitar solo, and effective use of synthesisers.
  6. Breakthru (4:08) – You can see why they used a railway in the video given the driving rhythm of this powerful masterpiece, it’s got such great energy to it. The bulk of the song is a Taylor composition that everyone added to, but the intro is from a Freddie track that appears on the Sessions disc.
  7. Rain Must Fall (4:23) – John and Freddie were largely responsible for creating this toe-tapper, which has a cool rhythm thanks to Roger’s Latin style percussion. There’s an interesting effect added to one of the “rain must fall” lines as well, as if the word “fall” is literally doing just that.
  8. Scandal (4:43) – This song was written by Brian in response to how he and Freddie’s lives in particular, and those of their friends and families, were being invaded and damaged by the media. It’s a solid track with a serious message and a simple signature riff.
  9. My Baby Does Me (3:23) – Again a collaboration between John and Freddie, this is the slowest and simplest song on the album, with a nice rhythm and bassline underpinning it. It gives a nice chance for a breather before the final track.
  10. Was It All Worth It? (5:48) – This is a song by Freddie that the other guys contributed to, and it takes a retrospective look at the band’s rock and roll lifestyle. It has a beautiful opening with some interesting effects, perhaps giving you the impression that the album’s continuing to slow down to its conclusion after the previous track. But it soon slams you with more glorious guitar and heavy percussion, along with powerful orchestral instrumentation that really makes it feel epic, which indeed the band’s career has been.

Total Running Time: 41 minutes, 25 seconds

All in all, to answer the question posed by the final track, this album was certainly worth it. It’s a decent collection of songs, I don’t feel there are any bad or weak ones. Tracks 3-6 are undoubtedly my favourites, not least because they’re the most well known as well, but the other tracks form a very satisfying sandwich around that tasty filling in the centre.

Sessions

Now this is where things get really interesting. The Sessions CD is a fabulous collection of rough mixes, original takes, demos, etc – six of which have never been officially released before. All of the familiar songs sound quite different to their final versions, and most of the tracks include a fleeting bit of chatter by one or more members of the band at the start and/or end, which is a nice inclusion too. As noted earlier, there isn’t any information about each of the tracks in the book, but it’s still amazing to hear them.

The tracks are:

  1. Party [Original Take] (2:54) – This is a very cool version that has the same general structure as the final song, but the soundscape is much more raw, and arguably the better for it. In addition to the great vocals by Freddie, there’s a lot more guitar work by Brian, more realism to the drum sound, and a more prominent bassline. It’s got the feel of a jam session and could easily have worked in this form on the final album I reckon.
  2. Khashoggi’s Ship [Original Take] (3:08) – This is fairly similar to the final version, but with a percussive lead-in to Freddie’s vocals, which are notably different in places, including when he’s scatting away in the bridge section. And there are little differences in the parts played by the others too. When they’ve finished, Freddie doesn’t feel that it’s quite right, but the group are generally happy with it. They’ve nearly got it nailed.
  3. The Miracle [Original Take With John’s Ending] (4:46) – Wow, how different is this?! The song is starting to take shape, with the melody of Freddie’s vocals and some other elements that are recognisable from the final version. Yet a lot of the lyrics, the rhythm and large parts of the instrumentation are radically different, especially John’s ending that was later scrapped. It immediately gives you a greater sense of how much work they must have done before completing the track, as a lot changed.
  4. I Want It All [Original Take] (6:15) – The beginning of this track is pretty cool, as Freddie sings a riff for them to play that they all start jamming along with. It’s nothing like the song, it’s just good fun. The familiar riff we all know then suddenly kicks in as they get into the take. The song sounds much like we know it, but there are several differences in the arrangement, and Freddie gets confused by coming in too early with the vocals, swearing to himself before starting again! The lyrics are different in places too, Brian sings the entire bridge section himself instead of duetting with Freddie, and a different version of the fast guitar solo comes at the end instead of earlier on. So they still had a lot to tinker with at this stage, but they had solid foundations in place.
  5. The Invisible Man [Early Version With Guide Vocal] (5:04) – This sounds very different to the final song, as the name of the track implies, but the basic ideas are very much there. Accompanied by a simpler monotonous bassline, Roger sings most of the lead vocals, as the track was his composition, but there are some vocals by Freddie as well, including a few lines that would later be removed. And there’s some awesome extra guitar work by Brian again too.
  6. When Love Breaks Up [Demo] (1:43) – This was originally intended to be a distinct song of its own, but ultimately the opening harmonies proved to be a good fit for Breakthru instead. So it’s lovely to hear it in a longer form. It feels strange not to have it launch into Breakthru at first, but then instead it becomes a lovely vocal and piano track by Freddie. Even though it’s short and he hasn’t figured out most of the lyrics, it feels like there’s potential here, and one can only imagine how it would have evolved if he’d persisted with it as a separate piece. He was more than capable of turning into something truly beautiful.
  7. Breakthru [Real Drums And Bass] (4:58) – Freddie gives a bit of feedback to Roger before they get into this take, which has quite a soulful beginning and keeps that vibe even when the drums kick in. So it’s an unexpectedly different arrangement that’s nowhere near as heavy as it ended up being, yet it still works, especially with John’s lovely bassline, Brian’s flourishes on the guitar and Freddie riffing away. If they had ever performed this song live, doing a version like this would have sounded pretty cool.
  8. Rain Must Fall [Demo] (2:41) – Musically this has a similar sound to the final version, with a few variations, but the lyrics are very different, after Freddie again gets confused over when to start singing.
  9. Scandal [Original Rough Mix] (4:39) – Again this isn’t a million miles away from how it ended up. Even most of the lyrics are the same, though there are a few differences here and there, and a whole verse at the end doesn’t exist at all, resulting in a drawn out instrumental ending with the robotic “Scandal” repeating at intervals. So it lacks polish, but it’s well on the way to completion.
  10. My Baby Loves Me (4:08) – There’s a little bit of amusing a cappella by Freddie at the start before they get into the song, using its earlier working title before it changed to My Baby Does Me. Again this a case of being lyrically different, whilst the backing music is fairly similar to the final track.
  11. Was It All Worth It? [Original Take] (5:02) – After a false start, this take launches straight into the heavy rock part of the song, omitting the gentle lead-in from the final version. There are noticeable differences in the vocals and guitar playing in particular, but the track in general sounds similar to its final version, with Freddie proudly exclaiming “Fab!” at the end.
  12. You Know You Belong To Me (1:54) – The final tracks on this Sessions CD never got an official release, starting with this acoustic song by Brian. It’s not as good as tracks like Love Of My Life, but it’s got that sort of feel and is pretty nice.
  13. I Guess We’re Falling Out [Demo] (3:43) – This track has a steady rhythm, a nice piano part, and some good vocals by Freddie, including some ad-libs in place of lyrics he hasn’t figured out yet. Freddie then gives instructions to his bandmates towards the end so they can do a bit of jamming for the outro.
  14. Dog With A Bone (3:48) – This is quite a fun and groovy track, sung as a duet between Freddie and Roger, with a good beat to it and solid guitar work by Brian.
  15. Water [Demo] (1:51) – Another lovely track sung by Brian, with some nice harmonies along the way, and gentle musical backing that has a sort of watery feel to it in places.
  16. Face It Alone (4:10) – This was recently released as a single in advance of the box set, after being rescued and re-engineered from the session tapes. It sounds very different from the other songs on the album, with the minimalist percussion and bass parts punctuating the simple musical backing (including a lovely guitar solo). It all lays a basic but effective foundation for Freddie’s captivating vocals.

Total Running Time: 1 hour, 46 seconds

Altogether it’s a brilliant collection of tracks that are really interesting to listen to. All of the songs that I’m familiar with from the main album sound different in more ways than I’d expected, and it thus gives me even greater appreciation for the quality of the finished tracks. And the unused songs are very pleasant little gems that they’ve unearthed. Sure, I know some of the tracks have been online as bootlegs before, but it’s always better to hear them properly like this. So the Sessions CD is well worth buying the set for without a doubt, whether physically or as a download.

Alternative Miracle

This is a handy disc of additional songs and mixes that had been previously released as extra tracks on the CD version of the album or on the singles, which just goes to show how much additional material they had. It makes a great album in its own right – and that was indeed the intention at one point, to create an exclusive compilation for fan club members, as explained in the book. It never happened, but this is pretty much what it would have included.

  1. I Want It All [Single Version] (4:02) – A lot of Queen’s singles were the same as their album cuts, but this is one of the exceptions. As mentioned earlier, this shorter mix is the one that most people are familiar with, thanks to Greatest Hits II and the music video. The vocals at the start immediately grab your attention, which gives the video a more punchy opening and is also good for radio airplay, whereas the album version starts with guitar riffs instead. And the guitar solo in the middle’s been shortened to just the fast section here. But it works very well in this form. Some single mixes can be nothing more than just a cropped edit, so I just listen to the album version instead for the full song, but the single mix of this track is different enough to make it a viable and decent version in its own right.
  2. Hang On In There [B-Side] (3:47) – The gentle intro from this is used on the DVD and Blu-ray menus in this set, and once the beat kicks in it’s a great catchy track, which Freddie’s clearly having a lot of fun with. It was a bonus track on the original CD of the album and issued as the B-side to I Want It All.
  3. Breakthru [12″ Version] (5:44) – Originally only released on the 12″ vinyl & CD single for this song, I love this heavier extended mix. It’s completely different in arrangement to the original and has some interesting effects added, yet retains the driving locomotive beat at the heart of it.
  4. Stealin’ [B-Side] (4:00) – This toe-tapping number was the non-album B-side to Breakthru, and has enjoyable changes in rhythm after the halfway point, feeling like a jam session where they’re messing around.
  5. The Invisible Man [12″ Version] (5:29) – This featured on the 12″ vinyl and CD singles for the song, and as a bonus track on the CD of the album. It retains the iconic bassline and general structure of the song, but adds new elements, including a percussive line that cycles up and down in the background, and an interruptive sort of effect on Brian’s guitar solo and other elements.
  6. Hijack My Heart [B-Side] (4:12) – This was the B-side to The Invisible Man, and is written and sung by Roger. Again it’s catchy and quite good.
  7. Scandal [12″ Version] (6:35) – Another differently-sounding extended mix that was originally released on 12″ vinyl and CD single formats. It was also included on the Hollywood Records reissue of the album in 1991 as a bonus track. It’s not as interesting as the other 12″ mixes, but it’s still good, with a nice bassline and a few other added effects.
  8. My Life Has Been Saved [B-Side] (3:16) – This song, written by John and beautifully sung by Freddie, was the B-side to Scandal. 6 years later, it was given more deserved prominence with a new mix on Made In Heaven.
  9. Stone Cold Crazy [Rainbow Theatre, London 20/11/1974] [B-Side] (2:10) – This excellent heavy rock performance was released as the B-side to the single of The Miracle, to promote Queen’s Rare Live video collection. The sound quality isn’t as good as on the remastered Live At The Rainbow ’74 release from 2014, as this is just a copy of the original B-side, but it’s still fun to listen to.
  10. My Melancholy Blues [The Summit, Houston, Texas 11/12/1977] [B-Side] (3:50) – This lovely piano ballad is a complete contrast in style to the previous track, and was a bonus B-side on the 12″ vinyl and CD versions of the single of The Miracle, again to promote Rare Live. I have a video of this performance as well, as it was bundled in with the 2011 iTunes release of News Of The World, but this is the first time I’ve got an audio copy.
  11. Chinese Torture [Instrumental] (1:48) – This was the other bonus track on the CD version of the album, and is a good excuse for Brian to show off on guitar. According to the book it was inspired by the group’s very last gig at Knebworth in 1986, when Brian was playing around with a new double harmoniser.

Total Running Time: 44 minutes, 56 seconds

Miracu-Mentals

This disc contains the backing tracks for all the songs on the album. As awesome as Freddie is (and hearing him a cappella would have been just as incredible), removing his lead vocals exposes the underlying instrumentation and backing vocals much more clearly. It all further illustrates how much thought and effort went into the band’s music, and it very much works as an entertaining album in its own right.

So the tracks are fun to listen to, especially with headphones to get the full effect of the stereo mixes, as you can focus on all the different parts more easily and pick up on the many little nuances that you may have missed before. There’s plenty to enjoy.

  1. Party [Backing Track] (2:25)
  2. Khashoggi’s Ship [Backing Track] (2:49)
  3. The Miracle [Backing Track] (5:02)
  4. I Want It All [Backing Track] (4:41)
  5. The Invisible Man [Backing Track] (3:58)
  6. Breakthru [Backing Track] (4:08)
  7. Rain Must Fall [Backing Track] (4:23)
  8. Scandal [Backing Track] (4:43)
  9. My Baby Does Me [Backing Track] (3:24)
  10. Was It All Worth It? [Backing Track] (5:49)

Total Running Time: 41 minutes, 22 seconds

Total for all 4 music CDs: 3 hours, 8 minutes, 29 seconds

Radio Interviews

The final CD contains very enlightening and enjoyable interviews that Queen did for a couple of radio shows to promote the album. They complement all of the other content in the set very nicely.

  • Queen For An Hour – Trailer (Track 1, 0:56)
  • Queen For An Hour – Interview (Tracks 2-10, 50:28)
  • Queen For An Hour – Outtakes (Track 11, 3:49)
  • Rockline – Interview (Tracks 12-15, 21:05)

Total Running Time: 1 hour, 16 minutes, 18 seconds

Queen For An Hour, where the band are interviewed by DJ Mike Read, was recorded in March 1989 and broadcast on BBC Radio 1 on 29 May that year. And as well as being about The Miracle, it’s also significant for being the very last interview they ever did as a complete group, though they didn’t know that would be the case at the time.

A shorter edit was previously released in the 2016 deluxe On Air box set, but here we get the complete version as originally broadcast – minus 4 non-Queen tracks that have been cut out for obvious copyright reasons, which is fair enough.

So the disc starts with a trailer that the band members helped to record, and then track 2 is the opening of the show, where Mike plays a montage of clips from many Queen hits. The interview then takes place over tracks 3-10, each beginning with a few minutes of chat before one of the songs from the album is played in almost its entirety. It all flows continuously, so if you just let the album play you won’t notice when the track changes.

And it’s a great interview, as the band are relaxed and happy to chat openly about having a rest after touring, various songs from the album, deciding on the first single, writing together more closely, having too many songs for the album, Freddie working with Montserrat Caballé, the solo work of other band members, other artists they each enjoy and Freddie not wanting to tour again (without mentioning his health of course). A track of outtakes then follows the end of the show, as they talk about whether there should be a film of the band’s story and more artists they like, and they make a few attempts at recording the trailer.

Rockline then makes up the final 4 tracks on the CD. This was an interview show that was syndicated across America, and was considered the longest-running programme in rock history. It was presented by Bob Coburn, and this item is dedicated to his memory in the book, as he passed away in December 2016.

So here we get over 20 minutes of extracts from Brian & Roger’s live appearance on the show on 19 June 1989, which they flew to Los Angeles to participate in. And the CD tracks are all chat this time, as the songs are edited out to avoid repetition and to save space on the disc. They take questions from Bob as well as several excited fans on the phonelines, so they cover a huge mixture of topics in a relatively short space of time, including some of the songs on the album, crediting songwriting to the whole band, Live Aid, their producer David Richards, parts of their discography that haven’t been released in America, Brian’s love of guitar music, whether Brian or Roger would sing more lead vocals in future, the “No Synths” statement on their early albums, whether they’ll tour America again, how Brian feels about adapting to different music styles, whether they’ll collaborate with more artists, how Brian built his guitar, Roger’s band The Cross, and a lady who has a pair of Brian’s trousers that she got at a convention!

Music Videos

Last but not least, the set contains region-free DVD and Blu-ray discs, each of which have the same contents, lasting just over 70 minutes if you watch and listen to everything (including the commentaries). Everything here was previously released on the Greatest Video Hits 2 DVD, and it’s a great shame they haven’t dug out any new video material for this release, as there’s plenty of room on the discs. But this is the first time the videos have been released in High Definition on Blu-ray, so it’s significant for that reason alone.

The beautifully and appropriately designed menu uses the house from the video game in the Invisible Man video, with a bit of animation and ambient music from the intro of Hang On In There. Different sets of options are in different rooms – on the Blu-ray, you can see everything at once and freely move between them, while on the DVD you have to click on each room to move in closer and reveal its contents. It works nicely either way.

The main feature of each disc is of course the 5 music videos created for the album, lasting 22½ minutes in total. They’re in 16:9 widescreen format (in NTSC on the DVD, and 1080p on the Blu-ray), and you have a choice of Stereo or DTS-HD Surround sound. I don’t have good enough eyesight to try and compare the quality of the DVD and the Blu-ray, or to compare it with the previous GVH2 release. But having watched the Blu-ray, they look and sound pretty great to me.

There’s also an optional audio commentary by Brian and Roger, where they give some interesting insights and their honest thoughts, and several of their comments are repeated in the book. They remind us a few times that Freddie was already quite ill during this period, thus making it all the more impressive that he looks so happy, healthy and full of life in all of these videos. The way he pushed himself to continue producing material during his final years is nothing short of extraordinary.

Subtitles aren’t provided for the lyrics of the songs, but they are available for the commentary and other extras in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese & Korean.

The music videos consist of:

  • I Want It All (4:00) – This uses the single version of the song with the intro vocals, and is mainly just a video of Queen miming their performance surrounded by lots of bright lights, to represent what it might be like at a live show. But the opening with the 4 heads in a line is a nice touch, as is the middle section where Brian and Freddie’s heads merge in and out of one another. And it’s just an awesome track anyway, so the video doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Brian also explains in the commentary how the song was inspired by later wife-to-be Anita Dobson.
  • Breakthru (4:22) – I love this track, and the video with the band performing on top of a speeding train, as it’s amazing to see them speeding through the countryside and they clearly had a lot of fun with it. In the commentary Brian explains how it was great escapism for him, given how difficult his life was at the time, and they talk about the lady in the video, Debbie Leng, who Roger was dating at the time. Roger also admits that he feels the song is a bit over-arranged for his liking and could have been simpler.
  • The Invisible Man (4:18) – This enjoyable video, where Queen are characters in a video game who come to life, was quite innovative and cutting edge for its time, with its use of motion control cameras and animated effects. It’s a lot of fun seeing multiple Brians on the guitar, for instance, while John looks very cool in his cowboy hat, which he tosses to the boy at the end to draw him into their virtual world. And what a lucky kid he is – who wouldn’t want Queen suddenly bursting into their room to perform for them?!
  • Scandal (4:42) – Easily the weakest offering here, even Brian and Roger admit in the commentary that this video is underwhelming, focusing mainly on the band spread out over a stage in front of a big National Scandal sign. It’s not awful by any means, and it’s always nice to watch the guys in action, plus the song itself is great regardless. So it’s still watchable, it’s just not particularly thrilling like the others. At the end of the day it was only made because the song was being released as a single, and there weren’t any exciting ideas for how to represent it.
  • The Miracle (5:13) – The best has been saved for last here, as the children impersonating Queen are adorable and astounding, superbly nailing the nuances and mannerisms of their heroes, and their names are of course mentioned in the book. What a thrill it would have been for them, and surely nothing in their lives has since topped this experience. Brian and Roger remember the shoot with fondness in the commentary as well, and you can see how much fun they’re all having together when Queen join the youngsters on stage in the video. It’s gloriously uplifting.

You get the following extras on each disc as well, lasting 28 minutes altogether, including what would later turn out to be the last interviews John Deacon ever gave:

  • The Miracle Interviews (8:24) – Entertaining chats with the band members on the set of Breakthru, about taking a break after touring and making the album.
  • Making Of The Miracle Videos (15:04) – This is a nice collection of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, including the recording of the intro for I Want It All, the band chatting with the director on the set of Scandal, original casting tapes for The Miracle and a chat with Ross McCall (one of the kids involved), very brief remarks by Freddie and Roger alongside The Invisible Man (sadly there’s no behind the scenes footage for the video itself), and lots of clips of the band shooting, relaxing and being interviewed on the set of Breakthru.
  • Making Of The Album Cover (4:45) – Interesting interviews with graphic designer Richard Gray and computer operator Richard Baker about how the idea for the conjoined heads on the cover came about, with a demonstration of how the image was created on the computer. Nowadays it would be relatively easy to create such an image, but back in the late 80s there were very few software applications and experienced computer users with the capability to do something like this.

Conclusion

This has been an excellent set to look through and listen to, because I think it does justice to a brilliant album, and it reveals many fascinating insights into how it was put together, with all the additional tracks, videos, radio interviews, book and souvenirs. It’s a treasure trove of material that’s absolutely worth a look if you’re a fan of the album, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it all!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

One thought on “Queen At 50 Reviews – The Miracle – Collector’s Edition Box Set”

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