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on September 24, 2012
The 4-disc set is stunning. It's an elaborately detailed release that, among other things, documents an amazing collaboration. Queen/Mercury fans know the story of how Freddie Mercury came to create this album of various duets with Spanish opera star, Montserrat Caballé. The main focus of this 25th anniversary edition is the replacing of the original synthesized score with a full 80 piece orchestra. It works. A lot of work was put into this, from trying to match the feel of the original backing tracks to replacing the faux-Japanese koto in "La Japonaise" with the real thing. You can complain all you want about the intent of this project but, to me, it finally sounds finished. As early Queen albums proudly announced, "No synths." The original version is still available but it's been solidly thrashed by this 2012 version. The people behind this project - some of whom were there when the original album was created - make a strong case for this being what Mercury would've wished for. I suppose the best evidence is a simple one: it sounds better. Mercury and Caballé sound absolutely more natural with a huge orchestra backing them up.

VERY special mention has to be made of two soloists on one song. There is no call for a Brian May-style solo on this album, since the original had no guitar work. However, "How Can I Go On" has a part for drum and bass guitar. The drums are played by Rufus Taylor - Roger's son - and the bass guitar part is played by John Deacon, taken from the original release; you don't replace or mess with something like that.

The first disc is the new album. The second disc is full of the sort of demos and alternate takes that make this release a document of how the album was created, not just a "for fans only" montage of outtakes. Among the tracks are Mercury's demos of several songs in which he sings both his AND Caballe's parts, often improvising wordless vocals for as-yet-unwritten lyrics. I won't bother you with a track-by-track description of this disc. But, there are a few surprises to anyone familiar with the album, these are not musical scraps. Hearing Caballé rehearse "Ensueño" with Mike Moran on the piano is a special treat. This is a great little art song. At a little under 40 minutes, disc two doesn't overstay its welcome.

The third disc is a DVD and it's full of treats, lots of them. Besides a smallish documentary about the making of the original album and the new version, there are very good looking transfers of the promotional videos done in the 1980s. They look good, although the original promotional video for "Barcelona" (the song) looks very mid-80s MTV-ish. More on this in a bit. As you would hope/expect, the videos employ the new orchestral score. This makes the performances of Mercury and Caballé even more vivid ("No synths!). You might say this is after-the-fact tampering and dishonest but the originals were lip-synched to begin with, so why not take this to the logical conclusion and add the new orchestral score? That's what show business is all about.

The original videos were done in the 4:3 format of 1980s television. I am grateful that this is how these videos are presented here, with one exception. When you go from a square-ish to a modern widescreen format, you either need to leave black areas at either side of the screen or chop off the tops and bottoms of the image. That latter option can completely ruin the original image (if you've seen the horrible chopped-and-stretched releases of Queen's videos by Eagle Entertainment, you'll know what I'm talking about). Universal, the company behind this release, have transferred the videos as originally shot. They look very good and the premiere of the song "Barcelona" in May of 1987 at the Ku Club in Ibiza looks spectacular, as if it were shot recently on motion picture stock, not video. You can kiss those awful YouTube uploads goodbye, forever! The three songs performed in Barcelona, in front of Montjuic Castle before a huge audience including the King and Queen of Spain, also look great, better than ever in spite of being shot on video. (Note: I watched this DVD on a 32" SONY Bravia HDTV with good speakers, so I'm pretty sure about how good this material looked and sounded.)

A minor disappointment is the presentation of the original "Barcelona" video, here called a "classic" video. The top and bottom of the image are sliced off. Besides making for a few awkward shots, this also means the video was enlarged and, folks, you just shouldn't do that with video footage from the 1980s. That is SO Eagle Entertainment! This is followed by the brief documentary about the making of the "Barcelona" original album and the new one. The DVD ends with a wonderful treat. The new score has been added to a newly edited version of the "classic" Barcelona video. In this version, alternate camera shots were used throughout and they appear to be from a much better source than seen before. It was edited very intelligently in 16:9 wide screen by the Rhys Thomas, one of the geniuses behind the 2011 documentary "Queen: Days of Our Lives" and the 2012 follow-up, "Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender." This new video has not only replaces the "classic" version in my heart, it also apologises for how it - the "classic" version - appears on this DVD.

Finally, Disc 4. It's nothing but the new score - without Mercury and Caballé - and that's practically karaoke paradise. All you have to do is be able to sing like Freddie Mercury or Montserrat Caballé.

How hard can that be?

This is more than just an upgrade to a better, more definitive version of an already wonderful album. It is an audio documentary of how that album was made. The discs are housed in a very posh book-style case. The brief essays are informative and not just giddy mushy anecdotes for the fans. It is printed on sturdy slick paper. The presentation is wonderful. For those who miss the original photos, they are included along with others we've probably never seen.

Some people have complained about the cover artwork and wondered how something that "cheap and tacky" wound up as the cover art (to an album they probably won't buy, anyway). I might not be as smart about art as Sister Wendy or the late Robert Hughes, but I'm pretty sure the splashy, vibrant cover art is an homage to Spanish painter and sculptor, Joan Miró (April 20, 1893 - December 25, 1983).

He was born in Barcelona.
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on October 11, 2012
Since the earlier review of this was so thorough, I will be uncharacteristically brief and not go into a lot of detail in my comments. This is a terrific 4-disc set and a "must" for fans of either Freddie or Montserrat or both. It was through YouTube that I first learned about the original "Barcelona" album and that was what introduced me to Montserrat Caballe. I was immediately intrigued, and now, some time later, I am a besotted fan and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to her in performances of opera arias, art songs, lieder..... It was a stroke of genius on Freddie Mercury's part and on Montserrat Caballe's part to collaborate on the "Barcelona" album and the unique pieces created for it. The two of them obviously enjoyed this project and it shows, both in their singing and in their performances on the videos.

I thought the original album was wonderful. This new version, with the full orchestration, by far outshines it. As someone said, this is the way Freddie probably envisioned it in the first place and I am sure that he would love this beautifully done interpretation of his original concept. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this really showcases the two singers and the music. I am very happy that this 25th-anniversary project was undertaken and has come to such terrific fruition. This collection of 4 discs is one to be enjoyed, time and time again.
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on October 23, 2012
I have little exposure to opera, but when I saw that violin genius David Garrett had worked on this I read further. I did like Freddie Mercury with Bohemian Rhapsody and the story about his work on this had me hooked. I took a chance and pre-ordered the new version. WHAT A PRIZE! The music is the type of thing that stays with you all day. Every so often, you can hear shades of "Queen" in it - a good thing. Ms. Caballe has an incredible voice and the blend with Mr. Mercury is truly a wonder. My favorite song is "The Fallen Priest" whose agony can be heard in the words and expressions of those who sing it. (Words were a collaboration with Tim Rice.) David Garrett adds his magic to "How Can I Go On" for another fine song. If you have an open ear to a musical adventure, this album is for you!
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on October 17, 2012
Barcelona

Given that this four-disc set contains material found elsewhere, I was able to find it for under $30 (including shipping, which was quick) and once I played "the" remastered and re-orchestrated disc, I was left speechless. WHAT A TRAGEDY we lost Freddie Mercury, at the young age of 45. This is musical and vocal brilliance personified. The DVD gets weepy, because you just want Freddie to be alive, and in this recording he truly is. WHAT A VOICE! And his pairing with Montserrat Caballé was nothing short of brilliant! Don't get me wrong: I love the Mike Moran "Barcelona" project which is mostly, if not all, piano, but this fully-fleshed out orchestral arrangement really gives you a further insight into what Freddie had in mind. He would have ROCKED the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but his tragic death such a short time before the Olympics really pushed this entire project under the rug. I'd say if you can manage to purchase this for around $30, it's a steal. The only complaint I have is with the shipper. It was just wrapped in cardboard (albeit corrugated) but still, not enough to prevent a nice ding on the bottom right corner of the outer packaging of the 4-disc set.

If you think Freddie Mercury is nothing more than Queen and his so-so solo effort Mr Bad Guy or The Great Pretender, get BARCELONA.

You'll wonder where that magnificent voice was all those years!

I'd give this six stars, but 5 is the limit!

Keep on singing Freddie. You've left us with an incredible legacy, and for that, I thank you.
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on December 6, 2012
Here we have a wonderful, musical album from one of our times all time great singers and performer. Freddie Mercury, of Queen fame, has given a wonderful, powerful and emotional performance with one of the greatest female opera singers of our time too. Barcelona is a great and powerful song as is the album. Finally a full remaster of a fantastic collaboration. Many bonus discs and extras, video and a remaster done with a full orchestra. For me, his best performance ever. As for my personal reasons, having actually lived in Barcelona as a kid, and seeing the LIVE performance in Barcelona, it just so impressive and meaningful. If you love Freddie and just inspirational music, its a great album to have.
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on July 5, 2013
If you are any kind of Freddie Mercury fan at all, you MUST own this CD. Even if you have the original Barcelona CD (as I do) you will not want to be without this musical jewel in your library. When I found out about this 2012 remake with a full orchestra I got very curious and thought, "just how different can this be?" I was blown away!! The orchestration is tremendous and even the vocals are clearer and crisper. I will even go as far to say that if you close your eyes while listening, it is almost like being at a live performance. I know, strong claim, but true. It is like Freddie has come to life and once again joined the great Montserrat Caballe. There are also two bonus tracks not on the original.CD. The first is an extended version of "How Can I Go On" incorporating a beautiful violin accompaniment by David Garrett and if you are a Queen fan, Roger Taylor's son Rufus, also makes contributions on the drums. The second bonus track is the song that Freddie composed for his first meeting with Montserrat Caballe , "Exercises in Free Love". This is Freddie's original vocal recording in a spot on soprano falsetto so that Montserrat could hear it performed in her vocal range. You need to buy this CD! You will not be disappointed!
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on July 19, 2014
I grew up with the Symphony and Opera: my Italian grandparents spoke often of Mario Lanza and the many Italian Operas; I went to the Symphony and saw several Operas with my parents throughout my life. Today I listen to Andrea Boccelli and many of the various duets he's performed, from Sarah Brightman to Celine Dion and beyond. Yet never before, until I recently discovered Freddie Mercury, did it ever cross my mind that it was Freddie who made this crossover possible. Until now, I had never heard of Monserrat Cabaille, either. I absolutely love this CD, for all of the previous reasons cited as well as it's magnificence in it's own right: Freddie truly did match Monserrat in these previously uncharted waters, paving the way for more collaborations across a variety of venues. Whenever I'm in my car, I play this CD, the louder the better, and each time I reflect upon exactly how much Freddie Mercury accomplished in his brief but meaningful life.
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on April 22, 2013
anyone who is a fan of Queen and of course Freddie Mercury knows (from his songwriting) that he is a fan of the theatrical, the dramatic and of course the operatic. HIs vocals are near-flawless and it's hard to listen to him and not be enraptured by the power of his voice. It may sound as if I am overselling him, but anyone who has heard him and were fans of either Queen or his solo work knows there is no way to actually do that. So take his considerable talents (both vocals and songwriting) and pair him up with one of Opera's premier divas Montserrat Caballe, and you have an undeniable masterpiece. Perhaps overlooked in his lifetime due to his rock roots, this is a great operatic performance. Freddie had a way of reaching out and pulling you in with his vocals and live he could make you believe that he was singing directly to you, though you were one among thousands. The live orchestra that is used on this set is a great addition, while some purists may balk. I'd think Freddie would approve. The quality of this album is still the main attraction the vocals sound more vibrant than ever. There was a lot of love shown for this album by those involved in the reissue, and it shines through.

The first cd is the album with the new orchestra taking the place of the synthesized stuff (from the original album) and the effect isn't as noticeable as you might think. That isn't to say the performance is lacking in any way.The orchestra sounds great. I am simply saying that it does not distract you in anyway and sounds natural so if you are a fan of the original you won't feel as if a great injustice was done.

The Second cd is great to listen to, and is more for completists than for casual listeners. Most notable though is that there are a few demo versions which include either alternate/original lyrics or simply Freddie-only vocals, which is a treat, don't get me wrong but it is something most music enthusiasts wouldn't really miss unless they are (like me) someone who loves to hear the process it took (in a semi-step-by-step sort of way) how the album evolved. But, I am sure those who are reading this are looking forward to this disc most of all, as we are all wanting the best version we can find of anything Freddie related.

The third disc (though technically this should be the fourth) is the dvd, and it looks great. Not sure why collector sets aren't including blu rays by now, I assume cause of cost, is beyond me. The sound of the dvd is on par with the rest of the collection and the official video has been re-synched using the orchestral backing instead of synths. So it all has a unifying sound (and again it makes it sound more natural and you don't feel like you are being short changed). The live performances look great too especially due to it's age, and as is usually the case with older video there seems to be a slight aura around the performers (due to lighting and how it shows up on tape) though it's not a negative thing as it's as good as it's ever going to be, It seemed to add a bit of an ethereal quality And anyone who is watching this dvd will consider it bittersweet considering it was one of his last performances. overall it is a great addition to any music-related collection as it's definitely a profound moment in time and the meeting of two vocal giants, and should be viewed at least once by anyone who is a fan of real music. The extras are nice but if I had one complaint it would be that it focused too much on the making of the orchestral version rather than the making of the original album. This should have been more Freddie-centric in my opinion. Though anyone who has the Great Pretender blu ray or dvd will recognize part of the interviews from this dvd. But, here it seems more in context and more organic. The Great Pretender dvd, though worth owning, tended to showcase soundbites rather than keep things in context, which left the viewer with a much different impression of Freddie than they should have. So if you watch that one, hopefully you know enough about Freddie so you can keep things in better perspective.

The final cd, though nice to have, is a bit of an oddity, as it's the orchestral part of the album sans vocals. Which I guess is nice to have, but as someone pointed out this would be great for anyone into Karaoke but who in the world can match vocals with these two? As it is part of the overall collection, in that context I say it's nice they included it, but what would have been better in my opinion is if they included the ORIGINAL album with synths, and then maybe just the orchestra backings. all would have fit nicely on one cd. that way purists would not have anything to complain about (just like star wars fans always complain that the theatrical versions of IV-VI were not included with the blu rays) my thoughts on this is that the first cd should have been the original, the second should have been the new orchestral versions, the third should have been the demos/rarities as well as just the orchestral backing...and of course include the dvd, which is worth the price of this set by itself. Casual fans will probably be satisfied with the reissued version of the original (usually found for a fair price on amazon) but anyone who loves Freddie's music will find this is something they shouldn't be without. Even such a great operatic voice like Caballe seemed in awe of Freddie's vocals. Just watch them perform together and you'll see. While there was a lot of love put into this collection there was an equal amount of love from her as well. they had great chemistry. and for rock critics who blew this off as a one-off or a bad experiment or Freddie being over-indulgent all I can say is why do people who hate music try and write about something they know nothing about? While the fact that this is opera may have scared people away in the past, it seems like today's audience is much more in-the-know about what Freddie was all about so they know that vocally he is virtually unrivaled so even people who are not opera fans will find themselves blown away. by this performance, and on top of that add Montserrat Caballe's vocals and you have a rock n' roll masterpiece. One that everyone should experience at least once....
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on October 19, 2015
Wow, what an incredible remastering of the original recording! As a huge Queen & Freddie Mercury fan I just knew I had to have this and it did not disappoint! "How Can I Go On" has NEVER sounded better...simply beautiful! A must-have for fans of Queen and FM!
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on February 6, 2015
Outstanding orchestra version. You cannot tell that the orchestra was added years later. Two powerful voices and a wide range of music including of course the title song which became the song of the Barcelona Olympics. Love it, play it loud!
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