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The album that nearly killed Queen gets a 21st century makeover
on September 25, 2011
Queen's eleventh album (twelfth overall) entitled Hot Space was released in May of 1982.
After the success of the 1980 chart-topper The Game, Queen took some time following their 1980/81 tour to record a new album.
Lead singer Freddie Mercury, bass player John Deacon, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor along with Game co-producer and engineer Mack went into the studio at the end of 1981 and recorded The Game's proper follow-up not counting the Flash Gordon soundtrack and Greatest Hits album.
When fans first put on Hot Space, they were expecting a typical Queen album but a good portion (the first side of the original vinyl and cassette issues at least) was dance music pure and simple.
The opening track "Staying Power" is a funky Mercury composition which may be seen as bad stale disco as disco was two years out of date by then but when performed live, the song was transformed into a full throttled rocker. Next is Brian's rocker "Dancer" which combined synth and regular drums and a synth-bass skin to Foreigner's Juke Box Hero and a killer May riff and superb May guitar solos. Next was John's funk number "Back Chat" which is my favorite song on the album's first half and would be a concert staple which was transformed into a scorching rocker live. Next was the Mercury composition "Body Language" which was the album's biggest hit in the US hitting #11 and had its video banned from MTV for being too risque (I think it was a great clip and was tame compared to lousy, filth-drenched videos that hacks like Madonna, Britney, Christina, Beyonce, The Pussycat Dolls, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Rihanna and such made). Roger's New Wave sounding rocker "Action This Day" ended the first half and was a great song but would be better live.
The album's second half was typical Queen tracks starting with Brian's rocker "Put Out the Fire" which is a great number. Freddie's ballad written for John Lennon, the Beatle-esque "Life is Real" follows and is a great song. Roger follows with the minor US hit "Calling All Girls" which is a great song though many hate it. We follow with Brian's UK Top 30 ballad "Las Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love)" which is a beautiful song and my favorite on the album's second side. Next is the Mercury/Deacon composed ballad entitled "Cool Cat" which Freddie sang entirely in falsetto and had John on guitars, bass guitar and drum machine (no Roger nor Brian on this track). We end with the classic duet with David Bowie called "Under Pressure" which hit #27 in the US and #1 in the UK and was a great song which first appeared on the band's US and Canadian versions of Queen's Greatest Hits album in November of 1981.
However, many fans (or poseur fans I call them) hated Hot Space's sound change and Hot Space peaked at a dismal #27 in the US and stalled at Gold which was a MAJOR FLOP compared to The Game's four million in US sales and #1 US peak.
Sales notwithstanding, this album is a great album and the band had a right to change its sound and experiment (that is why legendary bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Rush, Genesis, Queen and Iron Maiden succeeded with changing styles and sounds over the years). If they had stuck with the AC/DC and Judas Priest formulas (not there is anything wrong with either band), they would have become stale!
In September of 2011, Queen re-released this underrated and underappreciated album as well as the other four studio albums from 1977 to 1982 (News Of The World, Jazz, The Game and Flash Gordon Soundtrack) as all newly remastered 2-CD Deluxe Editions painstakingly remastered by Bob Ludwig (who did a remaster of A Night at the Opera for its 30th Anniversary in 2005) for most of the world (the worldwide re-releases already occured in June) and these new remasters buries any previous CD version of the back catalog (including the flat 1980s EMI issue and 1991 remaster and 1994 EMI remasters).
The bonus CD for Hot Space contains the 1982 Milton Keynes performance of "Staying Power" which is great performance. Then you get the album outtake "Soul Brother" which is a band composition and was the B-side to "Under Pressure" with Freddie singing falsetto on the whole track. Next is the single remix of "Back Chat" (which had not ever been released in the States to my knowledge). Next is a rip roaring live readiong of "Action This Day" performed in Japan in November of 1982. Then you get a live recording of "Calling All Girls" which was also recorded in Japan in November of 1982. The booklet that comes with this has just about everything that came with the original LP artwork, lyrics and credits plus extra photos of the band.
Some will say why buy again but I say go for it because of the remastering!