A Kind of Magic

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This article is about the album by Queen. For their song of the same name, see A Kind of Magic (song). For the animated television series, see A Kind of Magic (TV series). For the upcoming film, see A Kind of Magic (film).
A Kind of Magic
Studio album by Queen
Released 2 June 1986
Recorded Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland and Townhouse Studios, London, England
Genre Rock
Length 53:36 (EMI CD)
50:31 (Hollywood CD)
40:58 (LP and cassette version)
Label EMI
Hollywood (1991 US re-release)
Producer Queen, Mack, David Richards
Queen chronology
The Works
(1984)
A Kind of Magic
(1986)
The Miracle
(1989)
Singles from A Kind of Magic
  1. "One Vision"
    Released: 4 November 1985
  2. "A Kind of Magic"
    Released: 17 March 1986
  3. "Princes of the Universe"
    Released: April, 1986
  4. "One Year of Love"
    Released: 4 June 1986
  5. "Friends Will Be Friends"
    Released: 9 June 1986
  6. "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"
    Released: August, 1986
  7. "Who Wants to Live Forever"
    Released: 15 September 1986

A Kind of Magic is the twelfth album by English rock band Queen, released in 1986. It was their first studio album to be recorded digitally, and is based on the soundtrack to the film Highlander, the first in a series directed by Russell Mulcahy.

Although Queen would release another four albums with Freddie Mercury (including the posthumous Made in Heaven and Queen Forever), A Kind of Magic would turn out to be the band's last album promoted with a concert tour, because of Mercury's diagnosis with AIDS the following year, which subsequently caused his death in 1991. For the first time in their career, the band allowed filming of them while they were in the recording studio. The video for "One Vision" shows them in various stages of writing and recording the song.

A Kind of Magic reached #1 in the UK, selling 100,000 copies in its first week, and remained in the UK charts for 63 weeks.[1] The album spawned three hit singles: the album's title track "A Kind of Magic", "One Vision" and "Friends Will Be Friends".[2] The sixth track on the album, "Who Wants to Live Forever", features an orchestra conducted by Michael Kamen, while the last track, "Princes of the Universe", is the theme song to Highlander.[3]

A Kind of Magic and Highlander[edit]

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 Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) says to describe his immortality.[4] 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 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.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "One Vision"   Queen (Roger Taylor) 5:10
2. "A Kind of Magic"   Taylor 4:24
3. "One Year of Love"   John Deacon 4:26
4. "Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"   Deacon, Freddie Mercury 4:21
5. "Friends Will Be Friends"   Deacon, Mercury 4:07
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "Who Wants to Live Forever"   Brian May 5:15
7. "Gimme the Prize (Kurgan's Theme)"   May 4:34
8. "Don't Lose Your Head"   Taylor 4:38
9. "Princes of the Universe"   Mercury 3:32

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[5]
Kerrang! 3/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone (unfavourable)[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[8]
The Times (mixed)[2]
People Weekly (unfavourable)[9]

Critical reaction to A Kind of Magic was mixed. 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."[7] 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?"[2] 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."[9] In a retrospective review, Allmusic were more favourable, writing, "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."[5] Kerrang! reviewer wonders "how much of the album is the 'real' Queen and how much is the result of the costraints/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".[6]

In the 1994 edition of The Guinness All Time Top 1000 Albums, A Kind of Magic was voted #171 in the all-time greatest rock and pop albums.[10] In 2006, a national BBC poll saw the album voted the 42nd greatest album of all time.[11] In 2007, Classic Rock ranked A Kind of Magic the 28th greatest soundtrack album of all time.[12]

Song information[edit]

"One Vision"[edit]

Main article: One Vision

After Queen's contribution to Live Aid, Freddie Mercury was enthusiastic about the band and rang them up to go to the studio and write a song together, the finished product being "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 serious lyrics about men like Martin Luther King, but joked that "that rotter Freddie" had changed all his lyrics with additions like "one shrimp, one prawn, one clam, one chicken", and even name-checking 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 credits of Highlander. The song was covered by Elaine Paige in 1988 on her album called The Queen Album.

"One Year of Love"[edit]

"One Year of Love" is a song by Deacon. The album version features him playing Yamaha DX-7 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 in 1986 and later by Dutch singer Stevie Ann in 2006.

"Pain Is So Close to Pleasure"[edit]

"Pain Is So Close to Pleasure" began 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 #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" was written by Mercury and Deacon, with lyrics written by Mercury (which was confirmed by May on his website).[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 is another song not featured in Highlander. It was noted as being a modern update of the 70's Queen rock anthems "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You" and reached #14 in the UK.

"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 bass (double bass in this case), in spite of Deacon miming those parts 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 first verse as well, unlike the album version, which has May singing first).

"Gimme the Prize (Kurgan's Theme)"[edit]

"Gimme the Prize" was written by May. This song 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 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. 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 at Silvercup Studios, which was a location from the film.

Singles[edit]

  • 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 #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 #3 on its home chart. While charting well everywhere else, it peaked at #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 #14 in the UK and made the top 40 throughout Europe.
  • "Who Wants to Live Forever", released on 15 September 1986, reached #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. While not a hit, it is 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 1992–98. The music video featured Christopher Lambert and the band on part of the film set, 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.

Personnel[edit]

Additional personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Austria (IFPI Austria)[33] Platinum 50,000x
France (SNEP)[34] Gold 206,000[35]
Germany (BVMI)[36] 3× Gold 750,000^
Poland (ZPAV)[37]
2008 Agora SA album reissue
3× Platinum 60,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[38] Platinum 100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[39] 2× Platinum 100,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[40] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[41] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Preceded by
So by Peter Gabriel
UK number one album
14–20 June 1986
Succeeded by
Invisible Touch by Genesis

References[edit]

  1. ^ A Kind Of Magic Chart Stats. Retrieved 15 August 2011
  2. ^ a b c A Kind of Magic review. The Times. 21 June 1986. Archived at queenarchives.com
  3. ^ Bartkowiak, Mathew J. (2010) Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film p.19. Retrieved 15 August 2011
  4. ^ Highlander (1986) – Memorable quotes
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ a b Henderson, Paul (26 June 1986). "Queen 'A Kind of Magic'". Kerrang! 123. London, UK: United Magazines ltd. p. 12. 
  7. ^ a b Coleman, Mark (9 October 1986). "Queen – A Kind Of Magic". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Queen: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  9. ^ a b A Kind of Magic review. People Weekly. 25 August 1986. Archived at queenarchives.com
  10. ^ Guinness: All-time top 1000 albums. 1994. Archived at rocklistmusic.co.uk
  11. ^ Top 100 Albums. BBC Radio 2. Broadcast 28 August 2006. Archived at rocklistmusic.co.uk
  12. ^ 49 Best Soundtrack Albums. Classic Rock. October 2007. Archived at rocklistmusic.co.uk
  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 p.96.Omnibus Press, Retrieved 1 September 2011
  15. ^ Queen – Greatest Hits III Allmusic. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  16. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  17. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic". austriancharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  18. ^ Queen – A Kind of Magic Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  19. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Night At The Opera". dutchcharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  20. ^ A Kind of Magic infodisc. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  21. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1986" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  22. ^ a-クイーン "– Yamachan Land (Archives of the Japanese record charts) – Albums Chart Daijiten – Queen" (in Japanese). 30 December 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  23. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic". newzealandcharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  24. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  25. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  26. ^ Queen – A Kind Of Magic HitParade. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  27. ^ A Kind Of Magic Chart Stats. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  28. ^ Queen Billboard. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  29. ^ Steffen Hung. "Queen – A Kind of Magic". germancharts.com. Retrieved 1 September 2011
  30. ^ "Austriancharts.st – Jahreshitparade 1984". Hung Medien. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  31. ^ "Hitparade.ch – Schweizer Jahreshitparade 1986". Hung Medien. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  32. ^ "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  33. ^ "Austrian album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic" (in German). IFPI Austria.  Enter Queen in the field Interpret. Enter A Kind of Magic in the field Titel. Select album in the field Format. Click Suchen
  34. ^ "French album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  35. ^ "Les Albums Or". infodisc.fr. SNEP. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  36. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Queen; 'A Kind of Magic')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  37. ^ "Polish album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic" (in Polish). Polish Producers of Audio and Video (ZPAV). 
  38. ^ "Solo Exitos 1959-2002 Ano A Ano: Certificados 1979-1990". Iberautor Promociones Culturales. ISBN 8480486392. 
  39. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Queen; 'A Kind of Magic')". Hung Medien. 
  40. ^ "British album certifications – Queen – It's a Kind of Magic". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter It's a Kind of Magic in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  41. ^ "American album certifications – Queen – A Kind of Magic". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]