It is very rare for an record to double as an band album and a soundtrack.
Queen’s A Kind of Magic is one such example.
Released on June 2, 1986, it serves as a band album and the Highlander soundtrack. While it features songs in the film, the record also stands on its own as a work of art. While it sold well, critical reviews did appear mixed. Rolling Stone describes it as “hard rock with a hollow core” and “heavy plastic.” However, the songs are still popular even today.
A Kind of Magic also marks the last time Queen went on tour with all four members. The band’s singer Freddie Mercury would die of AIDs in 1991, and bassist John Deacon would retire in 1997. As of now, Brian May and Roger Taylor continue to perform as Queen with Adam Lambert.
The album kicks things off with “One Vision”, which is a team effort. It marks the first time that all members gets a writing credit. Brian May’s guitar riffs are electrifying, and Mercury is vocally at the top of his game. The song concerns a desire for world peace and unity, and this is a reference to Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. It ends with the famous non-sequitir plea of “Gimme gimme fried chicken!”
“A Kind of Magic” is a Taylor composition with an soaring feel. Mercury’s voice is spot-on in this track, and Deacon delivers a baseline with a funk influence. The video is also known for its surreal storyline, in which a magician turns hobos into a rock band. Throughout the video, animated characters shift shape and dance to the beat of the song.
“One Year of Love” is a Deacon song. You can tell this is his baby, because there is a soul feel to the melody. Strangely, according to May and Taylor, Deacon did not like the final product. Hence it never got a live performance.
“Pain Is So Close To Pleasure” is a Mercury and Deacon brainchild. This track has Motown rock and soul influences, such as all the vocals being done in falsetto. “Friends Will Be Friends” focuses on May’s guitar playing, which is the main part of the song.
“Who Wants To Live Forever” is a haunting track of being mortal. The song is a ballad with a classical feel. It is a neat song of the Queen canon, because both Mercury and May share the lead vocals. Although he’s mostly a guitarist, May does have a decent signing voice.
“Gimme The Prize” is another May track with a hard rock feel. This is probably the closest of all the tracks to Queen’s original edgy sound. For some reason, it never got the chance to be performed a live setting. “Don’t Lose Your Head” is a Taylor song with techno and synth influences. Despite Mercury’s lively vocals, it is not a standout.
Finally, the album ends with “Princes Of The Universe”, which is a Mercury song. It incorporates both hard rock and heavy metal influences. While not a hit, it is best known for the music video in which Christopher Lambert fights Mercury in a duel.
Overall, A Kind of Magic is a unique part of the band’s history. This is not their finest record, but it captures the pop and rock sounds of the 1980s. Highlander fans will enjoy the album and its connection to the cult film. It is proof of four people coming together to create great music, and that is a kind of magic in itself.