The road to ‘Barcelona' was a long one.
It all began in 1981 when Freddie first fell in love with what he thought was the most beautiful voice in the world. Freddie went to the Royal Opera House to see Luciano Pavarotti in Verdi's ‘Un ballo in maschera.' He'd heard him on record, but had never seen him live and admired the tenor's voice and control. However, as impressive as Pavarotti clearly was, it was the soprano who blew Freddie away. As soon as she began to sing his jaw dropped. He was entranced. The voice belonged to Montserrat Caballé.
It was three years later, during the final recording of his first solo album ‘Mr Bad Guy' in Munich, that Freddie interrupted the sessions to play Jim Beach, his manager, a record of Montserrat Caballé. ‘I wish to record with her', Freddie told an astonished Jim. ‘Please arrange it.'
Jim Beach enlisted the help of Spanish promoter Pino Sagliocco and together they finally arranged for the two to meet at the Ritz hotel in Barcelona.
Freddie took with him pianist / arranger, Mike Moran, together with a demo recording they had prepared for Montserrat (entitled ‘Exercises in Free Love') which Freddie had sung in falsetto imitating her voice. Freddie's team had arranged for a massive PA system to be installed in the garden at the Ritz where they met and Freddie played his demo to Montserrat the moment she arrived. ‘Could I sing it next Sunday at my recital at Covent Garden?' Montserrat asked on hearing it. They rehearsed it then and there and the album Barcelona was born.
Freddie was in his element. He was working with his heroine, stretching his musical skills into a new dimension and pushing himself further than ever before.
The lead single ‘Barcelona' was dedicated to both Montserrat's hometown and their own unique friendship. Freddie always found writing lyrics a chore, but the opening verse must have come easy as it was deep from the heart: ‘I want all the world to see, a miracle sensation, my guide and inspiration, now my dream is slowly coming true.' Come true it did.
Over the next year, Freddie, Montserrat and Mike Moran recorded an astounding album unlike any other that had gone before. As ever, Freddie revelled in mixing musical styles, immersing himself in those he loved most, gospel, opera, classical, ballads and pop. He also collaborated with Tim Rice, another lyricist he admired on two tracks ‘The Golden Boy' and ‘Fallen Priest.'
‘Barcelona' sold over a million copies upon its release in 1988. The single was a top ten hit in 1987 and became the official song for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games; the plan being that Freddie and Montserrat would perform live at the Opening Ceremony. However, this was something that Freddie, in his heart of hearts knew he'd never do.
During the making of the album, it was confirmed that he was HIV positive. He didn't know how long he had to live. As far as Freddie was aware, this could be his final album so he did everything in his power to make sure that it was his finest. It was.
Sadly Freddie died eight months before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He didn't get to perform it live that year or witness the true impact of his amazing record which was the soundtrack of the summer across the globe. It was also a bigger hit when re-released peaking at No.2 in the UK Charts.
But the Barcelona story doesn't quite end there.
For many years fans of the album have always wanted to hear what it would have sounded like with a live orchestra. Believe it or not, it was almost entirely recorded on keyboards. The reason Freddie decided upon that at the time was largely due to the fact that he was already dealing with an opera singer who came from an entirely different world to his and to arrange a score for a full eighty piece orchestra was one step too far out of his comfort zone.
Now, to mark the 25th anniversary of the song, Stuart Morley, musical director of the Queen musical ‘We Will Rock You' has faithfully adapted the entire album for orchestra which lifts what was already an outstanding record into a whole new stratosphere. Rousing, triumphant, emotional and magnificent.
In addition to the orchestral score, performed by the FILMharmonic Orchestra, Prague, other live instruments have been added for the first time. Naoko Kikuchi, is one of the few koto players in the western world, who flew over to add the ancient oriental instrument to ‘La Japonaise.' Rufus Taylor, Roger's son, has replaced the drum machines on ‘The Golden Boy' and ‘How Can Go On' with live percussion. The latter song also boasts a new violin solo from David Garrett and of course, John Deacon appears on bass.
‘Barcelona: Special Edition' is finally the album it should have been. The world will undoubtedly rediscover and fall in love with it all over again. The only downside is that the visionary behind this masterpiece isn't around to hear it too.