“Anybody fancy a season of BM re-releases with lots of juicy extras?” asked Brian May through his Instagram feed in 2020. “We’re working on a plan!!!” The first stage of that plan comes to fruition now, with the long-awaited reissue of the legendary Queen guitarist’s superlative debut solo album. Almost 30 years on from its initial release, Back to the Light stands as an intimate and expansive testament to the talent and tenacity of one of the foremost guitarists and songwriters of his generation.
Brian May writes: “This is part of a series. The Brian May Gold Series. Each of them will have a little gold stamp on. And each one of them will give me the opportunity to rediscover the road that I travelled. I really found this fascinating. I was a little nervous at the beginning, thinking what is this going to dredge up in me? But I loved getting back in there. I’m really just hoping it will connect with people who have never heard this stuff before. They know me as a guitarist for Queen. Some know me as an astronomer. Some know me as a campaigner for animal rights. I’m a sort of evangelist for 3-D Victorian Stereoscopy. But very few people have heard my solo output. So I’m excited to see how this turns out. I found it fascinating going back in there and rediscovering why I wrote certain things. What they meant to me. How we recorded. Some of it is so massive in the recording I can hardly believe we pulled it off – it’s very epic, some of it. And I like that. And at the same time, there’s little corners of it which are very simple, very understated, very emotionally naked. I discovered so much of what I’m saying in the album I still feel. I still feel those dangers, those fears, those hopes, those dreams.”
On its release in September 1992, Back to the Light was an unqualified hit. Hitting No 6 in the UK album charts, it produced a brace of indelible singles. Introduced to Queen fans during an emotive performance at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, Wembley Stadium, in April 1992, ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ reached No 5 in the UK. ‘Driven by You’ had already peaked at No 6. The anthemic ‘Back to the Light’ and rollicking ‘Resurrection’ also charted, while the instrumental ‘Last Horizon’ would become a staple of both The Brian May Band’s solo concerts and May’s later live return to Queen.
Sometimes rocking, sometimes reflective, the singles give a sense of the album’s depth and reach. ‘The Dark’ reconfigures Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ to introspective ends and builds to a symphonic crescendo, before the full-blooded title-track sets out May’s stall between its multi-tracked voices, euphoric chorus and crunchy guitars. ‘Love Token’ is one of Brian’s ‘momma and poppa’ songs, a tale of a break-up plotted over blues-rock backing. Co-credited to drummer Cozy Powell and featuring revered rock musician Don Airey on keyboards, ‘Resurrection’ is a glittering high energy rocker, with probably as many operatic overdubs as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Featuring a tour de force from May on guitar and cataclysmic drum pyrotechnics from Powell, for many this is the outstanding track of the album. Lyrically, it is mounted on personal foundations, troubled at the heart but determined to find hope in “the promise of the future”.
‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ is a scorching confessional, which Brian cites as possibly the most important recording of his life. It earned a coveted Ivor Novello Award (Best Song Musically and Lyrically) and reappeared later in a different incarnation as a Queen track. ‘Driven by You’ is a harmonious HIT rocker with a rousing chorus, the result of Brian accepting a challenge to create a track for a Ford Motor car TV ad. Band-mate Freddie complimented Brian on this vocal delivery! The heart-breaking ‘Nothin’ but Blue’ is co-credited to Cozy Powell and is the sister track to ‘Somewhere In Time’ from his The Drums Are Back album. The song was written by Brian the night before Freddie Mercury passed away. Queen’s John Deacon makes a rare guest appearance on bass.
The roistering ‘I’m Scared’ wears Brian’s fears on its sleeve, while ‘Last Horizon’ reaches for a sense of serenity in its expressive guitar work. Written for skiffle star Lonnie Donegan, ‘Let Your Heart Rule Your Head’ proves Brian’s easy way with buoyant melody. ‘Just One Life’ is a poignant elegy to a lost loved one, but very unusual in that Brian wrote the song about someone he never met – only came to know at a celebration of his life.
Finally, a joyful cover – the only one on the album – of the Small Faces’ ‘Rollin’ Over’ realigns Brian with some of his early rock roots.
Released August 6th in CD, Vinyl, Picture Disc Vinyl, Cassette,
Digital Download & Streaming Formats
Available to Pre-order Now: https://BrianMay.lnk.to/