BRIAN MAY – Back To The Light [2-CD Deluxe Remastered Edition] (2021)

BRIAN MAY - Back To The Light [2-CD Deluxe Remastered Edition] (2021) full

BRIAN MAY‘s first solo album, 1992’s Back To The Light (’93 in America), will be reissued in a Deluxe Edition – “Back To The Light [2-CD Deluxe Remastered Edition]” – newly re-mastered by guru Bob Ludwig from the original master tapes and personally overseen by Brian May. The second disc, titled ‘Out Of The Light”, contains alternate versions, B-Sides and live tracks.
Bonus tracks include instrumental versions of ‘Nothin’ but Blue’, ‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ and ‘Just One Life’. ‘Driven by You Two’ is the Ford advert version of ‘Driven by You’ and, there’s a rare take on ‘Driven by You (Cozy and Neil Version ’93)’.
On its initial release in September 1992, the album was an unqualified hit, peaking at No 6 in the UK album charts. Featuring the late Cozy Powell on drums, this album rocks hard with melody.
This reissue shines with its perfect, crystal clear remastered sound.

There is a touching moment at the end of a live version of ‘Driven By You’ when Brian May, with his legendary signature Red Special in hand, turns momentarily away from the tens of thousands of fans in the stadium and gently smiles to the camera. The clear message of that moment is ‘everything I do is driven by you [the fans].’
This message is underlined by the re-release of his 1992 solo album Back To The Light – unavailable for many years -, which contains a number of unreleased tracks. “I’m very excited,” he says, “I’ve been putting a lot of work in and polishing that up, finding some tracks that weren’t on the original; a nice new package.”

The man who penned the Queen classics’ Tie Your Mother Down, We Will Rock You, Who Wants To Live Forever, sought to find solace in his own music following the untimely death of singer Freddie Mercury.
In making ”Back To The Light” he drew on support from friends including Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Black Sabbath) and Gary Tibbs (Roxy Music, Adam & The Ants), drummers Cozy Powell & Geoff Dugmore, keyboardist Mike Moran and Queen band mate John Deacon on one track.

The Dark is the album’s starting point, which acts as a nice counterpoint to the top 20 UK single, ‘Back To The Light’. It is easy to see why many Queen fans would have latched onto this latter track after the passing of their hero, and May shows that he can hold his own on vocals as the song grows.
‘Love Token’ was co-written with ‘Cozy Powell and, as can be imagined by the pedigree of the duo involved, is a powerful and engaging rock track.
The killer ‘Resurrection’ also features the pair producing hard rock, which again made the top 30 in the UK.

‘Too Much Love Will Kill You’ is probably the most intimate song on this album, and May himself says that it is possibly his most important recording. May wrote the song around the time he was separating from his first wife in 1988 and starting his relationship with Anita Dobson. In some compensation for his inner conflict and heartache, the song hit number 5 in the UK charts and won an Ivor Novello Award.

The rocking ‘Driven By You’ is not everyone’s favourite as it was reportedly originally written for a Ford car advertisment, but the song met with similar success in the UK.
On the other hand, Cozy Powell and Queen’s John Deacon lent a hand with the bluesy cut, ‘Nothin’ But Blue’, which May wrote the night before Mercury’s death, and on which he soars on one of Joe Satriani’s signature guitars.

‘Last Horizon’ provides a beautiful guitar instrumental, and is well worth a listen. The album closes with the only cover, ‘Rollin’ Over’, which I suspect is May paying homage to the authors, The Small Faces. What better way to close this highly personal record but with a nod to the musical heroes of his youth?
As can be assessed from the large number of hit singles ”Back to the Light” spawned, it was an outstanding success; making number 6 in the UK album charts.

Long unavailable on CD, the reissue arrives with audio supervision from Justin Shirley-Smith and Kris Fredriksson. On the original release’s liner notes, Shirley-Smith received an affectionate namecheck for, writes Brian, “dealing with my erratic recording habits” in his role as co-producer and engineer. “Brian is a perfectionist and he won’t leave something until he’s happy,” says Shirley-Smith, whose work for Queen stretches back to 1984.

Sound engineer Fredriksson wanted to see that perfectionism reflected in the reissue. “If it hasn’t been available and we’re going to reissue it,” he notes, “we thought why not get it remastered by the best mastering engineer in the world?”.
Enter Grammy-winner Bob Ludwig, who worked from the original restored flat mixes to ensure this new edition of ”Back To The Light” sounds better than ever.

Meanwhile, Fredriksson cast the net wide to source bonus tracks for a second disc, Out of the Light.
Brian’s Red Special speaks on haunting instrumental versions of ‘Nothin’ but Blue’, “Too Much Love Will Kill You” and “Just One Life”. “Driven by You Two”, the Ford advert version of “Driven by You” and “Driven by You” (Cozy and Neil Version ’93) also feature alongside some live cuts.
‘’39/Let Your Heart Rule Your Head”, “Last Horizon” and “We Will Rock You’ were recorded at a triumphant Brixton Academy show on 15 June 1993, documented on the Live at the Brixton Academy album and film, where The Brian May Band featured Powell (drums), Spike Edney (keyboards), Jamie Moses (guitar), Neil Murray (bass) and, on backing vocals, Catherine Porter and Shelley Preston.

The live version of “Too Much Love Will Kill You” was recorded at the Palace Theater, Los Angeles, on 6 April 1993; the night before, Brian and a special guest tore through Queen concert favourite “Tie Your Mother Down” on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “Welcome, Mr Slash,” says Brian, as the Guns N’ Roses guitarist serves notice of May’s multi-generational influence.

Almost three decades on, Brian dedicates this reissue to the late, great Cozy Powell, along with a reflection on the search the album documents. “In 2021, proudly and fondly presenting this work to a new audience,” writes May, “and noting carefully my original liner notes, I can report that I am still on the quest of finding answers to most of the questions posed in this suite of songs, and to this day, the Light still glimmers darkly, tantalizingly, always a little out of reach. Music gets us through.”
Lit up with emotional honesty, big tunes, rock’n’roll vim and world-class guitar work, ”Back To The Light” shines on.
Highly Recommended


CD1: Back To The Light [remastered 2021]
01 – The Dark
02 – Back To The Light
03 – Love Token
04 – Resurrection
05 – Too Much Love Will Kill You
06 – Driven By You
07 – Nothin’ But Blue
08 – I’m Scared
09 – Last Horizon
10 – Let Your Heart Rule Your Head
11 – Just One Life
12 – Rollin’ Over

CD2: Out Of The Light [alt versions, B-Sides, live]
01 – Nothin’ But Blue (Guitar Version)
02 – Too Much Love Will Kill You (Guitar Version)
03 – Just One Life (Guitar Version)
04 – Driven By You Two
05 – Driven By You (Ford Ad Version)
06 – Tie Your Mother Down (Live 1993) (feat. Slash)
07 – Too Much Love Will Kill You (Live 1993)
08 – ’39 / Let Your Heart Rule Your Head (Live 1993)
09 – Last Horizon (Live 1993)
10 – We Will Rock You (Live 1993)
11 – Driven By You (Cozy and Neil Version ’93)

Brian May – vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass
Cozy Powell – drums (2-4, 7-8)
Geoff Dugmore – drums (10, 12)
Gary Tibbs – bass (2, 10, 12)
Neil Murray – bass (3, 8)
John Deacon – bass (7)
Mike Moran – piano (3, 12), keyboards (9)


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