Release Date: April 17th 2020
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Tie Your Mother Down
- Don’t Stop Me Now
- You’re My Best Friend
- Killer Queen
- Hammer To Fall
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Another One Bites The Dust
- I Want It All
- The Show Must Go On
- Love Of My Life
- Somebody To Love
- We Will Rock You
- We Are The Champions
Hands up who knows Marc Martel? Anyone? Like really, really, really? A huge superfan would know that his previous hits in Downhere include “The More”, “Let Me Rediscover You”, “You’re Not Alone”, “Rest”, “A Better Way” and the Christmas hit “How Many Kings”. But for the general public who aren’t fans of Downhere… how about if I say that Marc’s the guy that vocally sounds eerily and somewhat creepily like the late Freddie Mercury from Queen- even more so than current lead singer Adam Lambert? How about then? The former lead singer of Christian rock band Downhere and a strong believer in Jesus; a writer of songs…yet also an uncanny resemblance to Freddie Mercury, and thus a popular entertainer and performer amongst fans, critics and casual listeners alike!
Marc Martel, originally from Downhere from the mid 2000’s to the early 2010’s, is quite the performer, having shown off his vocal chops in Downhere before. Yet since that band was marketed to Christians, the world hadn’t had the chance to hear Marc in action vocally. That was until one day in 2011 when Marc submitted his cover online of “Somebody To Love” by Queen, when band members were looking for unknown guys to form a tribute band and subsequently tour. This video went viral very quickly and had him on everyone’s radar? Ex-Queen members Roger Taylor and Brian May took notice, the general public took notice, and critics took notice. The rest is history, as Marc transitioned into ‘the guy who sings Christian music the no one knows about’, to ‘the guy who sings Queen music and pulls it off perfectly that everyone knows about’! After fronting The Queen Extravaganza for a while, Marc launched his own cover band of Queen, separate from the decisions of the remaining band members of Queen, and with their blessing too. In 2016 Marc started The Ultimate Queen Celebration, and now tours when he wants to, singing however many Queen songs he wants to- which is a lot going by public demand.
If you’ve got a talent, society says to use it or lose it. In the case of Marc Martel, his talent of sounding like Freddie Mercury has put him into a unique position. Usually the one to write most of the songs in Downhere, Marc was unconsciously placed in the unfamiliar category of being a cover artist- only singing Queen songs because the public demanded it, yet Marc still possessing and containing the gift of songwriting, wanting to bring it out to the fore. Would the public still love and accept Marc if he abandoned the Queen stuff and wrote his own music? Thunderbolt And Lightning, which released in 2018, is a compilation of some of the songs that started Marc’s incredible and remarkable solo journey, and the songs from Queen that mean the most to him. Because Marc has never recorded any Queen songs in the studio for an album/EP before. And for those of us, like myself, who were intrigued every time Marc toured with his Queen band and sung songs for the masses; I reckon this EP is for us. Not for the Queen die-hard fans or the guys who prefer Adam’s vocal chops over Marc’s. But for those of us who are interested to hear how Marc delivers these songs every night on tour and for us to marvel at what goes through his head as he delivers some of the most iconic rock songs ever to grace our radio airwaves and our music stores.
In fact, Queen’s music (of which I’m not that much of an avid fan, but I know enough to appreciate everything they do!) has had, and continues to have, so much of an impact on today’s society, that a biopic movie released in 2018- called Bohemian Rhapsody, with Rami Malek playing Freddie Mercury, and the singing voice of Freddie being a combination of Rami, Marc Martel and Freddie himself. So if the world before has no idea of who Marc Martel is, then they obviously will now! And though while you all can read the review of Marc’s Queen EP Thunderbolt And Lightning here (and you can let me know your thoughts on that release even in the comments below!), Marc has since unveiled a brand new project- a live album titled LIVE IN AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (FEATURING THE UQC) (Ultimate Queen Celebration) – exclusive on his website. With Marc’s forte and specialty now during live concerts being Queen covers and near-flawless renditions; don’t you all reckon that it’s time that we hear the master at work, and hear how a Queen concert from Marc would sound like if we were there? I know that we’re all cooped up in our homes right now because of COVID-19, so I guess listening to this album right now is the next best thing to a real live concert, don’t you agree?
Out of the 13 tracks on the album (which can only be listened to in full on Marc’s website!), quite a number of them are live versions of most of Marc’s offerings from Thunderbolt And Lightning. “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Love Of My Life” and “Somebody To Love” and “We Are The Champions” are the representatives (with no space for “You Take My Breath Away” nor “Under Pressure”, while Marc has also delivered to us live renditions of “We Will Rock You”, “Another One Bites The Dust”, “Hammer To Fall”, “I Want It All”, “Killer Queen”, “The Show Must Go On”, “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Your My Best Friend”. All of these songs are 100% foreign to me (as I have said previously that I’m not that much of an avid Queen fan!)- yet all are extremely compelling, catchy and impacting, as we are introduced to one of the greatest entertainers of our time. I guess that it’s a shame that “Radio Ga Ga” and “A Crazy Little Thing Called Love” – which I believe are a couple of Queen’s more impactful hits – weren’t part of the set list from Marc as well…but with limited spots, I guess we can’t have everything in life, am I right? For a non-Queen enthusiast trying to ‘review’ a Queen-inspired album…well I guess that’s just me being silly. But as I reckon everyone needs to hear this album- so that we can discover our new favourite artist, and rediscover one of the greatest rock bands ever, as well as just generally being cultured and something that we all need to know about…well I guess I’ll leave you all to be the judge on Marc’s new live album.
I may not know much about Queen. But I know that Marc Martel, still a Christian, is now making music for believers as well as for non-believers alike. With Marc Martel becoming his own person musically after splitting from Downhere and recording his new solo material, My Way Vol 1 EP was a fitting and well-timed reminder of how brilliant Marc is as a singer and entertainer…but Thunderbolt And Lightning, and now LIVE IN AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (FEATURING THE UQC), is where Marc shines the best and brightest. Forget the fact that this album is a great Marc Martel album, and forget that this album is a great Queen cover album, or even a great live album. Because let’s just say that it’s a great album period. I can’t think of many flaws here, and for a live cover album that’s very big of me to proclaim. So let me just say this. Well done Marc, your live album is top notch, and I can’t wait to see what’s next in the rest of 2020 and moving into 2021, where hopefully there is more touring once again. Maybe I will check out the rest of Marc’s solo discography… don’t you all think that’s a genius idea? Don’t you all think you should as well if you haven’t?
3 songs to listen to: Don’t Stop Me Now, Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody To Love
RIYL: Queen, David Bowie, The Beatles, dc Talk, downhere, Jars Of Clay, ACDC, Needtobreathe, Rich Mullins