Release Date: October 26th 2018
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- We Are The Champions
- Love Of My Life
- Under Pressure (feat. Kevin Max)
- Don’t Stop Me Now
- You Take My Breath Away
- Somebody To Love
- We Are The Champions (Reprise)
“…reimagining well-loved songs always comes with an appropriate sense of risk, danger, and terrifying moments of self-doubt. When it comes to artists like Queen, though, who are veritable giants of recording history, that feeling is magnified. Throughout their career, they apparently set out to avoid all shortcuts; were never happy to merely repeat sections of songs (as is quite customary in all genres of popular music), and everything was through-composed. They habitually pushed the boundaries of available technology beyond what even its inventors envisioned…” Hands up who knows Marc Martel? Anyone? How about if I say that he’s the guy that vocally sounds eerily and somewhat creepily like the late Freddie Mercury from Queen? How about then? Marc Martel, originally from the Christian band 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 2012 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 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’, to ‘the guy who sings Queen music and pulls it off perfectly’! 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. 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.
Canadian CCM pop/rock band Downhere were quite active from when they started to when they ended (2000-2012); but I reckon when they called it quits, there weren’t that many people who were really, really sad, myself included. The band were always on the edges of Christian music, on the periphery, an in between popular and not. I knew quite a few of their songs from the group (“A Better Way”, “Let Me Rediscover You”, “You’re Not Alone”, “The More”, “Rest”, “The Song You Sing”, “Here I Am”); but to call myself a really big fan would be an overstatement. Thus I guess you could say that my indifference to some of the songs from Downhere made me accept Marc Martel’s solo career just a little bit more.
Early this year, Marc released an EP of six songs titled My Way Vol. 1 with the new batch of 6 melodies providing us with a smorgasbord more of vocal prowess and sheer brilliance, which can lead to people taking him out of the pigeon hole of singing Queen songs, and into maybe more of a paddock, as Marc shows us just how musically and vocally diverse he can be. While I wasn’t that familiar with these 6 songs, the nostalgia factor and Marc’s pristine vocals was enough for me to say that this was one of my favourite EP’s of the year. Fast forward to now, and lo and behold…what do we have? Yep, it’s another EP from Marc Martel. But this time it’s…a release of Queen covers. Yep, Thunderbolt And Lightning is a compilation of some of the songs that started his 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. 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 a 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 is releasing next week 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 will now!
As for the songs on Thunderbolt And Lightning, there are 7 in total (as well as a reprise of one of the songs, bringing the track list to 8!), and for me to talk about each of the 7 in detail would probably be a waste. There are thousands of reviews online for these iconic Queen songs, and maybe a few online right now for Thunderbolt And Lightning– and because these reviewers are so much well versed in Queen material than I am, I’m just going to keep this ‘review’ brief. After all, everyone probably knows these covers, even if they do not know they are Queen covers. “We Are The Champions”, the catchiest pop song ever according to scientists, and made popular in media through the Mighty Ducks films with Emilio Estevez. “Under Pressure”, a duet with Kevin Max, in which the original is featured in a ton of movies in the background (just listen to the first few bars and you’ll know what I mean!). “Bohemian Rhaspsody”, the most famous Queen song ever, and a song that lyrically doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but a song that is catchy nonetheless and a song that doesn’t need to make sense to us listeners because…it’s Queen! “Don’t Stop Me Now”, previously on My Way Vol. 1 (and spoken about in detail on that review too!). “Somebody To Love”, an actual studio recording of the song that propelled Marc to mainstream stardom. And a couple of lesser known Queen songs in “Love Of My Life” and “You Take My Breath Away”, ones which I’m not that familiar with (and hance I can’t tell any of you how Marc goes in comparison to the original!) but songs I’m sure Marc nails vocally to perfection. Though “We Will Rock You” is absent from a track list that is overall the best of the best from Queen (as far as stand out singles go!), Marc has created a masterpiece. That’s all I can say about this stellar work of art because it truly is magical; and needs to be heard to be believed.
“…I seem to have a growing desire to place a more pronounced emphasis on the latter half of the term ‘tribute artist’. This is a role I never imagined myself playing earlier in my musical career. Clearly, I could never dream of improving on what, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon created together. That was never the spirit of this project. Rather, I hope listeners will approach this EP with an inquisitive, open minded attitude that is something like, ‘What if Queen had recorded these songs in an alternate universe?’ And if that’s a little too sci-fi for your blood then, ‘Hey… why not?’ will do just fine…” I may not know much about Queen. But I know that Marc Martel, still a Christian, is now instead making music for believers as well as non-believers alike, as evidenced by his thoughtful interview with Andrew Greer. 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 is where Marc shines the bets. Forget the fact that this album is a great Marc Martel album- let’s just say that it’s a great album period. I can’t think of any flaws here, and for a cover album that’s very big of me to proclaim. So let me just say this. Well done Marc, your EP is top notch, and I can’t wait to see what’s next in the rest of 2018 and moving into 2019. 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: Bohemian Rhapsody, Under Pressure, Somebody To Love
RIYL: Queen, David Bowie, The Beatles, dc Talk, Jars Of Clay, ACDC, Needtobreathe, Kevin Max, Rich Mullins