Lennon and Mercury head an eerie battle of the bands

The battle for the Christmas number one album is likely to have a particularly ghoulish flavour with the release of new work featuring the late John Lennon and the late Freddie Mercury.

The much-anticipated double CD of Beatles' songs, with the three survivors adding their music to a tape of John Lennon singing on one track, will be released in November to accompany a television series on the history of the group.

Most of the tracks will be Sixties material, either discarded songs or alternative versions of well-known hits. But one never-before-heard song by John Lennon, "Free As A Bird", will become the first new Beatles' song for 25 years, thanks to McCartney, Harrison and Starr adding their voices and music to a tape Lennon made in the Seventies, given to them by Yoko Ono.

The whole project - which could be the first of several "new" Beatles' albums - has been masterminded by the group's former producer, George Martin, at Abbey Road studios in London where they recorded all their albums.

But with an eerie irony, the Beatles could yet have the number one spot taken from them by a similar, and in some ways more interesting, exercise from Queen, whose lead singer Freddie Mercury died of Aids in 1991.

The Beatles' record label, Parlophone, will also release a new Queen Album in November, including no fewer than eight songs recorded by Mercury in the months before he died.

The 11-track album will be called Made In Heaven and the first single to be taken from it is entitled "Heaven For Everyone". Some of the same technology that has reunited the surviving Beatles with John Lennon has been used to weld the Mercury vocals into songs performed by the surviving members of Queen.

Queen's manager, Jim Beach, said Mercury recorded the vocals shortly before his death while he was living in Montreux. "The songs were recorded in the last year of Freddie's life, his voice stayed right to the end. Really it was a legacy from him, I think. Obviously it has been quite an emotional album to make. That's why it has taken so long."

The trade magazine, Music Week, reported that Queen had commissioned 10 short films from young directors to accompany songs from the album, instead of traditional promotional videos.

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