It is unfortunate that nowadays, Queen’s members (*cough* Freddie Mercury) could be considered by many to be analogous to… well, I don’t know, the Marx Brothers?
And that would be certainly the case when you look at their discography as a whole; the production is vaudevillian, and the instruments are recorded over each other when they aren’t needed at all. This is particularly true of their classic album, “A Night At The Opera”, mainly when you come to the realisation that at the time, it was the most expensive album ever to be recorded (while still adhering to their then-incumbent “No Synths!” rule).
Yet somehow, despite being OTT to the extreme, this LP is still one of the best-selling in the world; even now, “Bohemian Rhapsody” reigns as the most-watched Youtube Music Video to have ever existed.
But how did they do it? Let’s see if the track list has anything to say for itself…
The album opens with a classical piano and a doomy riff, which immediately screams Black Sabbath – right before Freddie Mercury (“vocals, vocals, Bechstein Debauchery and more vocals”) literally insults the listener with “Death On Two Legs/Dedicated To…”, an attack on their previous manager that would probably even make [Guns ‘n’ Roses vocalist/pain-in-the-neck] Axl Rose gasp.
Immediately after that, the album suddenly shifts through a multitude of different musical styles, from campy British music hall (“Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon” and “Seaside Rendezvous”), to metal (“Sweet Lady”), to mystical prog-rock (the jaw-dropping epic “The Prophet’s Song”). But the most surprising thing about the whole set is that, despite all these clashing styles, they still fit together perfectly.
Of course, the whole album would never be perfect without the four greatest hits, each of which written by a different member. To start with, there’s “I’m In Love With My Car”, which perfectly portrays Roger Taylor’s (“drums, vocal, percussion, pandemonium”) ear for hard-hitting rockers; meanwhile, the pop-oriented “You’re My Best Friend” showcases the master of radio-friendly music that is bassist John Deacon. As for the latter classics, while “’39” (a brilliant concert singalong written by guitar conductor Brian May) is fairly straightforward, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which needs no introduction) is quite the opposite: epic in every sense of the word.
Yes, Queen’s albums do have a sense of ridicule about them, but at least they have style. Unlike one Omniscient Ziltoid I know of…
Review by James Wood
Image courtesy of Gwen Ong @unsplash.com