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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Queen

A Night At The Opera

Review by Josh Turner

I had to scratch the dust off this album. The last time I heard it, I can't say I appreciated music as much as I do today. When I gave it a listen, I gave the copyright a double-take. While I can't say their haircuts would hold up to well today, the music is still fresh as ever.

This is one of the greatest bands that have ever existed. They had a legendary vocalist, quite possibly the best ever, Freddie Mercury. If that wasn't enough, the roster included Brian May; he is one of the best and most recognizable guitarists in the world. Both are like no other. Rounding out their line-up is their drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon, who both worked with David Bowie and "Sir" Elton John.

While the Beatles might have been the most influential band in history, this may be the band that utilized the most influences. This album was stellar from the first note to the last. Their music will always have a place close to my stereo. Even with all the great releases of today, I vow to not let this one get dusty again.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to.....)
It opens like a piano concerto before the spacey and demonic sounds enter. I can see where Al Morse got many of his ideas as the guitar screeches all over this song. This is a relatively simple song aside from the heartfelt vocals and wonderful harmonies. Freddie is so impressive how he can express angst one moment and then transform into a gentle angel the next.
Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon
You can imagine yourself strolling along on the streets of London on a Sunday Afternoon. The song is wacky, but no joke. Brian May performs a solo towards the end that will knock your socks off. This piece is short, but again, offers some impressive harmonies like the last one.
I'm In Love With My Car
This is a change of pace, more rock n' roll than the previous two. Imagine you're opening the hood and admiring the powerful engine of sports car. You want to peel down the street and show it off. First you want to spend some time alone with her and give a little special undivided attention. You can feel yourself giving your vehicle a wash and caressing the soap over the chrome, obsessed with rubbing down every slit and surface. The song even trails off with the revving of the motor as you pull away in this beautiful steel machine.
You're My Best Friend
This is very emotional and uplifting. It is the sort of tender and sensitive dialogue you would only share with someone closest to you. While Roger delivers a jumpy beat on the drums, Brian shreds a few tantalizing riffs, and Freddie clicks away throughout on snappy keys as he sings the verses. The band shares sweet harmonies as the melody moves along.
'39
This is a relatively unknown song, but one of my favorites on the album. It has a folksy-style to it with a marching rhythm. Freddie takes a break and Brian takes lead vocals in an astonishing fashion. His voice is very strong. He could easily sing lead for another band and nobody would complain. In an album that has provided so many rich harmonies, this is the best one so far. Freddie even sings backing vocals with perfect pitch not too much unlike Daniel Gildenlow's "backup" singing on the most recent Flower Kings album. Freddie is the best, but this is an excellent break. The chorus is repeated, bridges, and then with a guitar ditty that reprises the tune upon the outro.
Sweet Lady
We come back to rock n' roll with a softer edge. If you can imagine it, this is like a mixture of the guitars from AC/DC and the drums from The Who. The pace on the drums picks up towards the end and while the guitar experiments with several different licks.
Seaside Rendezvous
This is the halfway point and we have hit upon so many memorable songs. This one is no exception. This is a bit like, Laxing on a Sunday, found earlier in the album. At one point, it sounds like a kazoo joined them. This is playful, complete with honks, horns, whistles, and even a tap of a triangle. Freddie asks for a kiss before it ends abruptly.
The Prophet's Song
We take another change of pace, quite different from the last song. This song is more serious and focused. It starts as a mix between Moody Blues and Styx. Halfway through Freddie is like a kid singing in a valley, listening to his outbursts echoing back at him, and seeing how different words and sounds reverberate. This continues for a while. Towards the end they return to form. Brian finishes out the piece by playing some harmonics on the guitar. It is amazing the number of styles this band embraces. The disparity between the songs, even within the songs, really adds to the albums appeal.
Love of My Life
The last song transitions into this one. The guitar is replaced with a piano and then transitions again into a harp. Freddie is singing a ballad. He is like a poor college boy after a breakup and he is both hurt and confused. It is sad hearing him beg for things to return to the way there were. This is another favorite of mine on the album. Freddie's piano playing is extraordinary. The way Brian plays the guitar at points makes it sound like a violin. The piece is very classical and again features some excellent harmonies. This is an elegant piece, simple, but effective. Nobody could write a ballad quite like these guys.
Good Company
The whimsical verses return with a Beatles influence. This is quite like the other two, but it sounds like someone is strumming a banjo this time.
Bohemian Rhapsody
This song was relatively unknown to the younger generations until it was featured on the Wayne's World soundtrack. This song has it all, a mini epic, taking a few different directions in a relatively short amount of time. It even takes you to a classical opera before morphing into a full-blown rock opera. I really like this one, but not much point in reviewing one of the most recognizable songs of today, thanks to that movie.
God Save the Queen
After such a strong piece, we close out the album with a drum roll followed by an instrumental of, "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (aka "God Save the Queen").
I'm in Love with My Car (1991 Bonus Remix by Mike Shipley)
This is the same song found earlier with a harder edge.
You're My Best Friend (1991 Bonus Remix by Matt Wallace)
We are treated to the same song found earlier with a few slight touches added, quite possibly to make it more radio friendly. The keys sound somewhat different, which adds more dimensions to the music.
 
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