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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Queen

Queen

Review by Greg Olma

The Queen catalogue is finally getting the deluxe treatment so I feel it is only fitting to take things all the way back to the beginning.  I had not heard this record in quite some time and have to say that it has aged quite well.  Sure, it sounds like an album from the 1970’s but it shows a band that was not only discovering themselves but also developing a sound that was very unique.  Although this record did not set the world on fire (most band’s first releases weren’t major hits), it showed a group that wasn’t afraid to experiment with sounds and vocal harmonies.  Some aspects of this self titled release show the start of that classic Queen sound.  Right off the bat, you can hear that Brian May was going to be one of the great guitarists of our time.  Freddie Mercury comes out of the gate and really hasn’t changed much from this record to their others.  What made this album age well is that no one else was doing what Queen was doing. (And, honestly, no one really does to this day. Sure some bands are similar, but Brian May’s guitar sound stands unique, due to a large degree because he is a physicist and understands sounds in ways few musicians do. – ed.) They were a ground-breaking band and listening to this again makes you realize that many of today’s musicians don’t take as many chances as Queen did back in 1973.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Keep Yourself Alive

This should have been the hit off of the record. It starts off with a Brian May riff that quickly moves into that Queen sound we all know.  The band really shows their stuff from the very start with the first track of their careers.  There is even a brief drum solo in the middle.  It is so 1970’s but still great sounding all these years later.

Doing All Right

I like the fact that the group even depart from their signature sound and bring other elements into their music.  This one has some Eagles type laid back elements but they still throw in some of those trademark vocal harmonies.  Towards the end, May really tears it up but they end it on the vocal harmonies of the chorus.

Great King Rat

A heavy riff starts off this quirky track.  There are different parts and time changes that take on a prog rock vibe throughout.  For a track that is not quite six-minutes long, there is a lot of soloing compliments of May.  This is the kind of tune that hardcore Queen fans rate as one of the better deep cuts.

My Fairy King

This is a pretty good precursor for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  There are multiple parts along with those operatic vocal harmonies.  Mercury really shines on this piano heavy tune.

Liar

At times, the riffing on this cut is very Black Sabbath-like.  Again, this is a prog rock track due to its multiple parts and experimentation that takes it in many different directions.  At times, it sounds like Queen is trying to play like Iommi and company.  This is the longest track here and back in 1973, this was probably the “epic” of the album.

The Night Comes Down

It is worth getting the whole record just for the first minute of this track.  May wrote this song and, although the parts that have vocals sound like typical Queen, the rest is very different. 

Modern Times Rock ‘N’ Roll
Roger Taylor tried his hand at writing a tune that is really frantic and get people going but Queen would better themselves a year later with “Stone Cold Crazy.” The latter track worked much better, but you can see the building blocks for that one here.
Son And Daughter

 This is a really heavy tune.  Keep in mind that back in 1973 there was really only Black Sabbath that was considered “heavy metal.”  Queen do a great job being heavy even though they are known for their more commercial and less heavy tunes.

Jesus

I guess this is Queens’s answer to “Jesus Christ Superstar.”  The music is prog rock and at times pretty heavy, but overall the lyrics are odd for a rock band.  Had this come out in the late 1960’s, I think it would have fit the times better.  By 1973, it comes off a bit weird.

Seven Seas Of Rhye

This short instrumental starts off sounding like “Pinball Wizard” but then morphs into a class Queen.  It is just over a minute long so basically it is over before it really starts.

Disc 2
Keep Yourself Alive (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

You can tell this is a demo by the mix and a bit with the drum sound but it is really close to the version that made it to the record.  As far as demos go, this one pretty much nails it on the head and not much has changed.

The Night Comes Down (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

As with the “Keep Yourself Alive (demo).” this is basically a finished track that could have been on the record as is.  The drum sound gives it away and they definitely made a wise choice to mix the drums and give them more of a heavy sound.

Great King Rat (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

This demo version is very close but one and half minutes longer.  There is a little drum solo at the end but I can’t tell where the additional time came from.  Maybe the guitar solos were a little longer.

Jesus (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

I just don’t get this one.  Musically it is a really cool track but lyrically it loses me.  This version is a little longer than the record version.

Liar (De Lane Lea Demo, December 1971)

Again, as a demo, this is pretty much a finished product although on the version that came out on the record, the “liar” chorus sounds much more overdubbed and more powerful.

Mad The Swine (June 1972)

This is the only unreleased track on this package (the others were demos of songs that did find their way onto the record) and I can see why it was left off.  It has elements of the classic Queen sound, being mainly the vocal harmonies, but it’s just not there.  I can’t see myself listening to this one very much and I don’t know if Queen fans will consider this a lost gem.

 

 
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