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Queen

Jazz (vinyl)

Review by Gary Hill

This 1978 release from Queen, still has a very classic sound, but they were experimenting with some new directions. It had several hits, and also quite a bit of meaty music. As with the rest of their catalog, this band was always hard to pin down in terms of a genre, but I generally put them under prog, in part because they had prog tendencies, but also because of the "outside the box" aspect of their music. Whatever you call this, though, it's a strong album.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Side One
                  
Mustapha

Freddie Mercury's voice starts this with a world music styled vocal that is not in English at first. After a line in English, the band join in a driving, bouncing kind of arrangement that is mostly piano and bass. The lyrics are the same as those that started the cut. The tune is driving and fun. When May's guitar fires out later this thing really rocks. This works through a number of changes and does a great job of combining world music and Queen rock sounds.

Fat Bottomed Girls
A sea of voices bring this hit song into being. The opening is acapella, but then Brian May's guitar brings a bluesy rocking sound. The rest of the band join and we're taken into the more rock and roll phase of the tune. This classic is dynamic, diverse and rocking. It's also a great tune that still holds up.
Jealousy
Piano starts this. Other instrumentation joins as the arrangements fills out a little, but still remains mellow. The vocals come in over the top of a mostly piano-based motif. It builds out there with a number of flavors and settings, while still keeping the main song structure intact.
Bicycle Race
Here we get another of the hits from this album. It opens with a sea of voices singing, "bicycle." It work out from there to a quirky arrangement that is steadily shifting slab of classic Queen. It seems strange that this song would ever have been a hit, though. It screams "art music" rather than hit. It's like a mini-epic with so many twists and turns. You might think of it as a mini-rock opera. At times, it's rocking and driving. At other points it's dazzling with its mellower concepts. It even has a descent into a tuned percussion section that starts with bicycle bells.
If You Can't Beat Them
Driving rocking guitar brings this into being. The cut has more of a pop rock vibe to it, but it does have an edge. May gets in some smoking hot guitar soloing. This is not the proggiest thing here, but it rocks out and is a lot of fun.
Let Me Entertain You
Another that's hard rocking from the onset, this still manages to have some more laid back style. This is a powerhouse with plenty of Queen bombast and proggy angles in the mix. There is a bit of banter at the end.
Side Two
                 
Dead on Time

There is a bit of bombast at the start here. The cut fires out into fast-paced hard rocking zones from there. There is some particularly potent jamming during the guitar solo section.

In Only Seven Days
This melodic rocker has some jazzy concepts at play. It's a fun romp with plenty of Queen cool built into it.
Dreamer's Ball
The guitar sound on the start of this is meaty, but the lines of sound are retro in texture. This works out to an old-time type of arrangement. There is almost a Dixieland jazz vibe to this, particularly when the crunchy guitar joins.
Fun It
Electronic drums bring this cut in. This has a dance sort of vibe. This feels a lot like a precursor to some of the later Queen sounds. I'm not a big fan of this one. It's too stripped back and that electronic drumming doesn't work well. That said, the guitar fills are tasty, and it does have a cool groove. We get some funk built into it. later, and there are parts of this that work better than others do.
Leaving Home Ain't Easy
A more melodic rock vibe starts things here. The cut gets some art rock leanings as the introduction builds. This is a mainstream rock tune with lots of cool soft rock in the mix.
Don't Stop Me Now
An energetic and triumphant tune, this is a tune with plenty of Queen trademarks built into it. It's a great rocker that works really well.
More of That Jazz
The drums start things here. This works out to another cut that has some really trademark Queen sounds at play. This is very much in line with the older sound of the band. That said, Roget Taylor wrote the song and provides the vocals and most of the instrumentation. The closing part of the track, though, is sort of a montage of pieces from various songs on the album. It does come back to the song proper to end it.
 
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