Welcome to the new series on 2 Loud 2 Old Music. We are going to go through all the Studio Albums for the band Queen. And to do this, we are using the 40th Anniversary 2011 Remastered CDs as our source as I picked up the 3 Volume Box Set for Christmas. And with any good series, we will start with their debut album and work our way through all the studio albums in chronological order. I hope you enjoy this new series and note, they won’t be coming weekly like the Kiss Series is doing, these will come as I can get to them and my goal is to be done by the end of the year. With only 15 reviews, I think I can meet that goal.
We aren’t going to go through a detail history lesson of the band as this series focus is the studio albums only. But we will give you a quick rundown of their beginnings. Brian May and Roger Taylor were in a band called Smile in the late 60’s. Freddie Bulsara was a big fan of the band and asked to join the band as lead singer. May of course didn’t think their current lead singer, Tim Staffell would give up that role. Well, eventually he did as he wanted to go in a different direction than what Smile was doing. Freddie joined the band and they changed their name to Queen and Freddie changed his name to Freddie Mercury due to a line in their song “My Fairy King”. This was around 1970. Then in Feburary 1971, bass player John Deacon joined the band and Queen was ready to go.
But Queen needed to record some demos and they needed a record deal. They were asked to come to De Lane Lea Studios which was a new studio in Wembley. The studio needed a band to test out the equipment and Queen went in and recorded 5 songs and those demos are included on this disc as the Bonus E.P. Some people working at the recordings thought the band was great and they loved the song, “Keep Yourself Alive”, so they tried to get them record deal. They were offered a deal with Charisma Records, but the band turned them down as that was the label of Genesis and Queen felt they would play second fiddle to them. In the meantime when there was downtime at Trident Studio, the band recorded the album with John Anthony and Roy Thomas Baker helping producing the album.
They started promoting the album starting in 1973 and were able to finally get a deal with EMI Records and by the Summer of that year on July 13, 1973, the world was introduced to the debut record of Queen simply called ‘Queen’. The album wasn’t a huge success for the band, but it did go Gold in the UK and the US where they hit #47 and #83 on the charts, respectively.
Since this is the CD and not the LP, there is no Side 1 and Side 2 for these reviews. We will just go down the songs one by one and kicking it of is the opening track and first single of the band called “Keep Yourself Alive”. The song was written by Brian May and what is cool about this one is that Roger Taylor and Brian May have singing parts as well. Freddie Mercury sings the main verses with the others helping on the chorus. There is a great drum solo part as well right before May lays down a quick solo At the end of the solos, Roger sings a line and then Brian answers back with a line as well. Musically, it is a pure rock song with a really cool guitar work riff by May, but as you will learn, when is there not. It has been voted by Rolling Stone as one of the Greatest Songs of All Time while yet never charting.
Next up is “Doing All Right” which was written by May and Tim Staffell back in the days of Smile. Freddie is singing and May is featured on the piano as well as the guitar. It is a starts out as a very slow song and feels more 60’s than 70’s. About midway through the song, it explodes and changes tempo with Brian wailing on the guitar and then goes back to the almost lullaby feel of the beginning and then exploding again as Brian lays down a blistering solo. The band as you know, doesn’t do things normal and likes to do things out of the ordinary.
“Great King Rat” comes blasting on the scene with a really cool May guitar shuffle and then Roger’s driving beat. Freddie wrote the song and although he is great in it, the song is really showcasing May’s and Taylor’s playing as there are a lot of guitar moments and drum fills that show the talent of these guys. It is probably one of the more heavy rock songs on the album and probably my favorite track on this album.
Then we get to the strangeness of Queen with “My Fairy King”. It was written by Freddie and talks about the fantasy world of Rhye which he created and has used on other songs. Freddie is on the piano this time and has the band really experimenting with styles, sounds and vocals. I usually like a lot of their weird stuff, but this one never felt right with me. I feel they are trying to do too much and seem a little all over the place. Still no denying their musical talent.
We get back to the rock with “Liar” which is another Freddie penned track which was written back before John Deacon ever joined the band. We get Freddie on the Hammond Organ for this one. Another one of the band’s heavier rocking tracks and another favorite. My favorite part is towards the end when we get only some percussion and Freddie belting out the lyrics quickly and then May laying down one nasty riff and solo. It is brilliant.
“The Night Comes Down” is up next and this was written by May and has some cool guitar picking to open the song and Roger pounding away on the cymbals and the drums. The guitar goes acoustic and Freddie comes in and lays down some smooth, slick vocals in the only way Freddie can do. It ends up more of a slower tempo and the drums sound is rather immense on this one. Brian’s playing on guitar is quite different than the other songs and is another example of his amazing talent. This recording is actually from the demo and mixed a little different as they didn’t like the recording of it. It is another really cool track.
Roger Taylor finally gets his due with the next track, “Modern Times Rock ‘n Roll”. It is an old style rocking song and rather short at under 2 minutes. It is extremely fast paced and doesn’t slow down or let you catch your breath. It gets in and gets out and delivers one hell of a punch. Roger wrote and sings this track and as I keep digging in to the Queen catalog, I really gravitate to those Roger Taylor songs, they are all little gems.
“Sons and Daughters” comes next with its Black Sabbath vibe opening distorted riffs. The song was written by Brian May as sees the band dive in to the blues rock arena with some metal vibes as well. It is a darker song and a beast of a track to say the least.
“Jesus” is up next and this one was written by Freddie Mercury and is about Jesus of Nazareth. The band wasn’t afraid to tackle any subject. It has a church vibe to the chorus and Freddie preaches out the verses. It has a very repetitive feel to it until you get to that solo break with May playing that guitar like he was speaking in tongue. This is the saving grace of the song hearing May wail on his Red Special which gave the song a rather psychedelic vibe. Personally, I would like to hear only the instrumental than the rest of the song because the rest bores me a little.
The final track is “Seven Seas of Rhye” which is not the song you might think about. This is an earlier version and is instrumental as they couldn’t quite finish the lyrics, but you would see it on ‘Queen II’ where they should have left it. This sounds pointless and rather unnecessary to include here.
- Keep Yourself Alive – Keeper
- Doing All Right – Keeper
- Great King Rat – Keeper
- My Fairy King – Delete
- Liar – Keeper
- The Night Comes Down – Keeper
- Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll – Keeper
- Sons and Daughter – Keeper
- Jesus – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Seven Seas of Rhye – Delete
The Track Score is 7.5 out of 10 or 75%. The more I listened to this album, the better it kept getting. What a great starting point for the band and what a bunch of talented musicians and singer. Right out of the gate you could feel something special was brewing. I have to say the more I dive in to Queen the better I realize they are, not that I didn’t know that already. The albums are so much more than their hits and this one hands down has deeper cuts that are better than the singles. For that this easily gets a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars and what a great start to the series.
Now we aren’t done yet. I am not going to grade the Bonus EP that comes with each CD, but we will discuss it so you know what you are getting. We are only going to grade the original album tracks and rank them based off that part and not all the bonus material. However, I am sure you are curious about the bonus stuff as well as let’s get right to it…
The Bonus EP:
The Bonus EP comes with the 5 original demos that were recorded at the De Lane Lea Studios from December 1971. The songs are rawer and in some cases they are as good or better than the album version. I really like “Keep Yourself Alive” and “Great King Rat”. One though doesn’t live up to the album version and that is “The Night Comes Down”. The drums are much more toned down as the album version is so immense and powerful. I could do without this version of “Jesus” because it takes the song draws it out to 5 minutes up from the 3:45 of the album version. “Liar” is quite different as it is definitely more raw in nature, but doesn’t capture the magic of the album version. Although it is still enjoyable even after stretching it out to over 7 minutes long.
The one really cool song on here is “Mad the Swine” which was intended for the album to go between “Great King Rat” and “My Fairy King”. The reason it was left off because there was an argument between Baker and the band over the drum sound. The matter couldn’t be resolved and therefore left off the album. I don’t know who thought what but the drum sound is weak on this one and not as full as the rest of the album. It is a quirky little song and is not bad, but I don’t think it would’ve added anything extra special to the album. It would’ve been better than “Seven Seas of Rhye”.
And that is everything. Thanks for hanging around for the Bonus material and I hope you enjoyed the review. I can’t wait to get through them all.
UP NEXT: ‘QUEEN II’ (1974)
THE STUDIO ALBUM SERIES:
- Queen (1973)
- Queen II (1974)
- Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
- A Night at the Opera (1975)
- A Day at the Races (1976)
- News of the World (1977)
- Jazz (1978)
- The Game (1980)
- Flash Gordon (1980)
- Hot Space (1982)
- The Works (1984)
- A Kind of Magic (1986)
- The Miracle (1989)
- Innuendo (1991)
- Made in Heaven (1995)