Mrs M and I are off to see Queen & Adam Lambert this week for our first night out since Baby A arrived and to almost achieve my life goal of seeing Queen perform live.
Whilst my dad introduced me to Neil Diamond, my mum can take full credit for my interest in one of the most iconic rock bands of the 20th century. Significant artists growing up were Cliff Richard (although she denies this), Chris De Burgh, Paul Simon, Hot Chocolate, Van Morrison and Queen. The cover of the ‘A Kind of Magic’ is also one out of all the records we had growing up, that I remember the most, but it isn’t the album I am going to add to my collection.
It was the Live Aid concert mum had taped on VHS and would play back at full volume around the house that first drew my attention to Queen. The stage presence, outfits and progressive rock was in stark contrast to the other music we listened to growing up.
In preparation for the gig, I have spent the last few months playing Queen albums and reading reviews to try and decide which from their extensive catalogue I should add to my vinyl collection which will someday be handed to the boys as a notebook of my music journey.
With so many hits still being used in Sport, TV and Radio, I almost opted for the ‘best of’ collection to cover all the icon songs by the band, but that would miss the point of this vinyl collection. An LP should be a journey, where the artist has placed each song in the perfect order to deliver a cohesive, synergetic experience. With so many hits – I couldn’t even choose just one of their best of albums anyway!
In the end, it came down to a choice between ‘A Night at the Opera’, their debut album ‘Queen’ and ‘A Kind of Magic’ three very different albums, that capture many of the elements that have made Queen such phenomenon across the decades. There are arguments for so many of their 14 studio albums, live albums and best of collections, but this is the LP that takes me on a journey every time I hear it. I also considered Freddie Mercury’s incredible opera – ‘Barcelona’.
Queen – A Night at the Opera
Released in 1975 and the fourth by the band, A Night at the Opera is the most eclectic and clever of their albums in my opinion.
Beginning with a crescendo into an aggressive attack on their former band manager ‘Death On Two Legs’ includes everything I enjoy about the bands earlier work. Drama and storytelling with brilliant recording techniques in an eight-track era, with layered vocals, exceptional guitar solos and percussion being used as an instrument, not just a tool to try and keep the band in time.
The album flows beautifully, with ballads, music hall, swing, blues, Dixieland and rock all covered. Songs are written by each member of the band and lead vocals taken by Roger Taylor on his track “I’m in Love with My Car” and Brian May with his intriguing “’39” about space explorers who miss 100 years of time.
“Seaside Rendezvous” bookends side one, with an indulgent track which showcases the musical humour of Freddie Mercury and Queen. I can imagine them diligently looking for the band member with the best kazoo impersonation, while also recording the tapdancing section against the mixing desk with thimbles on their fingers.
The indulgence doesn’t stop there. Side B launches with an epic vocal canon which uses early tape delay devices on a song written by May following a dream he had about a flood.
The fact that Bohemian Rhapsody (Probably the most iconic song of any band in the world) fits perfectly on the album is perhaps an indicator of how diverse ‘A Night at the Opera’ is.
Bringing the LP to a close is the only song recorded but not written by Queen – “God Save the Queen”.
Unless Roger Taylor decides to send a signed copy to a former drummer or Brian May was told that I printed placards for a campaign to ‘Save the Badgers’ that he stood near to once – it will be my mothers surprising influence in my musical upbringing, a fantastic night out with my wife and my admiration for a band where every member is uniquely talented, which when combined produces a incomparable result.
Queen - A Night at the Opera
‘A Night at the Opera’ is a cohesive and engaging album that showcases the bands musical talent for engaging story telling through composition, orchestration, recording techniques and performance. There is no doubting Queens ability to write iconic anthems, but it is the musicality of this album which sets it apart.