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Artist: Queen

Queen

Bio

Queen were an English rock band originally consisting of four members: vocalist Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bass guitarist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor. The band formed in London in 1970 after May and Taylor's former band Smile split after having released an album and single. Freddie replaced lead vocalist Tim Staffell, after the latter's departure from the original trio. There was much deliberation as to what the band's name would be. May and Taylor had settled upon the Grand Dance, derived from a C.S. Lewis Trilogy of books Out Of The Silent Planet. Ultimately, the band went with Queen, a name that was entirely Freddie's. Originally Roger and, especially, Brian did not like the name, though Mercury would eventually persuade them both that it was "right" for the band. "Years ago I thought up the name Queen... It's just a name, but it's very regal, and it sounds splendid. It's a strong name, very universal and immediate. It had a lot of visual potential and was open to all sorts of interpretations. I was certainly aware of the gay connotations, but that was just one facet of it. " - Freddie Mercury. Queen went through several bass players before a young electronics major by the name of John Deacon arrived on the scene in January of 1971. "Until John, it had been exploding bass player syndrome. If they musically worked they'd look all wrong, and if they felt all right they couldn't play. - Brian May. This quite shy guy turned up with his immaculate Rickenbacker bass and immaculate amplifier, plugged in, and as soon as he started playing we realized it was right." - Brian May. Later that year, the band was secured recording time at the newly built De Lane Lea studio, and used the opportunity to record several songs that would later appear on their debut album - Liar, Keep Yourself Alive, Jesus, and The Night Comes Down. The demo reel was passed around from producer to producer with little success, until a staff member of Trident records by the name of Roy Thomas Baker was introduced to the band by fellow Trident producer John Anthony. Baker dropped in to watch the band at work and, clearly liking what he heard, recommended Queen to his superiors. It was eventually agreed upon that the fledgling band could record at Trident studios, though after alre
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Queen: Jazz (Elektra) Creem, Mar 1979

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FOR A FEW weeks in 1978, an FM radio station in New York City was trying, earnestly and imaginatively, to create rock 'n' roll counter-programming. A ratings turnaround didn't happen fast enough, so it changed its format to something called "the Rock Champions" (i.e., more AOR elitism).

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This was around the same time that every film clip of The Yankees on television was scored with ‘We Are The Champions’, and the movie FM attempted to pass off ‘We Will Rock You’ as the ‘We Shall Overcome’ of the rock revolution. I started to despise Queen; a two-sided platinum single of aristocratic, pompous, triumph-of-the-will arrogance in 4/4 time (if marches are to resound over the airwaves, better Ace Frehley's ‘New York Groove’ any day) summed up for me the worst in royalist rock, and I couldn't remember more joyless, numbing, contemptuous music reaching a mass audience. Frankly, I was wary of the implications.

I needn't have been. I still despise Queen, but their music is so absurdly dull on Jazz, so filled with dumb ideas and imitative posturing, that it's impossible to feel threatened by a barely competent rock group singing "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" (real 70's-think: can you imagine a Queen Army, a pack of mascara'd lounge lizards walking in lockstep?). ‘Fun It’ is their disco number for Christ's sake, and it still sounds like a funeral march, with lyrical babble about dynastic movements. And no lead singer who evokes Joel Grey's slimy Cabaret smarminess and who writes "the first Moroccan rock 'n' roll song" (it sounds more like his haftorah) can truly be scary, just genuinely awful.

Queen used to make enjoyably ludicrous records like ‘Liar’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and Roy Thomas Baker gave their music an entertaining art-rock veneer that he adapted so successfully for The Cars. But now, even their best jokes – ‘Let Me Entertain You’, a parody of their own worthlessness; ‘Dreamer's Ball’, an extravagantly condescending jazz-blues – are pummeled by the approach to the material. All four of Queen's writers seem to know what a song is (they've learned and stolen from the worst of The Beatles just as Cheap Trick have absorbed and adapted the best) and when to stop, qualities lacking in many of their progressive competitors, and stripped of their pretentious overlays, the tunes on Jazz turn out to be swipes from The Cowsills, ‘Holly Holy’, Magical Mystery Tour, Disraeli Gears, Mott The Who-ple. If only Queen could lock into the simplest formula without attaching dead weights, if Freddie Mercury weren't such a screeching bore (even his cock-rock, like ‘Don't Stop Me Now’, is flaccid), if their arrangements weren't on the basic level of Mel Brooks' ‘Prisoners Of Love’, then Jazz could be studied as a catalog of pop-rock sources.

Mercury, surprise of surprises, may have turned into the weakest link of the quartet (although the rhythm section does plunge to deeper depths, it does so less frequently); his compositions dominate side one and they are, without exception, earsores: ‘Mustapha’ (the weirdest lead-off track in the history of rock albums?), ‘Let Me Entertain You’ (a pure rocky horrorshow). Guitarist Brian May handles all the jazzing up around here, with his rollin' and tumblin' ‘Dead On Time’ and ‘Dreamer's Ball’, the only song that even approximates the LP's title (if Queen pulled a Kiss and released four solo albums, May'd be the best bet to be their Ace), but as he is also responsible for the sniggery ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, it would be a misrepresentation to exempt him from blame.

Maybe Queen thinks all this is funny, that their undisguised condescension ("rock 'n' roll just pays the bills") and operatic mannerisms atop a beat more Rockette than rock is entertainment, but it's not my idea of a good time. For me, their snappiest one-liner is on the inner sleeve: "Written, arranged and performed exclusively by Queen" As if anyone else would want to step forward and take credit.

Queen: Sheer Heart Attack Phonograph Record, Mar 1975

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HAVING BEEN duly, uh, blown away by the opening tracks on their previous two albums, I prepared to savor the first cut on Queen's Sheer Heart Attack with what might have been described as drooling anticipation, only to discover that ‘Brighton Rock’ is a little more than Brian May attempting to convince us that he, and neither Robin Trower nor anyone else, is Jimi Hendrix incarnate.

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Visibly shaken, vastly saddened, and a little angry, I hunted all over both sides of this latest album for something, anything, even remotely as magnificient as ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ or ‘Father to Son’, only to end up empty-earred and bawling.

With a little concentration these geezers could become the best English group in Britain. At the moment, though, they've got a disastrously cock-eyed view of their own strengths. The production effects they pile on with so little restraint and their apparent phobic dread of ever over-dubbing fewer than thirty-five guitar parts on anything combine to smother the actual songs, to which they seem to be paying less and less attention. For instance, were May to spend as much time composing lead vocal lines as he does constructing harmonies for his guitar leads, he might, one suspects, come up with a lot more memorable songs.

I mean I adore the heavily-produced English sound as much as any man on earth, but Queen have just gone overboard.

It ought to be pointed out to them that some of the best-loved groups in rock history have contained members who didn't compose. Drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon certainly don't do so with appreciable proficiency, but, typically, the group nevertheless try to sneak ‘Tenament Funster’ and ‘Misfire’ past us in a cloud of production effects. Naughty boys: Spector himself couldn't make either of these sound like much.

Considering how exquisitely May's, Freddie Mercury's and Taylor's voices blend, why is there so little vocal harmony? Lotsa people can play the guitar as well as Brian May, but there probably aren't ten groups recording who can harmonize like that

What with their excellent vocals, extensive instrumental proficiency in the ‘heavy’ manner, and rich (if presently too-rich) imaginations concerning recording technology, Queen may one day make an album comparable to The Move's incomparable Shazam. When that day comes, mark my words, they'll swear they never made an album called Sheer Heart Attack.

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Greatest Hits

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Greatest Hits II

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A Night at the Opera

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Jazz

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Greatest Hits III

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Bohemian Rhapsody

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Don't Stop Me Now

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We Will Rock You

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Another One Bites the Dust

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We Are the Champions

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Killer Queen

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