Monday, July 26, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 158: Queen

Some bands just seem to attract the randomness of the CD Odyssey. This is now my 6th Queen album rolled, yet still not a single one of fourteen Tom Petty albums, or fifteen Blue Oyster Cult albums.

I'm not complaining about more Queen, mind you. They rock, and Disc 158 is the album that got it all started.

Disc 158 is...Queen (Self-Titled)

Artist: Queen

Year of Release: 1973

What’s Up With The Cover?:'s purple? A Freddie Mercury-like figure stands in a spotlight. This cover is OK, but a bit boring.

How I Came To Know It: After a lifetime relationship with Queen dating back to early childhood, this is just me digging through the collection. I actually got their first album comparatively late - maybe five years ago?

How It Stacks Up: I still have fourteen of fifteen Queen albums. I haven't managed to find "Made In Heaven" but I know it will happen if I keep plugging away. Of the fourteen I have, this is one that I would say is excellent, and just below my top few favourite. Maybe 4th or 5th depending on my mood, but more close to 5th. Yeah - I know, I already tagged "The Game" at 5th. Shut up, and stop paying attention.

Rating: 4 stars.

Queen's first album started it all, thirty seven years ago. Wow. What a great musical legacy.

This record is a worthy entry into the Queen library. It has everything - great playing from all the musicians, Freddie's vocals and innovative song writing. This record and their next two have a more noticeable prog element - kind of like the first three Blue Oyster Cult albums I never roll.

In fact, the guitar riff for "Keep Yourself Alive" is very similar to BOC's "Before the Kiss, A Redcap." Coincidence? Most likely, yes. A happy coincidence as well - since both songs are excellent.

The operatic and showtune like elements that Mercury really brings to later records isn't as noticeable here - it is more of a hint of what is to come. Instead, the record focuses more strongly on straight seventies prog rock. "Great King Rat" in particular has some shredding guitar and "Keep Yourself Alive" has a kick-ass drum solo, but these are just two of many examples.

The height of the album is the six and half minute "Liar" right there in the middle of the album (likely the beginning of side two on vinyl). And in a single song, a great guitar solo and a great drum solo. If it seems too much bombast, or too over the top - it isn't. It is exactly the right amount of bombast.

This album also some ridiculous over the top lyrics that are also common on Queen II. Consider the start of "My Fairy King":

"In the land where horses are born with eagle wings
And honey bees have lost their stings
There's a singing forever
Lion's den with fallow deer
And rivers made from wines so clear
Flow on and on forever."

Hmmm...someone's been reading Coleridge, methinks.

Lest, you think this bothers me, think otherwise. I love over the top lyrics, and Queen are one of the best at it. There is a special talent to sing about such fantastical topics and still infuse them with great music, and true feeling.

In many ways, Queen I is a book end to Queen II. The music is similar, and there is even a version of "Seven Seas of Rhye" on both albums, slightly different, but no less awesome.

This album has few hits - I think maybe "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Liar" were hits of a sort, but I can't remember them as such. Also, when I first got this record I playing the living crap out of it, so now all the songs sound really familiar.

Of note, this review was briefly interrupted by my buddy Spence, who is the biggest Queen fan, and without whom I might not have been sufficiently enthused to pursue all of Queen's albums in recent years. So a big shout out to Spence - the King of Queen, and a big shout out to this record as well. It is consistently good, and well worth a purchase if you don't own it.

Best tracks: Keep Yourself Alive, Doing All Right, Liar, Son & Daughter

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