Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)

AllMusic Review: Queen were straining at the boundaries of hard rock and heavy metal on Sheer Heart Attack, but they broke down all the barricades on A Night at the Opera, a self-consciously ridiculous and overblown hard rock masterpiece. Using the multi-layered guitars of its predecessor as a foundation, A Night at the Opera encompasses metal (“Death on Two Legs,” “Sweet Lady”), pop (the lovely, shimmering “You’re My Best Friend”), campy British music hall (“Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon,” “Seaside Rendezvous”), and mystical prog rock (“’39,” “The Prophet’s Song”), eventually bringing it all together on the pseudo-operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” In short, it’s a lot like Queen’s own version of Led Zeppelin IV, but where Zep find dark menace in bombast, Queen celebrate their own pomposity. No one in the band takes anything too seriously, otherwise the arrangements wouldn’t be as ludicrously exaggerated as they are. But the appeal — and the influence — of A Night at the Opera is in its detailed, meticulous productions. It’s prog rock with a sense of humor as well as dynamics, and Queen never bettered their approach anywhere else. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

All lead vocals by Freddie Mercury unless noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. “Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)” Freddie Mercury 3:43
2. “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” Mercury 1:08
3. “I’m in Love with My Car” Roger Taylor Roger Taylor 3:05
4. “You’re My Best Friend” John Deacon 2:50
5. “’39” Brian May Brian May 3:30
6. “Sweet Lady” May 4:01
7. “Seaside Rendezvous” Mercury 2:13
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
8. “The Prophet’s Song” May 8:21
9. “Love of My Life” Mercury 3:38
10. “Good Company” May May 3:26
11. “Bohemian Rhapsody” Mercury 5:55
12. “God Save the Queen” (instrumental) traditional, arr. May 1:11

 

Schill Score:  8.5/10

 

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Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

AllMusic Review: Queen II was a breakthrough in terms of power and ambition, but Queen’s third album Sheer Heart Attack was where the band started to gel. It followed quickly on the heels of the second record — just by a matter of months; it was the second album they released in 1974 — but it feels like it had a longer incubation period, so great is the progress here. Which isn’t quite to say that Sheer Heart Attack is flawless — it still has a tendency to meander, sometimes within a song itself, as when the killer opening “Brighton Rock” suddenly veers into long stretches of Brian May solo guitar — but all these detours do not distract from the overall album, they’re in many ways the key to the record itself: it’s the sound of Queen stretching their wings as they learn how to soar to the clouds. There’s a genuine excitement in hearing all the elements to Queen’s sound fall into place here, as the music grows grander and catchier without sacrificing their brutal, hard attack. One of the great strengths of the album is how all four members find their voices as songwriters, penning hooks that are big, bold, and insistent and crafting them in songs that work as cohesive entities instead of flourishes of ideas. This is evident not just in “Killer Queen” — the first, best flourishing of Freddie Mercury’s vaudevillian camp — but also on the pummeling “Stone Cold Crazy,” a frenzied piece of jagged metal that’s all the more exciting because it has a real melodic hook. Those hooks are threaded throughout the record, on both the ballads and the other rockers, but it isn’t just that this is poppier, it’s that they’re able to execute their drama with flair and style. There are still references to mystical worlds (“Lily of the Valley,” “In the Lap of Gods”) but the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records; the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

All lead vocals by Freddie Mercury unless noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. “Brighton Rock” Brian May Mercury with Brian May 5:08
2. “Killer Queen” Freddie Mercury 3:01
3. “Tenement Funster” Roger Taylor Roger Taylor 2:48
4. “Flick of the Wrist” Mercury 3:19
5. “Lily of the Valley” Mercury 1:43
6. “Now I’m Here” May 4:10
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
7. “In the Lap of the Gods” Mercury 3:20
8. “Stone Cold Crazy”
  • Mercury
  • May
  • Taylor
  • John Deacon
2:12
9. “Dear Friends” May 1:07
10. “Misfire” Deacon 1:50
11. “Bring Back That Leroy Brown” Mercury 2:13
12. “She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettoes)” May May 4:08
13. “In the Lap of the Gods… Revisited” Mercury 3:42

 

 

Schill Score: 8.5/10

 

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Queen – Queen II (1974)

AllMusic Review: In one regard, Queen II does indeed provide more of the same thing as on the band’s debut. Certainly, of all the other albums in Queen’s catalog it bears the closest resemblance to its immediate predecessor, particularly in its lean, hard attack and in how it has only one song that is well-known to listeners outside of their hardcore cult: in this case, it’s “Seven Seas of Rhye,” which is itself more elliptical than “Keep Yourself Alive,” the big song from the debut. But these similarities are superficial and Queen II is a very different beast than its predecessor, an album that is richer, darker, and weirder, an album that finds Queen growing as a band by leaps and bounds. There is still a surplus of ideas, but their energies are better focused this time around, channeled into a over-inflated, pompous rock that could be called prog if it wasn’t so heavy. Even with all the queens and ogres that populate Queen II, this never feels as fantastical as Genesis or Uriah Heep, and that’s because Queen hits hard as a rock band here, where even the blasts of vocal harmonies feel like power chords, no matter how florid they are. Besides, these grandiose harmonies, along with the handful of wistful ballads here, are overshadowed by the onslaught of guitars and pummeling rhythms that give Queen II majesty and menace. Queen is coiled, tense, and vicious here, delivering on their inherent sense of drama, and that gives Queen II real power as music, as well as a true cohesion. The one thing that is missing is any semblance of a pop sensibility, even when they flirt with a mock Phil Spector production on “Funny How Love Is.” This hits like heavy metal but has an art-rock sensibility through and through, which also means that it has no true hook in for those who don’t want to succumb to Queen’s world. But that kind of insular drama is quite alluring in its own right, which is why Queen II is one of the favorites of their hardcore fans. At the very least, it illustrates that Queen is starting to pull all their ambitions and influences into a signature sound, and it’s quite powerful in that regard. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side White
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. “Procession” (instrumental) Brian May 1:12
2. “Father to Son” May 6:14
3. “White Queen (As It Began)” May 4:34
4. “Some Day One Day” May Brian May 4:23
5. “The Loser in the End” Roger Taylor Roger Taylor 4:02
Side Black
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
6. “Ogre Battle” Freddie Mercury 4:10
7. “The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke” Mercury 2:40
8. “Nevermore” Mercury 1:17
9. “The March of the Black Queen” Mercury Mercury, Taylor 6:33
10. “Funny How Love Is” Mercury 2:50
11. Seven Seas of Rhye Mercury 2:50
Total length: 40:42

 

Schill Score: 8/10

 

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