|Queen - A Night at the Opera|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 22 August 2000|
DCC Compact Classics/Hollywood Records, 2000
| Performance 6 | Sound 8 |
It’s no secret that Queen, with the over-the-top vocals of Freddie Mercury and the multi-guitar orchestration of Brian May, had a flair for the dramatic. They defined the term "rock opera" and, despite attempts by artists such as Meat Loaf and the Who, Queen will probably never be surpassed as the kings, correction, queens of rock opera. The 1975 Queen album A Night at the Opera has been re-mastered by recording engineer Steve Hoffman and is now being re-issued as a 24-karat gold compact disc.
The re-release of A Night at the Opera is a must-have for hardcore Queen fans, as the songs sound amazing and full of a new sense of depth and clarity that the original release on CD does not quite capture. On the other hand, casual fans of the band may find the album a little too experimental and will be wishing they had bought "Queen’s Greatest Hits." Rarely does anything on this album fall into the pop category of music. Unless you already own this album, the songs "You’re My Best Friend" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" will probably be the only numbers you have heard before. It just so happens that they are two of the best tracks on the album.
Created as a concept album, from the liner notes listing the members of Queen as the "Cast" to ending with a multi-guitar orchestrated version of "God Save the Queen," the biggest problem with this album is the fact that it really doesn’t tell a story. As unexceptional as their lyrics were, at least bands like Rush and Yes created concept album that told some kind of tale that had cohesive elements to tie the songs together. Rush’s 2112 is a perfect example of this, telling the story of the first man to discover the guitar in a distant world and how he used it to overthrow an oppressive government. Of course it’s cheesy, but at least it tells a complete story both lyrically and musically. A Night at the Opera seems to randomly skip through subject matter from song to song. The only common bond between tracks is that they are rock songs by Queen with operatic elements.
Guitarist Brian May, most famous for his unique tone and guitar orchestration techniques, steps up to the microphone on the track " ’39." When a band has a frontman like Freddie Mercury, it can be dangerous to let someone else sing lead, but Brian May has a strong voice that sounds a bit like Paul McCartney, and this song adds a nice bit of variety.
The songs that rock on the album, including the opener "Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…)," "Good Company" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," are what I like to hear when listening to a Queen album. Where the album loses me is when it goes off on a ragtime tangent. Unfortunately, A Night at the Opera does this too many times. "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon," "Seaside Rendezvous" and "Good Company" sound like Queen bumped into Scott Joplin and were commissioned to write some music for a Woody Woodpecker cartoon.
The final track, apart from the closing version of "God Save the Queen," is the ever-popular but overplayed "Bohemian Rhapsody." There has never been a song that in five minutes and fifty-five seconds has so completely defined a band’s sound. It may sound like I’m selling Queen short to say that their sound can be summed up in one song, but I think anyone who has really listened to it would agree with me. This epic song is all over the map but at no point along the way do you ever forget that you are listening to Queen. From the melodic intro to the thick backing vocals complete with flanger and other studio tricks to Brian May’s guitar solo, this song has it all. I just want someone to explain to me what "Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?" means.