Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
Some of the fun of playing around with the discographies of Prince and U2 involved rearranging classic albums into new configurations. Prince and U2 each have a few albums which didn't really need to be reimagined, as they were already great. But it was fun to come up with new angles to approach the music from.
I love Queen. Freddie Mercury had one of the greatest voices in rock and roll history, and the entire band combined their efforts to make a few really creative and mesmerizing musical experiences, and some very straight forward jock jam classics. But they only had one good album. The other fourteen studio albums are all collections of one or two great songs, maybe a good song, and then mediocre songs in the style of whatever was trending: disco, new wave, prog rock, heavy metal. While their prog rock album, Queen II, is actually a very good progressive rock album, I'm no longer seventeen, and don't ever have the urge to listen to Rush, Dream Theater, early Genesis, or Queen II. And while I'm sometimes in the mood for disco or new wave, I'm never nostalgic for Queen's songs in those categories.
So, this discography is going to be brief, concise, and vastly different from their actual discography. Therefore, with the exception of the good album and a half (A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races, which I've blended into one album), even the names of the Queen albums will be completely different from the originals.
The first two of the five album discography are roughly chronological, the final album is a concept album, and the third and fourth albums are stews of the delicious leftovers.
The first album, A Flick Of The Wrist, is a combination of Queen's debut album, and their third album, Sheer Heart Attack. If you like progressive rock, you should totally check out Queen II, on its own merits, but it stylistically clashes with everything else on this album, so I've left it out entirely.
When Prince drops the word "Prince" into his song, he is talking about his purpleness. Queen is not of the same ilk, despite also being royalty. So opening up with Queen Killer is not the same as starting out with "My Name Is Prince". This is not a thesis statement. This is a very 70s classic rock pop song. Noodly rock guitars, AM friendly keyboards, but Freddie Mercury classes up the song with his wide-ranging vocals, which is the highlight of the band, and the reason for their success, despite Dr. Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon all being fantastic musicians in their own rights. "Queen Killer" is just a fun little riff about praising an object of desire, she's never disparaged, her figure is never mentioned, it's just a "Hey there's this rich lady who's good at what she does, and while that might be sex, it might also be amateur magic, playing Trivial Pursuit, or hosting parties. She's just great! Guaranteed to blow your mind."
It's A Hard Life falls right out of "Queen Killer"'s final chord. It's a generic "I'm sad because I've been dumped" song, but it has a great keyboard track, some cool background vocal tricks, and hints at Queen's operatic future. It also has a very 1970s guitar riff-off in the third quarter of the song. The lyrics are so generic, that it's impressive that Mercury is able to pack so much emotion in them.
Some hand clapping and light drumming lead us into Liar, the most 70s of all the Queen songs that survived into this discography. It launches into a guitar riff-off right away, and then the sweet AM style vocals croon in. This track is the most stark example of the "Am I talking about sex, religion or both?" category where both U2 and Prince flourished. Mercury doesn't go there as often, but he's all-in during this song. The staccato liars almost demand you sing along with them. The talking section (it's definitely not influenced by rap, it's just musical talking) where he switches the genders of his conversation from father to mother lead into an ending that you can almost imagine would have been a hard rock Billy Joel song, if Billy Joel could sing.
The bass and the guitar wind around each other in a very pleasing banjo-like progression as we segue into Keep Yourself Alive. The chorus is pretty weak, and the lyrics continue to be generic, but now generic self-help, instead of generic love. This is one of the songs where the instruments outshine Mercury's voice. Mixing it up from the previous songs is that the third quarter of the song has a drum-focus for a solid thirty seconds before the guitars come back in.
Now I'm Here has an echoey Marco Polo beginning, as Freddy Mercury tells you where he is. Sometimes it's here, sometimes it's there. He was super good at Hide & Go Seek. Once the echoes are over, we're solidly into 70s layered vocal rock. A heavy metal inspired guitar riff, and an overall feeling that you should be listening to this song in a tractor trailer truck, speeding down a highway in 1974. You are almost required to grow a mustache to sing along with this track.
A clearly ballady piano with a little country guitar twang rise out of "Now I'm Here" to give us Doing All Right, which could have come out of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar. It's not religious, it just has the spare instrumentation, and the very late 60s/early 70s trio backgrund vocals that devolved out of R&B and Doo-wop to be utterly spineless "oooooh"ing. Then, of course, the guitars kick in, and we're in very familiar riffy territory.
Bring Back That Leroy Brown, with its honky-tonk piano and bass lines, is a nice little anomaly for early Queen. It's from a Western movie. It's from another planet. It's from Freddie Mercury's super brain, and Roger Taylor's expert hands.
We fall back solidly into 1970s classic AM rock with Stormtroopers In Stilettos. It's Brian May on vocals, and mainly him and John Deacon on strings. Without Mercury's vocals, it could be from almost any band from that era. But the heavy breathing and drum outro give away the song's Queenness.
Freddy is back for the prog-rock influenced Mad, The Swine. Originally cut from their debut album, it showed back up on rereleases. It's really a precursor to Queen II, with its fantasy elements and more spacey guitar work. If this is your favorite track on the album, definitely check out their second album from their real world discography.
From prog rock to heavy metal, Stone Cold Crazy launches out of "Mad The Swine", trailing guitar riffs behind it. The combination of the guitars and Mercury's vocals are unlike anything else that was happening at the time, but once the late 70s/early 80s hit, this was a more common style of vocal for metal songs.
Misfire ooohs and ahhhs us back into layered Mercury pop. He spends much of the time in his smooth falsetto range, which isn't quite as cool as his screech falsetto, but works well with the rotarying guitar riffs.
Lap Of The Gods sounds like it's from a C level sci-fi movie soundtrack (where Queen will end up in just a few years). It's our first rare occasion to hear Mercury's voice distorted, to give it a more alien feel. I don't ever want to see the movie that would feature this song. Fun trivia fact, the really high falsetto scream in this song is the highest note on the album, and it's not even Freddy Mercury, it's Roger Taylor.
Taylor takes over the vocals for Tenement Funster (and Deacon takes over guitar from May), the first part of a trilogy of songs. Flick Of The Wrist is the second part, with really cool occasional octave spaced vocals, and Dr. May's background vocals. The trilogy concludes with Lily Of The Valley, a piano focused ballad about ... love, of course.
Mercury's letter to his sad peers, Dear Friends, is another piano ballad. It has a more Beatlesesque feel than any other track on the album, as it lullabies us to the album's close