Sunday, 3 June 2018

Queen - News Of The World (1977)

I've had my share of sand kicked in my face....

 
Released October 1977

Recorded at Sarm West Studios, London

Running time 39.30

By October 1977, I had seen The Jam, Elvis Costello and Ian Dury live, I owned the first Clash album and was listening to The Ramones and The Stranglers. So, my favourite band of 1974-76, Queen, all of a sudden started to feel just a little “old hat”. Four great albums in row and huge popularity was now being tested by the maelstrom of punk. Queen, with their Freddie Mercury-driven campness and complex classically-influenced music suddenly seemed the very antithesis of snarling, three-chord punk. Queen were not to be beaten, though, and Brian May had this to say about the band's intentions at the time -

“....We'd already made a decision that after "A Night At The Opera" and "A Day At The Races", we wanted to go back to basics for "News Of The World". But it was very timely because the world was looking at punk and things being very stripped down. So in a sense we were conscious, but it was part of our evolution anyway....”

TRACK LISTING

1. We Will Rock You

2. We Are The Champions
3. Sheer Heart Attack
4. All Dead, All Dead
5. Spread Your Wings
6. Fight From The Inside
7. Get Down Make Love
8. Sleeping On The Sidewalk
9. Who Needs You
10. It's Late
11. My Melancholy Blues

Queen, though, despite May's insistence that they were wilfully stripping things down and going back to basics, had also become a "stadium rock" band. With that in mind, they decided to write two "audience participation" songs. May said he envisaged a crowd clapping along in unison. Well, he certainly got his wish. What a pair of tub-thumpers he and Mercury came up with. The double 'A' side lead-off single, We Are The Champions with its terrace chant chorus and the unusual, quirky, metronomic We Will Rock You was a good start and went to number two, as I recall. It was a superb start to the album. However, the rest of the album didn’t really match those two. 


Granted, It’s Late was an impressive, extended, big production rocker, but those were no longer de rigeur in 1977. Roger Taylor’s Sheer Heart Attack (named after Queen’s third album, which now seemed an age ago) was a contrived attempt to be “punk”. All fast thrashing guitars and breakneck drums. It was actually quite convincing, I have to say. You certainly can't keep still listening to it. Taylor's songs often aren't the best thing about Queen albums, but this was one of his best. His other track on here, Fight From The Inside is pretty pedestrian and clunky, despite a solid riff.

Get Down Make Love was a somewhat bizarre piece of vocal/instrumental experimentation but there was no real place for songs like the grandiose pop balladry of John Deacon's Spread Your Wings, or his other song, the lightweight  Who Needs You, the sleepy harmonies of All Dead All Dead or the breezy, twenties-influenced jazz of Brian May's Sleeping On The Sidewalk in 1977’s musical milieu. Now, none of the tracks are unpleasant in any way but they are just culturally a bit out of time. I still quite liked the album upon release, but I had this feeling that this was a band who were being left behind. I sensed that Queen were on their way to becoming an irrelevance and soon found that I hid the fact that I liked them from some of my punk mates.

The closer, My Melancholy Blues was a Freddie Mercury piano-driven blues that would have sounded good in any era, but overall, this has the feel of an album released in the middle of some extremely changing times.

C+



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