Sunday, 3 June 2018

Queen - A Night At The Opera (1975)

Is this the real life?....  


Released November 1975

Recorded at various London studios and in Rockfield Studio, Monmouthshire

Running time 43.08

This was the album that sent Queen into the stratosphere, largely due to the presence of the monster hit single "Bohemian Rhapsody". For many, many people, it is their best album. Not for me, I prefer the three before it and the two after it. That is a matter of personal taste and mine is for Queen to rock, as opposed to swanning around on a Sunday afternoon. It is a veritable cornucopia of an album, full of different styles from one track to the next. As Brian May says (featured below), it contained some of their heaviest material side by side with some of their frothiest -

"It has a couple of the heaviest things we've ever done and probably some of the lightest things as well. It is probably closer to "Sheer Heart Attack" than the others in that it does dart around and create lots of different moods but we worked on it in the same way that we worked on "Queen II". a lot of it is very intense and very layered..."

- Brian May

"...I did discipline myself - take vocals because they're my forté, especially harmonies and those kind of things. On "Queen II" we've gone berserk, but on this album I consciously restricted myself. That's brought the songwriting side of things across and I think those are some of the strongest songs we've ever written..."

- Freddie Mercury


1. Death On Two Legs
2. Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon
3. I'm In Love With My Car
4. You're My Best Friend
5. '39
6. Sweet Lady
7. Seaside Rendezvous
8. The Prophet's Song
9. Love Of My Life
10. Good Company
11. Bohemian Rhapsody
12. God Save The Queen

Back to how I feel about the album - I have an ambivalent relationship with Queen. When they rocked they were good. When they were good, they rocked. Unfortunately, rather like with the Paul McCartney “whimsy” songs on Beatles albums, songs like “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”, “Seaside Rendezvous” and “Good Company” annoy me somewhat and I question what place they have on a rock album, alongside heavy things like “Death On Two Legs” and “Sweet Lady”, both of which sound great on this 2011 remaster by the way. As does the vocal harmony bit in the monumental “The Prophet’s Song” as well. I have never heard it sounding so good, to be honest.

Roger Taylor's "I'm In Love with My Car" is a solid rocker and John Deacon's summery, Beach Boys-esque "You're My Best Friend" has a singalong appeal. Brian May's folky "'39" is ok, but a little incongruous and Mercury's "Love Of My Life" is, of course, completely sumptuous. Then there is "Bohemian Rhapsody", the band's bountiful behemoth that really needs no introduction to anyone. Yes, everyone has heard it many times but that doesn't stop it being a work of creative genius, the effect of which, upon release, was simply seismic. After that, six minute singles became de rigeur

On a broader level, single chart success apart, his was Queen’s shot at the title. Their “Sgt Pepper”. Like “Pepper” it contained a few things I feel should not have been there and which, for me, render it unworthy of its “classic” status. The “Mercury foppery” tracks were, interestingly, rarely, if ever, played live by the band yet they keep appearing on albums alongside some great rock tracks. This exemplifies my eternal frustration with Queen. Were they a true rock band or were they something else. Maybe they were both and therein lay their appeal for many. If I just wanted rock, maybe I should have just stuck to Hendrix or Free.

As their albums went, I much preferred “Queen II”, “Sheer Heart Attack” and “A Day At The Races” anyway. “A Night At The Opera” is like a chocolate box - you've always got the coconut and coffee ones in there somewhere.


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