Queen At 50 Reviews – Jazz – Part 2

Last updated 4 April 2022

As always with Queen’s albums, Jazz is a mixture of famously popular hits and underrated lesser-known gems. The first side, which I reviewed in my previous post, is proof of that on its own, with Fat Bottomed Girls and Bicycle Race making a particularly big impact. But the second side is also a fantastic collection of songs, by far the most significant being Don’t Stop Me Now by Freddie of course, for which there is a great deal to write about. Plus we get both of the tracks that Roger contributed, 3 more compositions by Brian, and another song by John. So this is my in-depth review of Side 2, with the usual mix of alternate versions, live performances, covers and more. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Jazz – Part 1

Following News Of The World, an album of raw energy that spawned the mega-hits We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions, on top of their previous successes, was always going to be a very tall order for Queen. But, as always, they weren’t deterred by that, and opted to explore a variety of musical styles on their 7th album (though not including jazz itself as the title might suggest). And it didn’t do them any harm, as the LP peaked at Number 2 in the UK charts (held off the top spot by the Grease soundtrack), and Number 6 on the US Billboard Chart, going Platinum in both countries.

Overall the album perhaps isn’t as stunning as some of their previous work, but only because of the incredibly high bar they’d set themselves, and it’s still really good in its own right. For a start, it gave us their well-loved songs Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race and Don’t Stop Me Now, a trio that makes it worth the price of entry alone (although surprisingly the latter wasn’t a big hit to begin with). And the other ten tracks are an enjoyable mixture too, with some relatively obscure gems amongst them as usual.

The heavy criticism it received in the music press at the time was certainly unwarranted, with the band even being described as “fascist” and “creeps” with “polluting ideas” by Rolling Stone reviewer Dave Marsh. But it was often fashionable for music critics to bash the band, and reviewers tended to be thrown off guard whenever Queen tried something different (which was always), not knowing how to react to it and simply not ‘getting it’. Queen’s humour and sense of fun often went over journalists’ heads.

Hindsight has been kinder though, with retrospective reviews often being more favourable, such as Loudersound ranking it as their 4th best album, and Rolling Stone magazine admitting they were wrong. It is now rightly acknowledged that the album is rather underrated, as it’s never had as much attention as some of their earlier work.

And so, as the latest instalment in my Queen At 50 series, this post is my personal run-through of all the tracks on Side 1 of the album, including the usual mixture of alternate versions, live performances, covers and more. Freddie Mercury dominates here, with 4 of the 6 songs written by him, while Brian and John contribute one each. Then in my next post I’ll share my review of Side 2. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World – Part 2

Last updated 16 March 2022

Welcome to the second part of my review of Queen’s 1977 album, News Of The World. In the first part I looked at how the album was created, the character of Frank The Robot that graces the cover, the 40th anniversary box set, and some related documentaries and interviews. I then focused exclusively on just the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions – as they naturally deserve a great deal of attention given their popularity and cultural impact.

For this second part, therefore, I’m going to look at the other tracks on the album. Even though they aren’t as widely played, and thus not as well known, as Rock You or Champions, there are some underrated gems here without a doubt. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World – Part 1

Last updated 26 April 2022

1977 could have been the year that Queen’s reign came to an end. With punk rock very much in the ascendancy, having gained traction over the previous few years, there was a greater appetite for raw power and simplicity in rock music, rather than elaborate and fancy progressive rock. And Queen’s last album, A Day At The Races, despite being an excellent collection of songs, hadn’t sold quite as well as its behemoth predecessor A Night At The Opera, with some critics and fans feeling that it was more of the same without any notable improvement. So it was going to seem too repetitive if they did the same kind of thing yet again.

The band were perfectly happy to adapt and take on the challenge though, and indeed were already keen to try something different from the multi-layered, complex productions they felt they’d done enough of by this point anyway. So even without the emerging competition from the punk scene, it was already the evolutionary path they were heading down.

As a result, News Of The World marked a shift towards a purer hard rock sound, and took just 2 months to record (compared to 5 for A Day At The Races). The tracks still had some beautifully arranged harmonies and instrumentation thrown in, but not as lavishly and prominently as before. There was also a change in how evenly the writing credits were distributed, with 4 tracks now written by Brian, just 3 by Freddie, and an increase to 2 each for Roger and John. And the band produced the album themselves, with assistance from engineer Mike Stone, now they had the experience and confidence to do so themselves.

It all worked out very well, resulting in another great selection of songs. And so, as you’ll be accustomed to by now if you’ve followed my posts to date, this is my personal review of each of the tracks, including a look at alternate versions, music videos, live performances, covers, etc, along with other bits and pieces that I’m aware of.

In this first post, in addition to more general discussion about the album, I’ll be focusing specifically on the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions – as they’ve had such a colossal cultural impact and there’s a lot to discuss in relation to them. In Part 2 I will then move on to the other great tracks on the album. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Day At The Races – Part 2

Last updated 22 March 2022

Happy Japanese Queen Day! Following on from the wonderful variety of tracks on Side 1 that I reviewed previously, Side 2 of A Day At The Races continues to entertain with a mixture of offerings. It starts off with one of Queen’s most enduring and hugely popular hits, before taking us on a journey that ends up in Japan at the end of the album, which has important relevance to today, as explained for that particular track. So there’s plenty to cover as usual, and I hope you enjoy this latest set of reviews!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Day At The Races – Part 1

Last updated 18 March 2022

The time has come for me review Queen’s 5th album. The musical majesty and stellar success of A Night At The Opera was always going to be a tough act to follow, and impossible to beat. But Queen were up for the challenge, and set about making A Day At The Races between July and November 1976. They produced it entirely by themselves for the first time, now that they had sufficient experience and were keen to give it a go, instead of employing Roy Thomas Baker like they had before. They continued to use engineer Mike Stone though.

The album was designed to be a companion piece to its predecessor with a similar variety of music. So it was again named after a Marx Brothers film, and Groucho Marx sent a note to congratulate them on their success and their “sage choice of album titles”. It also had a similar cover design to the previous album, with the colourful Queen crest on the front, but everything was on a black background instead of white this time. Brian later expressed a wish that both Opera and Races had been released together, as “the material for both of them was written at the same time, so I regard the two albums as completely parallel.”

The band are also credited in fun ways in the sleeve notes – in addition to the usual mentions of vocals, piano, guitar, etc, Freddie is the “Choir Meister” and contributes “tantrums”, Brian is the “Leader of the Orchestra”, and Roger provides “Pandemonium”. John is merely credited as playing Fender Bass and doesn’t get anything extra, which is reflective of his nature as the quiet one in the group.

A Day At The Races 2

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Queen At 50 – London Locations Walk

Back in September I spent a day walking around some of the Queen-related locations in Hammersmith & Kensington, following the Day 1 itinerary on the Queen Locations website. My intention was to find most of the locations listed on that website over a series of walks – i.e. those that still exist that I can get to reasonably easily. However, due to the weather and the toughening up of Covid restrictions, I haven’t yet had a safe chance to go hunting for any more.

So these are the locations I’ve found so far, including some key places where the band lived, recorded and performed. Check out Judit Castellà’s Queen Locations site, which inspired me to do this, for additional notes and photos, and also their Queen Online article about the site. Further notes and photos about these locations can be found on Queen ConcertsMercury Paradise and the map on Shane’s Queen Site. I hope you enjoy walking in Queen’s footsteps with me!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Bohemian Rhapsody Covers

Last updated 22 March 2022

As discussed in depth in my A Night At The Opera review, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is an enduring classic that continues to increase in popularity 45 years on, as new generations of fans are introduced to it, most recently thanks to the movie of the same name and Queen’s tours with Adam Lambert. Freddie’s masterpiece, like his spirit and all of his music, will never die or be forgotten.

It is of no surprise, therefore, that it’s been covered in a myriad of styles by thousands of people, either tackling the full song or focusing on selected sections of it, despite the fact that it’s very brave of anyone to take on a song of such complexity that is so famous and well-loved.

In my previous reviews of Queen’s albums, I’ve always included cover versions as part of those posts. But such is the significance of Bo Rhap and the huge number of covers it’s had, coupled with the fact that it’s always nice to do some kind of special post at Christmas, that I’ve decided to give these interpretations of the track a space of their own.

Of course, it goes without saying that nobody can come close to Queen when reproducing any of their songs, especially this one. And there are plenty of covers out there that range from the decidedly average and uninspiring to the downright bizarre and awful. But there are also lots of beautifully arranged, excellently performed and cleverly interpreted versions too.

So in this post I wanted to share a long list of cover versions that I’ve found, divided into rough subsections to keep similar types together. I’ve compiled them into a big Youtube playlist as well, sorted so that the most popular videos are at the top. Or if you’re feeling brave, put it on Shuffle and see what comes up!

Some covers are great in my view, some are not, and the rest are somewhere in between. But everyone’s opinions will differ. All I’ve tried to do is present a wide variety that I feel are of interest and worth exploring out of curiosity. It’s not every cover that exists by any means, but I feel it’s a very comprehensive and fair representation of what’s out there, listing most of the major versions and lots of hidden gems.

So buckle in for a long selection, and see which versions you like best!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Night At The Opera – Part 3

Last updated 18 February 2022

This is the final instalment of my deep dive into Queen’s epic 1975 LP, following on from Part 1 and Part 2. There is also a bonus post about Bohemian Rhapsody cover versions, but this post explores the rest of the main material.

The album of course finishes in style, courtesy of their biggest hit of all time, followed by a patriotic instrumental at the end. So let’s get straight on with it, as there’s plenty to discuss. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Night At The Opera – Part 2

Last updated 21 March 2022

The first side of Queen’s hugely successful and perennially popular 1975 album, which I reviewed last week, is in itself quite a stunning collection of assorted treasures.

But those tracks were also paving the way for even more incredible delights on the flip side, for which there is a great deal to talk about. So much so, in fact, that I’ve had to split my reviews for the second side into 2 parts.

In this post, therefore, I’m going to take a close look at the next 3 tracks, then I’ll conclude the album in Part 3. The first track in this post is their longest song and one of their most complex, while the second is their most popular sing-along acoustic number that’s spawned a ton of live performances and covers, and the third is a delightful Dixieland tune. So I hope you enjoy!

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