Queen

TrackAlbum
LiarQueen
The Fairy Feller’'s Master-StrokeQueen II
White Queen (As It Began)Queen II
In The Lap Of The Gods ... revisitedSheer Heart Attack
The Prophet’'s SongA Night At The Opera
DrowseA Day At The Races
You And IA Day At The Races
It's LateNews Of The World
Sail Away Sweet SisterThe Game
Keep Passing The Open WindowsThe Works

spotify-logo-primary-horizontal-dark-background-rgb-sm

 

Contributor: David Lewis

Queen is one of those bands whose well deserved reputation is actually only part of the story. Most people, I suspect, either see Queen as the band who stole Live Aid or the band with the mega singles: Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust, We Will Rock You or even the bombast of Flash.

But they were and are much more than that. Four highly intelligent and professional men, four great musicians, three world class singers, four extraordinary songwriters. In compiling this list, I had to make some harsh omissions: nothing from Greatest Hits Volume One or Two (which meant no to the incredible Now I’m Here, as well as all the well known ones). Even removing Volume Two narrowed it, but we lost the extraordinary Invisible Man, Breakthru and Headlong. And the unforgettable The Show Must Go On.

Queen’s real strength lies in songwriting and musicality. The band themselves considered that they were an albums band. Freddie Mercury ranks with Elton John as a piano player. His touch, his voicings and his essentially self taught ability are just superb. Queen songs are rarely predictable. Very rarely do you get three identical verses: there’s always a variant.

So, here, wrest from my own choices, and knowing that there are equally worthy choices left to languish, are ten songs.

From the first album, I’ve put Liar. It paves the way for many later Queen songs: a vaguely Tolkienesque theme, and several diverse sections, including a gospel bridge. This was apparently a live standout, and it is easy to see why.

Queen II, is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest rock albums of all time. I’ve picked 2 from it: White Queen and The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke. White Queen is majestic and beautiful. Listen to those harmony guitars, and the voices are just sublime. The Fairy Feller’s … is based on a Richard Dadd painting in the Tate Gallery. Freddie’s imagery, both insane and controlled, captures the picture beautifully. You can look at the picture and see the imagery. The use of harpsichord is inspired. This segues into the magnificent March Of The Black Queen.

Sheer Heart Attack was meant to be a stripped back album. Compared to the first two, it is, but it is still an album of many production tricks. It’s a very fine album though. It has pastiche, (Bring Back That Leroy Brown), and hard rockers (the magnificent Now I’m Here), but I’ve chosen to go with the deceptive arena crowd pleaser In The Lap Of The Gods … Revisited with its singalong chorus and marvellous melody and lyrics.

A Night At The Opera is widely considered a masterpiece. As such, it has a great array of songs. Most focus is on Bohemian Rhapsody. But The Prophet’s Song is perhaps a little cleverer. The use of delay, which Brian had pioneered in Brighton Rock on Sheer Heart Attack, was now used for Freddie’s vocals. Freddie builds up three part harmony in a unique and creative way.

A Day At The Races is much the same approach but is a slightly more satisfying album. The incredible Roger Taylor composition Drowse captures teen ennui in a mature and satisfying way. The end spoken bits, in which he lists his heroes, Clint Eastwood and Jimi Hendrix, is just perfect. Because I wanted a good example of Roger’s lead vocals, I’ve had to excise perhaps my favourite Queen song, Long Away. The torture of lists …

News Of The World saw the first major change in direction. Shorter sharper songs prevailed. Known for the double ‘A’ side We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, News shows the astonishing versatility in new and interesting ways. It’s Late, a Brian May composition, is perhaps the most typical Queen song. A nice story of doubt and regret, it is accessible, beautifully arranged, and it’s one of Freddie’s very best lead vocal performances.

Jazz is not widely regarded as Queen’s best album, but there are some real gems. Skipping over it, The Game is somewhat of a return to form. It had two mega hits, Another One Bites The Dust and Crazy Little Thing Called Love, plus a couple of lesser hits. Nonetheless, I’ve selected the gorgeous Brian May sung Sail Away Sweet Sister, as being representative of a Brian May vocal but also a lovely melody. It is, like so many May songs, emotionally authentic, and has a lingering quality.

May said of John Deacon that he didn’t write very much, but what he did write tended to matter. Deacon wrote Another One Bites The Dust, I Want To Break Free and You’re My Best Friend. Indeed, this list could easily have been ten Deacon songs. You And I from A Day At The Races is a superb example of Deacon’s pop sensibilities. He later mastered funk and R&B.

The last track I’ve picked is from The Works, and it is a real hidden gem. Keep Passing The Open Windows is an anti-suicide song, but it’s not trite, nor preachy. Taken from a poem, and originally written for an abandoned soundtrack for “The Hotel New Hampshire”, its slow build and marvellous denouement showed that, at their best, Queen were pretty much untouchable.

So many more tracks that just won’t fit. Let Me Live from the astonishingly good posthumous album, Made In Heaven; the incredible Good Company in which May’s guitar is made to sound like a traditional jazz band, or any others I’ve snuck in through discursive meanderings. Queen is one of the top English bands, who have deserved their belated entry (thanks to Freddie’s untimely death) into the rock pantheon. Queen – the midpoint of the cleverness of Jethro Tull, the appeal of Elton John, the versatility of The Beatles and the power of The Who.

The official Queen website

Queen resource – up-to-date information

Queen news

Queen biography (iTunes)

David Lewis’s website – History, Mystery, Music and Pop

In his first post for this site (and we hope there will be many more…Ed.) David Lewis reflects the toppermost ethos with his Queen selection – “not necessarily the most popular songs or the biggest sellers … but those hidden away on albums” – and if anyone would like to have a stab at Queen solo, stab away…

TopperPost #152

2 Comments

  1. Peter Minihane
    Dec 27, 2013

    This is a wonderful list, definite proof that Queen was much more than a “singles band”, a veiled insult if ever there was one.

    The continuous critical mauling of their output by NME, Rolling Stone et al sometimes seemed to be for personal reasons, not just musical. The lads didn’t play the game (pun intended!!) so the hyenas rounded on them, throwing in a bit of homophobia here and there for good measure too, I recall.

    The most versatile band on the planet, each member a songsmith of the highest order.

    Again, a great list. The 8 albums these tunes are taken from are the definitive Queen albums.

    Talent will out, my dears.

  2. David Lewis
    Sep 2, 2014

    Saw Queen with Adam Lambert last week in Sydney: only Queen with Freddie surpassed it, in my estimation. Such a good show, I don’t think I’ll go to another big arena show.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

↓