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Queen - A Night At The Opera CD (album) cover




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4.29 | 951 ratings

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4 stars The key to understanding this, the last of QUEEN's 1970s progressive albums, is that it is not really a progressive album at all - at least in the conventional sense. It is, instead, an album of uneven music dressed in theatrical clothes by turns progressive and vaudeville. It sold by the truckload, prompted by THAT song and its accompanying video, but I bet the album's contents surprised - and bored - many casual listeners.

'Death on Two Legs' is a typical QUEEN song: interesting without being outstanding. It is followed by the first of the vaudeville numbers, and then two excellent pop/rock singles, a ROGER TAYLOR rocker (that sounds more like STATUS QUO than QUEEN) and an anthemic feel-good track (albeit with a stolen keyboard riff). '39' shamelessly steals LED ZEPPELIN's 'Bron-y-aur Stomp' - ah well, they probably stole it from someone else - and I wonder why they bothered, as it's all rather innocuous. I don't think QUEEN do this sort of serious stuff very well: this lot are clowns at the circus, not troubadours. 'Sweet Lady' and 'Seaside Rendezvous' drift by, rock and vaudeville, with nothing to suggest that this is anything but a continuation of the downward slide of 'Sheer Heart Attack' - a few excellent songs padded out by dross.

Except for Side Two. 'The Prophet's Song' is a throwback to the glory days of 1973/4, when they wrote with abandonment. This song almost, almost gets back to the heights of 'Queen II', and is certainly the most adventurous they were to be until the very end of their career. Even so, the central vocal section has little of the verve of 'March of the Black Queen'. Nevertheless, this section and the guitar that follows are excellent. More dross, then 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Look, there are apparently a few protozoan beings on Pluto who haven't heard this song, so I don't really have to say anything - except to express my admiration of the band's daring. Fancy picking this as a single! I'm glad it worked. Great story, excellent if slightly cheesy lyrics (weren't they always) and fabulous musical dynamics. It was a hit for a reason - soft piano, raucous guitar, operatic vocal harmonies, a full-blown musical experience wrapped up in six minutes.

There's another song, another pointless novelty, that that's all. Pack up your bags. Take home two great progressive numbers, two very nice pop singles, and leave the rest behind. And that, sadly, is how we might summarise the rest of QUEEN's output (except you can delete the progressive numbers, and on occasion - 'Hot Space' - the pop singles).

russellk | 4/5 |


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