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Queen - Queen II CD (album) cover




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4.36 | 861 ratings

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TGM: Orb
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4 stars Queen are the band I would've said were ubiquitous in my slightly younger years. Annoyingly enough, even prior to picking up Queen II, I couldn't deny they deserve that position: catchy writing, distinct songs, a unique sound, a great singer. However, more annoying still is that none of the variety of wonderful offerings on their sophomore album (other than Seven Seas Of Rhye) even made the best of. Aside from being one of the greatest guitar albums of all time and plainly a great album, Queen II synthesizes outright experimentalism and variety with enviable songwriting perfectly.

Even on the songs I'd say are a bit weaker, most of the band's strengths are usually out in full force: the vocal melodies are, with one exception, great; May's guitar work on the album is phenomenal... I might even go so far as to rate it above Electric Ladyland as the rock guitar album; the writing is complex and dense but purposeful and very fast paced; the rhythm section more than adequate. Even without mentioning the incredible vocal leads, harmonies and effects we have one hell of an album to get through. And as a collective strength, I'd say, Queen II is remarkably well-paced... fluent and capable of very quick transitions but never quite verging into the realm of the frantic. That and the strength of the melodies and riffs make it very easy indeed on the ears.

The opening pair, for instance. May uses Procession to stretch out his canvas of guitar textures, alluding subtly to both God Save The Queen and the following Father To Son, by turns a heavy rocker with some bestial guitar soloing, a whimsical a-capella piece and a hymnal call (I mean, listen to that organ-like guitar work and those harmonies near the end). By contrast, the wonderfully sung White Queen is a lush inversion of that, moving rather from its mournful opening to glimpses of heated memory. May's tone, again, heavenly, and the sitar(-like?) solo is yet another example of how effectively he varies his guitar sounds on this album while sticking to the stellar tone that unifies it for most of the songs. While that is perhaps my favourite song on the album (with the warped Fairy Feller as another runner), I can't help but feel Some Day One Day is rather underestimated: a wonderfully unforced display of Mercury's singing, with delicate vibrato tingeing the end of gorgeous vocal lines, a great acoustic melody, and the guitars and choral harmonies so characteristic of this album as a whole. I mean, it's not a showy piece but I really do love it.

The 'Black Side' is much along the same lines and of the same quality, though Mercury's writing is more overtly experimental (I'll try to leave some of the surprises unmentioned), uses piano more and maybe has slightly more emphasis on the lead vocals (though nonetheless a number of insane harmonies). To talk about a few highlights (the whole side is basically highlights), the guitar section in the middle of Ogre Battle must have three or four interlaced layers of May's finest work, Fairy Feller is an entirely bizarre fast-paced piece of maddened folklore characterisation with some of the strangest melodies and hooks I can remember from Queen, Nevermore's an exquisite piano-and-voice ballad. March Of The Black Queen, by contrast to these, is virtually a suite... I'm particularly fond of the vocal interplay on it.

By no stretch of the imagination is Queen II quite a perfect album... some of the transitions do jar a little, the folksy lyrics verge from the mildly intriguing (White Queen) to the plain naff (Ogre Battle) and I've little affection for Taylor's tedious rocker Loser In The End and the rather nauseating set up piece Funny How Love Is. Thankfully, enough for each of those, we have a more than fair share of very winning material. Just take the concluding radio hit Seven Seas Of Rhye: great vocal melody and mad harmonies, fading away just briefly enough for the solo voices to shine, amazing intertwining piano and guitar riffs, bloody amazing soloing from May as well as his incredible range of textures... even if I wouldn't elevate this album to the pedestal some fellow reviewers have, there's a lot to love here. Get this album.

Rating: Four Stars, something like 12/15 Favourite Song: too greedy to pick just one

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |


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