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Queen - Queen II CD (album) cover

QUEEN II

Queen

 

Prog Related

4.35 | 573 ratings

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5 stars Masterpiece of prog rock.

If you never buy another Queen album, make sure you have this in your collection of prog rock, as it never disappoints, packing progressive elements in dense clusters, whipping backwards and forwards between the light and soulful, through the dark and heavy to the downright psychotic.

"Procession" starts with a stately bass drum pattern, over which Brian May previews some of the "Father To Son" material with a guitar sound that is strikingly organ-like and somehow majesterial. This is layered with quasi-mediaeva touches, and the "main" Father to Son theme, before a rippling motif overlaid with a bell-like motif leads to the wonderful riffs of "Father..". These riffs develop, blurring the verse/chorus progression somewhat. When the chorus hits, it's huge and symphonic in style. The rippling and bell motifs return in an slightly extended form, and the Queen choir builds up a huge texture, with touches vaguely reminiscent of the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" in places. A huge riff is built up underneath this, and we enter a rockin' and rollin' bridge that develops into the solo, which flies all around the stereo picture in a dazzling display of dive-bombs, before lapsing into feedback before kicking off solo part 2, with May layering up the guitars authoritatively. This drops back to a single soft chord, as Mercury almost whispers "A word in your ear, from Father to Son", which kicks into the coda, showcasing fabulous melodies, style changes and, naturally, the Queen choir. The coda itself is a massive stadium chant of "Word goes around, from Father to Son..." etc, which fades out to ambient guitar feedback textures.

These segue into the intro to "White Queen", a song with fine - almost typical prog rock lyrics - and a dramatic Gong punctuating the ambient wash of acoustic guitars. Mercury turns in another brilliantly strong melody. Fabulous harmonies open the music up in a mini bridge into what stands as a kind of chorus - but with massive riffs instead of acoustic guitar, different words to continue the tale, and sensitive, dramatic percussion from Taylor. May then imitates a sitar convincingly for a brilliantly ambient section - There is much in here that reminds me of some of the material on Radiohead's "OK Computer", Queen's dominant style notwithstanding. May unleashes a fabulously orchestrated section, and the Queen choir layer up, and the whole lot is broken down again - "...as it began". At least half an hour's worth of material condensed into 4 and a half minutes. This is what I'm talking about.

"Some Day, One Day" begins with a gentle acoustic rhythm awash with phasers, and May taking the mic for a complete change of style and texture - but that's part of what prog is all about; Variety. The lyrics enter mysticism territory here - with a slightly dark slant; "When I was you and you were me and we were very young Together took us nearly there, the rest may not be sung". The overall style is of a fairly simple song, but there are many, many progressive elements packed in here - some reminiscent of "Tomorrow Never Knows", but the ambient layers of voice and guitar showing the subtle side of Queen.

The rock returns with a bang - Taylor's echoed kit and rough and angry vocals rip into "Loser In The End" - but concentrate on the background layers if you will. The surface is a fairly standard rock song, but the layering of textural ideas is out of this world. You could convince yourself that Queen were using synths - but, of course, at this point in their career, this is not the case.

Side 2 opens with a whoosh, and thunder, before multi-layered and backtracked vocals and guitars create a cacophonous wall of sound, which magically turns itself around to sound "the right way around", and a riff that builds and builds to a song which just grows and grows, painting the outrageously dramatic picture of the Ogre Battle, May excelling himself with guitar punctuation. A wall of screams is the highpoint of this song - it really is incredibly scary - but not long enough! Like everything on this album, everything is so dense and passes by so quickly...

The track segues into "Fairy Feller's Master Stroke", a wicked slice of prog incredibly squeezed into a mere two and a half minutes - I'm wearing out my pause button on this one, so I'll let you discover it for yourself. The lyrics are suitably prog too - so check those out, and listen to this a hundred times - or until you have worked out all the complexities in this song, whichever comes first - I suspect the former.

Masterfully, this segues into "Nevermore", which hints at great songs that Queen would write later in their career. Hauntingly evocative and nostalgic, this shifts seamlessly through many keys, driven by Mercury's ever-improving pianistic abilities.

Now we arrive at the pinnacle of this breathtaking roller coaster - "The March of the Black Queen". Less dense overall than the earlier material, but still packed with time, key and texture changes - including bells and outrageous vocal textures, sudden drops from vertiginous cliffs of sound into barbershop style harmonies and vaudeville song.

I just don't want to analyse any further - the music is just too enjoyable to keep picking apart, and really, one could spend a huge amount of time in analysis and still not uncover everything in this fabulous album - a prog rock album that defines Queen's corner of the genre, and makes many other prog bands pale into near insignificance by comparison.

It's amazing to me that opinion could be split over this album, as it seems to be in some circles - all I can think of is that if you don't hear the prog, you need to listen again and again until you do. It's all there in spades... make that dump truck loads - Queen unashamedly pile on the elements in clusters so dense and fly them past at such a speed that all you end up following are the fabulous melodies of Mercury and May's awesome riffs - and rightly so. Prog should be more than the sum of its parts, and despite the enormous quantity of elements, this album is way more than "Seven Seas..." or "Ogre Battle".

Queen were so far ahead of their time, as this album closes with the pure prog "Seven Seas of Rhye", I feel a kind of pang of regret that Queen did not make more albums like this - one wishes that they had found a way to produce a dozen or so more like this every year. But then that would stop Queen II from holding the crown that it does.

Magnificent opus - even if you don't like certain aspects of it, there's bound to be something in here you'll like or grow to like over time. An essential rock album for everyone.

Certif1ed | 5/5 |

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