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Queen - Queen II CD (album) cover




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4.36 | 859 ratings

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5 stars UPDATE: It grows on you! The reverb-happy production is only a problem on the White side, and Freddie's songs are just too good to not give this 5 stars. Although I said this is not a concept album, you can find running themes if you look a little deeper.....

Queen II is Not really a concept album... not really a prog album.... not really an album! It's more like two.

Queen II is brilliant despite these negatives. The record is wisely cut in half, and although neither half particularly sound like they represent black and white, good and evil, etc, they are both still rather different from each other. It is no surprise to find out that Brian May wrote "Side White" while Freddie Mercury wrote "Side Black".

Beginning with 'Procession', a miltary-style prelude of sorts that introduces May's songs and the whole album, things get off to a nice, alternative start. It isn't a song but a builder of tension, and it leads progressively [sic] into 'Father to Son', the best song on the white side. This beast starts off like an average heavy rock piece, drenched in echo and those high-pitched harmonies so unique to Queen, but changes its style with various interludes, one of which has a guitar solo that can only be described as metal. It recapitulates the verse and then ends with an anthem-esque fade-out. The song about the White Queen is full of stops and starts and is rather melancholy compared to the Black Queen one (which is surely meant to be the darker song). 'Some Day One Day' is acoustic filler but not unpleasant, and the first half closes with Taylor's punchy rocker 'The Loser in the End', in which he impersonates Robert Plant..... the entire White Side is actually fairly Zeppelin-esque, but with too much reverb.

'Ogre Battle' opens the Black Side (which is paradoxically more light-hearted, fun and happy-sounding) with some shockingly high vocal bursts and some very fast guitar riffs. A cracking number which squeezes a lot into its duration. 'The Fairy Feller's Master- Stroke' is a harpsichord-led polka, which squeezes even more in. Very fast, very thick, but very good. Despite the quality here, the piano ballad 'Nevermore' provides a welcome rest from all the chaos, and is shamefully too short in itself. Then comes the centrepiece of this half, 'The March of the Black Queen'; fitting in so much that it could actually form four different songs. A structure that musicologists will find hard to follow incorporates all the styles that we've so far heard on side black, with flowing dexterity and charm. The fantasy element is hard to understand though, so focus on the harmony and not the lyrics. After this, the album closes with a jolly number that sounds like a Christmas song, and then the single 'Seven Seas of Rhye' is tacked on to the end, which you've heard already.

Busy production and variable material prevents this record from being the conceptual beast it was perhaps intended to be. If all of the songs adhered to the style of either the White or Black side, it would be more cohesive. But also, I am puzzled as to why this 2011 remaster didn't do something about the excessive echo on the album, because it only makes it sound dated and stadium-y. Nevertheless, 75% of the songs are really great, and reward repeated listenings from proggers and head-bangers alike.

thehallway | 5/5 |


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