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

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

Queen

 

Prog Related

4.27 | 675 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Magnifico-o-o-o

"A night at the opera" is generally recognised as Queen's finest, and indeed most progressive album. Having been preceded by the phenomenally successful 6 minute single "Bohemian Rhapsody", the album was guaranteed a chart topping position even before it was released.

The title "A night at the opera" is taken from a film by the Marx Brothers, but aside from the operatic section of "Bohemian Rhapsody" there isn't actually much opera to be found here. Indeed, this is not a concept album, although the tracks do tend to sit well together.

There is of course the usual variety of styles. Freddie Mercury slips in a couple of his brief, effeminate songs ("Lazing on a Sunday afternoon" and "Seaside rendezvous") both of which sound instantly familiar. He also contributes another fine ballad along the lines of "Lily of the valley" with "Love of my life". Roger Taylor comes up with one of his best compositions in "I'm in love with my car", once again one of the album's heaviest tracks.

One of my personal favourites is Brian May's "'39", a haunting upbeat ballad. "Prophet's song" is actually the longest track on the album, at over 8 minutes. A fair portion of this is taken up with some multipart vocal acrobatics by Freddie Mercury assisted by some tape loops, similar to Brian May's guitar sections on "Brighton Rock" from the previous album. While the novelty of this was undoubtedly appealing when the album was released, it can wear a bit thin these days.

For me, the only real blooper on the album is "Sweet lady" which sounds weary, with a rather pathetic chorus.

So what of "Bohemian Rhapsody"? There had been successful singles previously which had breached the usual 3 minute limitation, "Hey Jude" by The Beatles and "McArthur Park" by Richard Harris come to mind immediately. Nothing however had prepared the music world for the sheer pomp and audacity of Queen's new single. The track moves through more moods and styles in 6 minutes than most bands manage on an entire album. One minute your listening to pseudo opera, the next your faced with a heads down straight ahead burst of rock. Despite the record company's misgivings about the wisdom of releasing the track as a single, it was helped in no small part by a superb video. At the time of its release, such videos were rare, MTV still being some years in the future. In the UK, the song took up residence at number one in the singles chart (at a time when a hit single still had some relevance), and the video was played repeatedly on TV. Even today, it is not hard to see why the song was so revolutionary, indeed if ever "prog-related" needed defining in a song, "Bohemian Rhapsody" would fit the bit perfectly.

So is "A night at the opera" Queen's best album? With the benefit of 30 years hindsight, I'd have to say in my opinion, no. While it was undoubtedly a landmark release, which had a major influence on many genres including prog, I consider "Queen 2" to be the better album.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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