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Queen - Hot Space CD (album) cover




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1.88 | 342 ratings

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3 stars I don't know why really, but the other day I felt a pressing need to re-listen and re-view this album. As much as I do often have a stance on a particular album that differs from the common consensus to a greater or lesser extent, in the case of 'Hot Space' I won't try to hail it as a masterpiece. No, I generally agree that this is one of the lowest points in Queen's career (followed by 'Flash Gordon' and 'A Kind of Magic'), but the reasons might lie in places other than those usually quoted.

Let's try an untypical review format here, a track-by-track analysis of what is wrong with each of them:

1. Staying Power ' strangely enough, nothing much is wrong. The track achieves its objective perfectly: it's a funk-inspired, horn-heavy bouncer that honestly is quite effective. Of course, the lyrics are dumb, the drum machines artificial, and Brian May's guitar an afterthought, but as there is the live version from 'Queen on Fire' that serves as an excellent alternative for those who wish this song to rock (and it does), it's easier to accept is in its actual form. 2. Dancer ' the most un-May track ever of those he penned. What does not work here is the unexciting vocal melody and the arrangement that cannot decide whether to rock or to groove. As it is, it does neither, sounding rather clumsy ad overlong (a problem that befalls most tracks here). 3. Back Chat ' of all the dance/funk experiments by Queen (including Another One Bites the Dust), this one is by far the best in my opinion (Dragon Attack being almost as good). Everything here just clicks and all the non-rock elements, like the synths and the hi-hat, actually enhance the song. 4. Body Language ' the favourite object of derision, mainly for its explicitly sexual nature. Well, remember Get Down, Make Love? The same kind of stuff, so I never understood the general confusion, but Body Language is actually the better one for the simple reason that it has an absolutely killer (synth) bass line. Of course the lyrics and the vocal delivery are dumb beyond belief, but think of it: Queen always put those off-beat, quirky tracks on their albums, and Body Language is nothing but yet another Seaside Randezvous or Bring Back That Leroy Brown, only intentionally dumbed-down and too long (and this time they flirt headlong with a genre not generally considered worthy). 5. Action This Day ' well, this is where the real problem with 'Hot Space' starts. I actually prefer well-done 'black' tunes than clumsy, strangely plodding 'rockers'. Let's face it, the chorus is all right, but the verses are plain awful. The arrangement is also too unfocused to work. 6. Put Out the Fire ' an average guitar-based track (comparable to Sweet Lady). Not Queen's greatest song, but I enjoy it. 7. Life Is Real (Song for Lennon) ' my favourite 'Hot Space' song. Aside from the oddness of the very idea of Mercury's tribute to Lennon, this is a a beautiful, well-sung ballad. 8. Calling All Girls ' see Action This Day, exactly the same issues here. Mr Taylor, whose songs on Queen albums I usually find enjoyable, misses the mark completely on 'Hot Space' 9. Las Palabras de Amor (The Words of Love) ' second best song on the album. I really like it, but still there are two problems: the title sung in different languages (I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I find this idea dumber even than Body Language lyrics). Second, some synth embellishments don't work for me. All in all, these are minor issues, and the song is among Queen's best ballads. 10. Cool Cat ' I used to hate this track. Not anymore, as somehow I started to really appreciate the laid-back atmosphere and the understated arrangement. The falsetto vocals still grate a bit, but I guess they just fit the mood. 11. Under Pressure ' a good song that never resonated with me. Nothing particular to fault, though.

So what's the verdict? In my very personal opinion the public focused so much on the flirt with disco that they overlooked the fact that the problem lies mostly with how ineffective the other facet of the album is: there are hardly any good rock ideas here. The dance tracks are hit or miss, but can work surprisingly well, and the ballads are excellent. Plus Mercury is at the peak of his vocal powers and the synths are a generation behind the truly offensive kinds that would appear later in the 80's (and on 'The Works'). Apparently, Queen could delve into a variety of genres, provided they were of the respectable kind ' this combined with 'No Synthesizers' backfiring doomed a perfectly enjoyable album.

Glubluk | 3/5 |


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