Queen – Queen II

Well, the streak of having one of each person’s picked was indeed broken, as today constitutes someone’s second pick and also a return to our favorite style: the concept album.Hope everyone has their spandex and pianos ready!
Today’s pick is:Queen with Queen II
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_II

The playlist is up whenever you’re ready to dive in :
http://grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Queen+queen+Ii/61882744

 

Ali:

Queen – Queen II

Preconceptions:
I don’t own a Queen album, but I think Freddie Mercury’s mustache should have had its own band. Also I know a lot of their top hits. I’m interested to see which ones are on this album.

After Listening:
Oh. There aren’t any top hits on this album. Actually, I love this album. It’s supposed to feel like a rock opera, right? I LOVE ROCK OPERAS!!!! (If you ever wondered why Marissa and I are buddies, here’s one reason. We both love musicals.) Did they make a movie out of this? I think if they did, it should have starred the dude that played Jesus in the movie adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar. Also, it needs to have muppets. OH MY GOD! MAKE THE ENTIRE THING A PUPPET MOVIE! … and bring me a hookah.

I need to stop writing these when I’m exhausted.

I really like Freddie Mercury’s voice. I’m going to attribute it to the mustache. I think it’s a natural filter that only lets pure melody through.

Favorite track/tracks:
White Queen – I really dig the high pitched four part harmony. I have a theory that naked boys singing won’t sing Queen songs because you can probably see the high notes in the genitals.
* If you want to kick me out of the Record Club, this is the moment where I wouldn’t blame you.
The Loser in the End – I really like how Freddy uses his words like a master storyteller in EVERY song he sings. I think I like this a little too much because it sounds like Bowie to me. And I really like Bowie.
Ogre Battle – I’m pretty sure this is how my buddy Patrick and I sing at each other. But we sing random things that don’t matter.

Least favorite track/tracks:
Father to Son – I’m not a big fan of the three minute “everybody solo” mentality. For true. I cannot listen to Iron Butterfly without wanting to brain someone with flailing fists.

Overall (1-5 stars):   4.5
I’m not giving it a full five because they never made the movie. In my head, this movie is brilliant. So I’m carrying a grudge. It’s only a 0.5 grudge. It could’ve been worse.

Random Thought:
If the Black Queen was using her March as her theme as she blasted in to battle, she would have major hip problems. The tempo doesn’t just change, it turns on a friggin dime.

Josh:

Queen – Queen II: 4 stars

Precon: Curiosity pick for me. I’ve never heard an entire Queen album, except the live one, so I figured I’d start here. Not quite sure what to expect.

Favorite Track: The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke
Least Favorite: Some Day One Day

I liked Father to Son best when it got heavy in the middle. Nothing like kicking off the album with a mini epic, right? Then again, I wouldn’t be too surprised if every song was like this.
The flitting strings on Some Day One Day have a Zeppeliny feel to them. Chill Zeppelin, not rockin’ Zeppelin.  Like the beginning of Over the Hills and Far Away, although I suppose that was more jangly than flitting.
Roger Taylor’s vocals were a nice change of pace on The Loser in the End. It’s a solid classic rock song.
Ah, we got our flip side epic with March of the Black Queen. Father to Son was ok, but I like this one better.
Man, how did Coke overlook Funny How Love Is? That should have been in a million commercials by now.
It’s weird how many rock bands did fantasy themes around this time. Were there really that many of these guys playing D&D?
The white side, black side idea worked pretty well. On the first listen I like Side Black better, but maybe that will change. I’m a Queen laggard of sorts. I’ve always liked their mega hits well enough but never delved deeper until recently. I’m interested to hear more after this.

Marissa:

Queen-Queen II:

Preconceived Notions: I think it’s generally accepted that Queen (as fronted by Freddie Mercury) was one of the most theatrical rock bands of the 20th century, or at least one of the ones to achieve the most success.  I love Freddie’s voice, but aside from their “Greatest Hits” I don’t remember ever sitting down to listen to an entire album.  And I did sneak a peek to realize that this is a concept album.  Ultimately I’m torn between anticipating and worrying about this pick: excited because it will probably be melodic and it has Freddie, but the whole “concept” album thing always gives me a bit of pause, sometimes it’s pretentious and over-wrought and sometimes it works.

After Listening:
There’s a surprising amount of “huh, that sounds a lot like Led Zeppelin” going on.  I’m chalking this up to the fact that this is only Queen’s second album, and that it was released during a year when Led Zeppelin was flying pretty high.  “Ogre Battle” sounds more like Queen, or at least it starts off with a  suitably dramatic flair, that’s both indicative of the band’s future direction and of the beginning of the second side.  I have a feeling that Jim Steinman is pretty upset that he didn’t write “The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke” although it is slightly more uptempo than most of his stuff.  I think that there’s certainly more Queen-esque songs on the “Black” side, which is unsurprising since this is the one that Freddie composed.  Overall, I liked the album, and despite the fact that it’s taken me more than a week to write this review, that’s no reflection on the fairly short running time.  I like that this is an album that was really meant for vinyl.  The break between flipping the record and replacing the needle was probably just enough time to make you feel like there was a distinct pause in styles.  I don’t think that there could be any Queen album that I dislike, and yes, I’m sure that I’m letting their legacy, along with my like of Mercury’s voice sway me.  I mean, there’s no Bohemian Rhapsody on here, but you can hear the beginnings of it.  It may not be a classic, but it’s certainly worthy of repeat listens.

Favorite Track-The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke- I like that it’s a song based on a painting, I like that there’s a dragonfly trumpeter and the layered vocals are on full display here.  Also is that a harpsichord?
Least Favorite Track-Oddly enough, my least favorite also comes from this side, but for some reason “Funny How Love Is” doesn’t really seem to belong.  The lyrics don’t seem that interesting and there seems to be a slight Ronettes vibe I get from the arrangement.  I don’t dislike it that much in the larger spectrum of music we’ve listened to, but for this album, it just kind of feels like if we were playing “One of These Things Is Not Like The Other” , I’d pick this song.  It’s more reminiscent of a thrown away Beach Boys track, that Brian was wise not to keep.

Overall: 3.8

Mike:

Preconceived Notions:  I’ve heard a lot more “of” this album, than I’ve heard it.  It gets a lot of credit from various musicians for its depth-I’ve always been under the impression it was an album full of deep cuts – although I think Seven Seas of Rhye got fairly popular –it’s the only one I’ve ever heard.  I didn’t much like it, which isn’t to say I don’t like Queen – b/c over time I have really gotten to appreciate them.  So an album like this – sort of an underground one,  from a very mainstream group…is intriguing.

After Listening:  This is like Dungeons and Dragons meets Broadway, or maybe just off Broadway.   In the experimental department this thing lives up to its reputation: there are odd time signatures, different lead vocalists, and some longer tracks without clear structures.  The end result of experimentation is usually a mixed bag, and so it’s true with this album.  There are a lot of cool production tricks on this record – backwards riffs like the beginning of “Orge Battle”  that like flip straight right in the middle of a phrase etc…but the shortcomings of this album lie mainly on them not being “Queen” enough.   In otherwords, you can sense that this was still a band finding its voice, quite literally as Freddie seems too restrained and distant on some of these.   The White Side (1s half of the album) is fairly weak, the tracks there seem uninspired-their reservation does more than mellow the mood, it pretty much makes it static.  The Black side seems to be where Freddie embraces more of his dramatic performance – and that’s always the real strength of the band.

Favorite Tracks:  “The March of the Black Queen”  – Perfect. It allows Freddie to get his stylish groove on, while still pushing the musical envelope.  What’s that? 2 time signatures at once?  Yes, please and thank you. The drums and the guitar lines drives an aggressive force while the piano and voice frame an almost classical period feel.  This is one I would rank ahead of some of their much more popular pieces.   And the piano/guitar outro at the end is an obvious pre-runner to Bohemian Rhapsody (the “anywhere the wind blows” part) –so you can actually trace the musical roots of the band. Cool.
“Orge Battle”  – The production backwards guitar already mentioned, merely sets the tone – for probably the only pure rock song on the album.  It’s got a lot of that raw energy in May’s guitar work that some of the rest of the album seems to leave behind at other points in order to have it go off exploring.  We don’t get that here, we get a lot of straightforward effort to match the title of the track – a sharp attack, with even some elements of yelling dissonance.
“Father to Son”  – Probably the one saving grace from the album’s White Side.  There’s a small element of The Who on this track opening and then it segways into a melody with a guitar backing, and some very nice subtle bass work that’s actually noticeable. We get a changeup of moods as well, as the sort of gets into early heavy metal terrority by about minute 2.  And then it ends with the repetitive slower chorus, which makes the track almost like it’s own 3 act play.  The theatrical and rock sides of the band in a less polished than normal experience.

Least Favorite: “The Loser in the End” – Repetitive, lazy musically, and worst of all no Freddie Mercury. Seems like nothing more than album filler, that the band didn’t even care if they let the drummer “have one”.
“Funny How love is”  – If you exchanged this track for “Father to Son”  then you’d basically have all the bad songs on the album on the White Side, and all the good ones on the Black Side.  As it is…it’s a blemish to be sure,  a sort of parody of a pop rock song, that fails to deliver any real criticism and remains uninteresting and at points very grating.

Overall 4.1  Yeah it’s not Queen, or at least not the Queen casual fans of the band (like myself) would recognize immediately. Queen’s strength is always when Freddie goes over the top, and when Brian May restrains himself just enough to add without getting in the way.  So this isn’t the crazy sci-fi treatment of the Flash Gordon, or of Highlander (two of my favorites) soundtracks – where the band can be equally embraced for its corniness and its true musicianship.   But as you peel away layers on this record, you find more and more to like.  There’s the very real musical experimentation and the roots of later works very present- subtly poking their way forward here and there.  Sure there are far too many times on this – (particularly the White side-which was not entirely written by Mercury-as the Black side was) where the music isn’t quite a rallying cry, and where Freddie seems unsure how to shine…but it’s not an effort unworthy of the band – and a few of the songs might even break into your favorite Queen tracks.  A “deep cut” album I’m glad to have been exposed to…

Paul:

Queen – Queen II

Preconceptions: I’ve never listened to a Queen album, and I only know the famous songs and that one about “biiiiiiicylce! biiiiicycle!”. Is that one famous? Well, in any case, I know that song too—it’s about a “biiiiiiiiicycle!”, or something. Oh yeah, and I also love, “Flash! A-ahhhhh! Saviour of the universe”. That’s another ridiculous/awesome song.

After Listening: This album is not what I expected to hear. While it is certainly still theatrical, it struck me as not nearly as over-the-top as a casual listener would expect out of queen. This version of Queen seems to be more rock, less opera. The songs are pretty nerd-oriented as well. Like, I can see this album being a pre-LARPING ritual to get psyched up for the day’s fake battles and faux conquests. Ogre Battle, baby! That song kicks ass for real.

So anyway, I liked this album more than I expected to.

Favorites: Ogre Battle, The March of the Black Queen
Least: While Queen, The Loser in the End

Overall: 3.7 stars

Seth:

Pre: It’s Queen! Over-the-top music to fight Ming the Merciless/the Kirgan/zombie publicans to!

Post: Wow, that was a lot less Queenish than I wanted.

Best: Procession sounds like Queen more than any other track on this album.
Worst: Father to Son is what you’d get if you explained Led Zep and Polyphonic Spree to a Martian in sign language and asked him to write a song, Loser in the End sounds like the worst song on the worst Roger Daltry solo album. Ogre Battle is closer to the weirder of Queen’s sci-fi soundtrack work but still lacks May’s signature sound. Fairy Feller is just plain silly.

Overall: While the classic Queen components of May’s unique guitar and Mercury’s winking operatic voice peek through the generic early 70s elfrock in a few songs, Queen II lacks any of the fun & joy of their best work.

Rating: 1.8
Pre-listening rating: 3.0
Season to date: +0.79

Extra Credit: Queen- Flash Gordon Soundtrack

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.


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