Queen ll (1974)
Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
A Night At The Opera (1975)
A Day At The Races (1976)
News Of The World (1977)
The Game (1980)
Flash Gordon (1981)
Hot Space (1982)
The first ten titles in the Queen catalogue have been reissued by Universal. Each of the original albums has gotten a new remastering job. In addition, each of the titles contains an addition disc featuring five or six bonus tracks. These bonus tracks are either demos, previously unreleased songs, BBC session, B-sides, remixes or live versions of songs found on the album.
From a collector’s point of view, these are very welcome Deluxe editions. The remastering job is excellent. Brian May has a very distinctive guitar sound and it jumps right out of the speakers. There is a presence here that has never been heard.
Likewise, the bonus tracks are a treasure trove for hard core fans. The first album features five never-before-heard demos recorded in December of 1971. These are the band’s very first studio recordings and it’s incredible to hear how the Queen “sound” was intact even that this early point in their career. Even casual fans can have fun with some of the instrumental-only remixes of songs like Tie Your Mother Down, Bicycle Race and You’re My Best Friend…the accompanying lyric sheet gives the listener a chance to add their own vocal.
While these editions do include lyrics for all the songs, they are a bit lacking in liner notes. There is a paragraph written about the history of each of the bonus tracks, but it would have been nice to have an essay on the making of each album as well.
As for the music itself…well, I’ve never been a major Queen fans. I’ve enjoyed the hits, particularly Killer Queen and Bicycle Race, but never gotten too deep into the albums. So I was looking forward to discovering a few previously unfamiliar gems in among the album tracks. What I discovered was that I wasn’t missing much. It seems that the hits make up the real meat of the Queen catalogue, and while there are a few interesting album tracks, none seems to have any real impact or staying power. What was impressive was the attention to detail the band and their engineer Mike Stone put in to the music. It’s not just Bohemian Rhapsody that features intricate layers of highly-arranged vocals…they are everywhere, especially in the earlier releases. These guys were pushing the limits of the technology of the time and coming up with some amazing results. It’s just a shame that the songs don’t quite live up to the production.
I was curious to see which album I would enjoy the most. I figured it would be A Night At The Opera or Jazz, but it turned out to be The Game. The songwriting seemed to be the most consistent and the stripped-down sound on tracks like Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites The Dust was a welcome relief after the bombast of some of the earlier albums.
So there you have it. These will be “must-haves” for the hard-core Queen fans, but others will probably want to pick and choose, or wait until a “best-of” is released with the new remastering. The final five titles of the Queen catalogue will be getting the same treatment and will be out soon.
Click here to listen to the 1971 demo version of Keep Yourself Alive: