Friday, June 18, 2021

Queen 2: Queen II

With the imaginatively titled Queen II, Queen attempted to further their image, though they still seemed stuck between Zeppelin-style hard rock and English prog. They’re clearly still finding their way, but not embarrassingly. (As a record or cassette, it was divided into “Side White” and “Side Black”, which wasn’t just an art concept to flesh out the packaging. Mostly it makes it easier to remember which similarly titled epic is on which side.)
The album begins with a stately “Procession” of treated guitars—no synthesizers!—with only a kick drum helping it along before morphing into “Father To Son”, which has that triumphant anthemic feel they were perfecting. “White Queen (As It Began)” follows the maiden-in-the-tower trope without being too cheesy, and builds nicely. Brian May sings “Some Day One Day”, with its “Ramble On” acoustic and electrics, then Roger Taylor offers “The Loser In The End”, still trying out his rock ‘n roll rooster persona. It’s got good crunch and nicely layered guitars, bass, and of course drums, but it’s a style they’d leave behind.
Interestingly, Brian wrote most of the white side, while Freddie Mercury gets sole writing credit for the songs on the black. These seem to be even more inspired by fairy tales and whatnot, and even segue like any good prog side should. “Ogre Battle” takes a while to rumble in before exploding with backwards sounds and heavy, heavy riffing, sounding almost like Black Sabbath before Freddie starts singing. Any gravitas is deflated by the way over-the-top harpsichord on “The Fairy-Feller’s Master Stroke”, not to mention the truly dippy lyrics. “Nevermore”, though brief, provides a good future template, based on piano with stacks of vocals. There’s only a brief pause before “The March Of The Black Queen” incorporates tongue-twisting couplets and several melodies into another harbinger of a certain rhapsody. While it’s not a lyrical fit with what’s come before, “Funny How Love Is” is a perfect, energetic successor. Finally, “Seven Seas Of Rhye” appears as a fully fledged song and without the ellipsis from the first album, bringing a challenging album to a strong finish. (The snatch of “I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside” stands out strangely, but would also be explained in time.)
The first expansion of Queen II included the ultra-bluesy yet campy B-side “See What A Fool I’ve Been”, plus a remix of “Ogre Battle” and a misguided extended dance mix of “Seven Seas Of Rhye” that pits the vocals against samples from a variety of Queen tracks. Only “See What A Fool I’ve Been” was repeated on the next upgrade, alongside a BBC performance of same plus “Nevermore” from another BBC session, a live “White Queen”, and an instrumental mix of “Seven Seas Of Rhye”.

Queen Queen II (1974)—3
1991 Hollywood reissue: same as 1974, plus 3 extra tracks
2011 remaster: same as 1974, plus 5 extra tracks

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