Friday, April 15, 2022

Queen 4: A Night At The Opera

This is approximately where the legend of Queen really begins. Calling the album A Night At The Opera hints at the bombast contained within. Throughout, they deliver.
Furious classical piano arpeggios compete with sinister guitar effects before a tempo change and a sudden choral hit announces “Death On Two Legs”. Subtitled “Dedicated To…”, it’s a nasty riposte to a former manager that’s directly deflated by the Rudy Vallee crooning of “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”, playing right into Freddie’s camp. While brief, it leaves room for Brian May’s guitar solo, which sports his signature sound. Roger Taylor again provides unintentional comic relief, this time with the unfortunately sincere “I’m In Love With My Car”. Despite having been used humorously in the closing credits of countless TV shows and films, “You’re My Best Friend” remains a sweet tribute, and above all, catchy as all get-out. (Plus, John Deacon gets his share of the lucrative royalties.) The misleading folkie strum of “‘39” belies the lyrics, which are right out of science fiction; much more typical of the band is the cock rock of “Sweet Lady”. Lest anything the earlier vaudeville tease was just that, “Seaside Rendezvous” is even more produced and even sillier.
They haven’t completely left their prog influences behind, as demonstrated by the content and construction of “The Prophet’s Song”. While impressive, the indulgence of the intricate and echoed a cappella midsection is tempered by their resisting to name it, as Rush and other contemporaries would have done. The harp-like guitar effects at the close of the song nicely meld with the opening of “Love Of My Life”, a gorgeous ballad that also shows off Freddie’s piano prowess. Vaudeville returns yet again, this time courtesy of Brian, for “Good Company”. Though not brief, it’s a stark contrast to what comes next. Even before Wayne’s World wore out its fifteen minutes, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was always worth the listen, and it remains one of the most impressively intricate songs of its time. (Its use of the stereo spectrum is particularly expert.) What could possibly follow that? A Queen-style arrangement of “God Save The Queen”, of course.
Anyone who buys A Night At The Opera on the basis of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or even “You’re My Best Friend” will not be disappointed, particularly since there’s more to the album than those. It’s an excellent gateway to the band. (Two remixes were added to 1991’s expanded reissue; these were ignored for the version twenty years later, which instead offered the contemporary re-recording of “Keep Yourself Alive”, later live versions of “Love Of My Life” (from Live Killers) and “’39”, and new isolated mixes of “You’re My Best Friend”, “I’m In Love With My Car”, and the “operatic” middle section of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to highlight the vocals.)

Queen A Night At The Opera (1975)—
1991 Hollywood reissue: same as 1975, plus 2 extra tracks
2011 remaster: same as 1975, plus 6 extra tracks

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