Review Summary: Not to say A Night at the Opera doesn’t have its problems because it does but the good easily out shines the bad and there’s of course the small matter of a certain monster hit that would be bigger than anything that Queen had or will have done since.
It's 1975 and the rock band Queen have just had a huge number 2 hit song in the UK called Killer Queen but not only that, the song has also become a big hit across the world especially Japan and even the until now seemingly impossible to break American market where it lye at a respectable 12. The big problem was though with all the success and discovering how other bands despite having only had half the success of Queen were living in wealth and luxury whilst all four members of Queen could barely afford to pay this months rent for their council estate homes.
OK maybe the last bit was a bit over the top but Death on Two Legs the opening song of A Night at the Opera gives the bands account of a certain (who shall not be named) individual who according to the band have taken all their money.
So here it is A Night at the Opera, after two failed attempts at heavy metal the band had finally found themselves in Sheer Heart Attack although there were some bumps along the way with their fourth effort though Queen took all that was good about their third album (Killer Queen, Now I’m Here, In the lap of the gods… revisited) and damn well made sure to expand on those ideas and to fit it into this album. Not forgetting to place all the good things about the first two albums (vocal harmonies, pop/rock) and giving that some room in a form of a kinda concept album. When I say concept it’s hard to say what the concept is because throughout the album there seems to be none or what it is will never be made clear. But what it may lack in concept it makes up for in great tunes.
That’s not to say A Night at the Opera doesn’t have its problems because it does but the good easily out shines the bad and there’s of course the small matter of a certain monster hit that would be bigger than anything that Queen had or will have done since but more on that later.
Anyway the opener Death on two Legs starts majestically with a quiet guitar intro eventually mixed in with a piano crescendo. What really makes this work is that although it is played to be heavy it never becomes too heavy it’s as if Brian May suddenly learned that there was more to rock than just thrashing out a riff as loud as possible meaning that Brighton Rock & Now I’m Here weren’t just one offs, now that’s great.
Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon works for me, it mixes in perfectly with the first song and although a short song it has enough wit and humour to be well very memorable. I’m in love with my car is the first great song Queen did without Freddie’s vocals you see I told you Roger could do it. The rip roarus Brian May rock riff works perfectly with Taylor’s husky metalesque vocals as he playfully goes on and on about how he’s in love with his automobile.
You’re my best Friend is one of Queen’s best tunes period beautiful medley memorable lyrics ‘I’ve been with you such a long, you’re my sunshine & I want you to know that my feelings are true I really love you’ and is one of the rare times a John Deacon written song doesn’t Misfire (Pardon the pun).
Maybe feeling left out because of Taylor’s excellence earlier Brian leads the vocals in the excellent 39 which believe it or not is a folk tune and an excellent one indeed, another gem of many gems on this album. Sadly though rocker Sweet Lady falls short it starts of well but lacks a killer chours and loses it completely after the middle section.
Seaside Rendezvous is another quirky gem like Bring back Leroy Brown was clever for its Englishness on Sheer Heart Attack for the same reason so is this. It also shows that Queen on their day when they put their mind on it could adapt any musical genre and make it their own.
Sadly though The Prophet Song is a messy affair it has all the problems of their first two efforts and more. Alright it begins well but the middle section with the vocal harmonies eventually becomes boring and tedious and May’s solo has all the problems that Queen & Queen II did in the fact that the band would try and be too epic when there was no need.
Love of my Life mends most although not all of the damage that The Prophet Song made. It’s a beautiful song and the Freddie’s piano playing overall vocals are just top notch and the lyrics are very romantic ‘Love of my Life you need me, you’ve stolen my love and now you need me.’ It gives You’re my best friend a run for it’s money for one of the most beautiful songs on the album.
Good Company is a nice break and another Brian May sung gem. I like how well Brian can sing quirky folk songs he actually performs that style better than Freddie ever could and on 39 and this one it’s for all to see although Good Company doesn’t honestly quite stand up to 39’s brilliance.
Then it’s (commencing drum rolls) Bohemian Rhapsody and this is everything The Prophets song should have been but even more is the fact that although they could never quite make that epic or great album Bohemian Rhapsody proves that on their day Queen could make songs that were on par with The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and every other great rock band. I would go on about how great this song is but everyone should already know although if I’m brutally honest this would be a great song whatever album it was on but I’ll talk about that later when I conclude this review.
The album ends with a cool Brian guitar solo of God save the Queen. This would be used as a backing track to close all of Queen’s live show from here on after fans started singing the anthem after each Queen concert although it does feel a bit preposterous here but luckily it came after one of the greatest songs of all time so they get away with it… just.
OK here’s the quick re-think or re-cap track by track.
DEATH ON TWO LEGS
Great and purposeful opener. What rock music is all about. 5/5
LAZING ON A SUNNY AFTERNOON
Funny and quirky and for a change a Queen joke that works. 4/5
I’M IN LOVE WITH MY CAR
With 39 probably the best non-Freddie Queen vocal song. 5/5
YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND
Classic Queen rock/Pop. Beautiful song and one of my personal favourites. 5/5
Competes with I’m in love with my car for best non-Freddie Queen vocal song. 5/5
Starts well but lack of killer chours kills it and after the mid section all goes down hill. 2/5
Clever and witty just like Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon and just as good. 4/5
THE PROPHET SONG
Starts well but lasts way to long. Brings back memories of the problems Queen had in their first two albums. 2/5
LOVE OF MY LIFE
Beautiful song up and another one of my personal favourites. 5/5
The camp comedy is becoming a bit tiring now although Brian does his best although I do love the wizzy guitar ending. 2.5/5
Not only Queen’s finest hour but one of the greatest songs, well Pop songs ever made. 5/5
More of note. The song became their first UK number one spending 9 weeks at the top mainly after heralding the first ever official promotional music video. It was would also top the charts in many other countries and become their first top 10 US hit (reaching number 9, in 1992 a re-release would see it reach as high as 2). The song would basically make them the well known mega stars they are today and is obviouly their most well known song.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
The British National Anthem performed with Brian’s guitar ends the album nicely after the brilliance of the previous song although continued listens make you wonder if it was really necessary. 2/5
So that gives this album an average of 3.96 which easily beats their previous efforts although the albums was just short of excellence which is not a bad thing considering where the band were before with their previous albums if we just compare.
Queen II 2.59
Sheer Heart Attack 3
Queen went into this with the right idea take all the things that made the first three great (catchy rock pop/quirky yet clever humour/vocal harmonies) and put it into an album. What maybe stops it from being truly great is maybe they went a bit too far with the humour as by the end of the album it does become a bit tired and boring. Also there’s The Prophet Song which could easily have been 4 minutes shorter.
Saying that this is the nearest Queen would ever come to making a truly great album and is still an enjoyable experience even for its weaknesses.