Review Summary: There’s a lot of Queen to be enjoyed here. Plus it turns out to be a better deal than buying each Greatest Hits album individually.
As this is basically Greatest Hits I, II & III slap dashed together, I have decided to give the original reviews of each separate album.
‘Queen’ was always an enigma to me. In one hand they had one of the best vocalists in the business ‘Freddie Mercury’ who could perform notes that most singers could only dream of. There was also ‘Brian May’ playing on his custom made electric guitar whilst plucking riffs with his old 10 cents piece coin that would eventually create that signature Queen sound.
As for the others ‘Roger Taylor’ was a decent if not average drummer whilst ‘John Deacon’ (bar a few classic hit tracks) was non-existent.
They all grew up with art & science diplomas & arguably one of the cleverest bands in rock, but at times they were too clever for their own good. When making their studio albums they would usually allow each member a chance to express themselves, arguably there was no actual leader when it came to making albums (Although some might argue for Brian or Freddie). It was this that at times made albums like “Sheer Heart Attack,” and “A Night at the Opera,” frustrating listens because the greatness was there for all to hear but so was the inconsistencies.
It could be argued though that it was their solidarity in making albums that kept them together for so long. Whilst ‘The Beatles’ undoubted leaders were Lennon & McCartney it's easy to argue that it would be their competition against each other than would cause their downfall. But the difference is although they weren't around as long The Beatles made ‘great albums’ whilst Queen did not.
That's where “Greatest Hits” comes in, a selection of 17 of the best songs from their first eight studio albums. Oh and plus Flash.... ahhh...
And the strange thing is that because each song has been carefully & thoughtfully ordered the listening experience actually feels like a studio album release & not just songs clunked randomly together.
Take “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the bands most well known song, who would have thought that the song being followed by “Another one bites the dust,” their biggest US hit, would combine together so perfectly. There are also other underrated tracks such as “Play the Game,” and “Somebody to Love,” which fit in perfectly with heavier numbers such as “Now I'm Here,” and “Fat bottomed girls.”
Indeed the listening experience for each track is superior for each song than it was ever on the studio albums they were released on. For example songs like “Seven Seas of Rhye,” Fat bottomed girls, “Bicycle race,” “Good old fashioned lover boy,” & “Don't stop me now,” actually feel like actual songs from a great album more that just random flashes of brilliance on otherwise poor releases.
What the album also proves is that Queen concentrated their studio album efforts on what they truly did best (Catchy Pop Songs) then they would have probably made that great studio album instead of creating those inconsistencies that would dog their career.
Still what Greatest Hits does have is 17 exceptional Pop Songs that are catchy & instantly likeable. It's basically Queen doing what they do best. If only they could have done something like that on an actual studio release.
Greatest Hits II
“Greatest Hits II” was released barely weeks before the death of ‘Queen’ lead singer ‘Freddie Mercury.’ The album itself covers all of their hits from 1981-1991, and although perhaps not in the same league as “Greatest Hits One” as far as quality goes, for pure essentiality it perhaps equals it.
Although their albums from 1982-1991 ("Under Pressure," also on this album, is from 1982's "Hot Space" release, but was out as a single in '1981') were hardly anything to shout about, they still produced enough great songs to merit a best of collection and “Greatest Hits Two” showcases that to the best of its ability.
Whilst other hit packages since have tried to merge their hits together (A great example being the US ‘Classic Queen’ package) ‘Queen’ in truth did enough great hit songs to merit two separate collections, both of which represent different periods of their musical career.
And, admittingly, a lot of ‘Queen’s’ better work is on ‘Greatest Hits One,’ but still their best eighties to early nineties stuff is here and in specific and excellent detail. Also the fact that it introduces 17 new hits and does not repeat any songs from the previous package (Like a ‘Classic Queen’ does) makes it an essential release anyway. In otherwords, if you loved ‘Greatest Hits One,’ you’ll love ‘Greatest Hits Two.’
The album mainly covers their biggest hits from the 80’s, although some have been left out, “Las Palabras de Amor,” and “Body Language” perhaps most surprising, whilst “These are days of our lives” wasn’t quite released on time as a single to be warranted release on this package. (It would turn up on Greatest Hits III though).
Still, there are enough classics here to keep any casual ‘Queen’ fan satisfied. From famous hits such as “Under Pressure,” “Radio Ga Ga,” and “A Kind of Magic,” to underrated hits such as “Innuendo,” “Breakthru,” and “The Miracle.” There’s also an added bonus of having the single edit of “I want to break free,” instead of the short cut version we got for “The Works” album.
It does have some problems though. First including the pitiful releases “Headlong,” and “Friends will be Friends.” Also songs such as “Who wants to live forever,” and “One Vision” have been cut in length from their superior album versions.
There are some average filler to such as ‘techno hit’ “The Invisible Man,” and "Play the Game II" song “It’s a hard Life.” The rest though is excellent and is an accurate description of the best of ‘Queen’ from 1981-1991.
Greatest Hits III
This is a strange release, not necessarily a bad one, but a strange one.
Two years earlier, they had basically covered near enough everything on ‘1997’s’ “Queen Rocks” compilation. Admittingly, you could argue that it was more of a hard rock collection than a hits collection. Afterall, it had songs such as “Stone Cold Crazy,” “Tear it Up,” “Sheer Heart Attack,” and “Put out the Fire,” which had never even been released as singles. Also, it did not include any takes from their previous studio release “Made in Heaven.”
So what “Greatest Hits III” does offer us are four single releases of that album (“Heaven for Everyone,” “Too much love will kill you,” “Let me Live,” “You Don’t fool me,” although “A Winters Tale” has been oddly left out, despite being one of their biggest hits on that album.)
A mixture of re-releases/remixes, (“The Show Must go on-WITH ELTON JOHN,” “Under Pressure- RAH MIX,” “Somebody to Love-WITH GEORGE MICHAEL,” “Another one bites the dust-WITH WYCLEF JEAN.”)
Solo material, (‘Freddie’s’ “Barcelona,” “The Great Pretender,” and “Living on my own” and ‘Brian’s’ “Driven by You”)
And some left over single releases that never made it onto “Greatest Hits II" (“Las Palabras de Amor,” “Princes of the Universe,” “These are the days of our Lives,” “Thank God it’s Christmas.”)
So, with all THESE ADDED ARTISTS, and solo efforts, it’s no wonder this album was called “Queen+ Greatest Hits III.”
But strangely, it’s more about what isn’t there, than what is.
Of course there’s the aforementioned A Winters Tale, and also there’s an argument for hits such as “Body Language,” and “Back Chat,” from their underrated Dance/Pop release “Hot Space.”
It’s a bigger shame that the band didn’t even indulge deeper into their past as there are other gems that were not on earlier hits compilations such as “Keep Yourself Alive” from their ‘first album,’ “Tie your Mother Down;” from “A day at the Races,” and US single release “It’s Late,” from ‘1977’s’ “News of the World.” Even another American single release “Need your Lovin’ tonight” from ‘1980’s’ “The Game,” would have been a welcome addition.
They’ve even cut short on the solo material.
For starters there’s no ‘Brian May’ version of “Too much love will kill you,” yes the Queen version is there but May’s version is just as good and would have been great for listeners to compare. But they’ve really been sloppy with Freddie’s solo material. Yes they have his biggest hits, but they still missed out on top ten smashes such as “Love Kills,” and “In my defence,” and the brilliant top 20 hit “I was born to love you,” as well as top 40 hit “Time.”
What is left though is more of a collection that barely scratches the surface of what Queen/other members had done before.
Admittingly the ‘George Michael’ performance of Somebody to Love, from the ‘1992’ “Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert,” is a welcome addition and was one of the best performances of the day. But there’s also needless additions such as the ‘Elton John’ Paris performance of “The Show Must go on,” the terrible Under Pressure (Rah Mix.)
Yes it was a hit single but it’s still terrible, as was ‘Wyclef Jean’s’ murdering of Another one bites the dust, and why the pompous Princes of the Universe and the vomit inducing Thank God it’s Christmas are there I’ll never know. (Especially Thank God it’s Christmas as A Winters Tale is a million times better as a Christmas tune.)
The rest though is excellent.
“No one but you (Only the good die young),” from “Queen Rocks,” makes a welcome addition here, as do the Brian and Freddie hits (the few there are, although it does make his brilliant “Mr Bad Guy” album even more essential because the songs are not even covered at all here).
These are the days of our Live, which was just released too late for Greatest Hits II also is a welcome addition, as well as Las Palabras de Amor, which should have been on that compilation (Anything but “Friends will be Friends”-PUKE.)
There’s a lot of Queen to be enjoyed here. Plus it turns out to be a better deal than buying each Greatest Hits album individually. And although however disappointing the third hits package may have been it still has its moments.
I recommend this to anyone who wants to have basically (bar a few songs) all of the Queen they’ll ever need to hear and know.