Review Summary: A solid album with lots of fun!
Chapter VII: Camp at its... Well, Campiest
Well, there are certainly a lot of stories surrounding this album. Of course, it was famously considered "fascist" by Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone. It was also released to initially mixed reception for its alternating styles and, well, screwing around with much of Queen's special brand of campy humor. However, shouldn't a diverse album be good if it works in cohesion? Shouldn't there be fun in a good classic rock album?
The aforementioned diversity already comes in with the first track, "Mustapha," in which its lyrics are primarily in Arabian, with the exception of "Allah, we pray to you." It almost seems like a return to Freddie Mercury's homeland in Zanzibar, but when the pounding rhythmic foundation kicks in, it's most definitely Queen taking the stage here.
Surprisingly enough, there are many returns to Queen's prog roots in this particular album. Since their next record would be The Game, one of the poppiest in their discography, it almost seems like a baffling turn. However, some of these prog elements really pay off in terms of a diverse direction, such as with "Mustapha." Make no mistake, the classic/arena-esque elements stay, but they just take a bit of an experimental detour.
The group fly through soaring rockers as well. "Fat Bottomed Girls" will be the most familiar one to most, with nice trademark vocal harmonies and a nice melody. It also contains one of Roger Taylor's most memorable drum fills. Another rocker of note is "Dead on Time," which had oddly never been played live. Brian May has very scorching fret work and John Deacon makes various intricate basslines throughout.
Let's talk about the soft side for a moment. "Jealousy" is, bar none, one of Queen's most beautiful ballads. It starts of extremely light, also with a sort of "sitar" effect from the piano strings. Freddie's heartfelt singing comes in and immediately grabs attention about the titular subject. When the vocal harmonies start coming in at the second verse, it gets even more beautiful, and after the second/last chorus, the sitar effect comes back to close the album. "In Only Seven Days" is a short but sweet ballad, with pleasant acoustic work. "Leavin' Home Ain't Easy" is a Brian May-written tune that is a tad on the dark side lyrically, but is a joy to listen to.
Thee popular songs are quite good as well. "Fat Bottomed Girls," which was already mentioned, is an excellent rocker. "Bicycle Race" is quite a clever song about denying to do anything but riding one's two-wheeled contraption and having a good time. "Don't Stop Me Now" is an excellent party starter with fast speeds and frantically happy lyrics to match.
Overall, Jazz is a solid effort for fans of the band. Opinions may still be mixed (albeit less mixed now), but Jazz is still a great find nonetheless. So I encourage you to grab a cold beer and let the good times roll!