For the foreseeable future in the Retroactive Reviews series, I’ll be working my way through the discography of what is undoubtedly one of the greatest bands of all time, beloved around the world: Queen.
Singer Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor are in the Songwriting Hall of Fame individually – Queen is the only band in which each member wrote at least one number-one song.
Sadly, you will find none of those songs on this album.
There is, however, one song on the album that deserved to be a hit: the album’s opener, “Keep Yourself Alive.” This song is perhaps the best introduction to Queen. A funky guitar intro gives way to a driving beat and Freddie Mercury’s powerful yet subtle lyrics. And, of course, Brian May melodically wails away on his Red Special guitar in brilliant fashion at the end. An amazing song.
The album’s all downhill from here, though.
The Brian May-penned “Doing Alright” is pretty pedestrian fare (though not a bad song), followed by the epic yet underwhelming “Great King Rat.”
“My Fairy King” opens with a shrill wail from Roger Taylor, the band’s highest voice (He does the same sort of thing on “In The Lap of The Gods” from Sheer Heart Attack and “Under Pressure”). The rest of the song is nearly indescribable; another grand masterpiece from Mercury.
“Liar” opens Side Two of the album, an extremely heavy song with frenetic backing vocals. It’s probably the best track on the side. “The Night Comes Down” follows it; besides the groovy intro, the song is skip-worthy after about 50 seconds.
“Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll” is Roger Taylor’s characteristically hyperactive contribution to the album. It’s not bad, but it’s certainly not Taylor’s best. “Son and Daughter” has a promising riff, but, again, the song is entirely skippable.
“Jesus,” penned by the Zoroastrian Freddie Mercury, tells Jesus’ life story. The verse drags a bit, but it’s certainly more listenable than the track preceding it. May’s guitar wizardry comes at about a minute and a half in. The album closes with a minute-long preview of “Seven Seas of Rhye,” a demo they’d been working on that would appear on the band’s sophomore release.
With this album, Queen began not only their ’70s tradition of great Side Ones and underwhelming Side Twos, but also a career that would last twenty years and a legacy that would last at least thirty more. Bear with us here. It’ll get better.
Album score: 6/10