Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
Typically, I say quality over quantity, less is more. I generally prefer songs to be stripped down, leaving little doubt that the band would be capable of playing the songs live without all the studio trickery.
One Major Exception: Queen. With Queen, more is more!
Mike Ladano recently reminded me of the brilliant television series, Classic Albums. A Night At The Opera is among the featured records and it was neat learning about how they recorded the vocals.
Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and Roger Taylor would each record EACH vocal line. Which means for every note in those patented Queen harmony sections, there are three voices singing each part. Throw in multi-tracked guitars & more, no wonder the sound is huge!
I can see why people don’t enjoy Queen. It’s over the top, even ridiculous at times. The incomparable Bohemian Rhapsody is often cited as proof of this extravagance.
Which is exactly what makes Queen (and this record) so special: the flamboyance, the audacity, the diversity.
This was no group of high school dropouts that played a few noisy rock songs. These are educated lads (Brian May even has a PhD in Astrophysics!) who wrote some very complex arrangements.
Great albums are often eclectic and A Night At The Opera is no exception. Take Mercury’s first two tunes in the tracklist: Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…) is scathing with a heavy riff, immediately followed by the jaunty Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon. Only Queen could sing You’re My Best Friend and avoid accusations of being too saccharine. Brian May’s ’39 is an overlooked gem and his guitar/uke/harp/toy koto work shines throughout the record.
I’m always partial to groups with four singers & four songwriters, such as Sloan or The Beatles. Incidentally, in addition to their thousands of other accolades, The Beatles’ facial hair teamwork on Sgt. Pepper helped them become my #1 Movember artist from the 1001 list last year. Last year’s #3? Who else but Freddie.
The beauty of Queen is that even without all the studio layering, their live performances were arguably even better!
Perhaps one has to be in the mood for Queen, but if the mood strikes, there’s nothing like it.
Even if not all of the songs on A Night At The Opera are direct hits, cheers to swinging for the fences.