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  1. #26
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    Up until a few months ago, I always thought that Queen II was the 'Difficult' one. Virtually unlistenable, very few of the songs stood out, mainly because each song had about seven or eight different sub-sections that melded into one another. Thick with guitars, but with production that flattened everything down to a horrible mud stew. This was the album that we (my family) picked up in WH Smiths' 3 sale after Christmas one year and listened to once or twice before forgetting.

    But things have changed!

    I couldn't honestly say if the remastering has made all the difference, but these days I find Queen II a far more accessible and pleasurable listening experience.



    Procession (Instrumental)
    Sinister 'heartbeat' style drumming, then some nice guitar work from Mr May. I like the way the guitar part sort-of echoes 'Father To Son'.

    I suppose at the time some listeners might have been baffled by the heavily processed guitar sound. It sounds a bit like a church organ, but there's a different quality to it, rougher and more electronic. We're so familiar with it now, because it's the sound that defines Brian's guitar playing.
    5/10

    Father to Son
    "A word in your ear, from Father to Son"
    Great introduction, building up to a hard and heavy rocker. This song is pretty consistent within itself and has a couple of easily memorable repetitions. This means that 'Father To Son' is more likely to stick in your head than some of the other more varied tracks. As Si said, Queen are really starting to work together.
    6/10

    White Queen (As It Began)
    "The White Queen walks and the night grows pale, stars of lovingness in her hair"
    This one starts off as a quiet and beguiling piece, there's a couple of places where it erupts into a heavier plodding sound though. There's a brilliant slightly Spanish sounding guitar solo around 3 minutes in.

    The song as a whole sounds regal and melancholic. It's rather beautiful. There's that cinematic extreme of emotion that's implied in the music and brought out in the lyrics. This one is almost operatic in it's effect.
    7/10

    Some Day One Day
    "You Never heard my song before the music was too loud" says Brian. Is he complaining that his singing gets lost in the mix?
    Things calm down a bit with 'Some Day One Day'. I can imagine Freddie filling in on the acoustic guitar for this one. Everything is heavily processed and flanged, which gives the song a drifting, dream-like feel. Unless this was an accidental effect due to too much multi-tracking? I think it would work better played with less effects.

    That said, Brian May's guitar work sound is damn fine on this song.

    The Loser in the End
    "It's not so long since you were young"
    Oh Roger!

    Although this doesn't seem to quite fit on the album in some ways, it does echo 'Father To Son' in that the lyrics describe a mother-to-son relationship. This is a straight down the line rocker with Roger's punky, Led Zeppelin snarl defining it's sound.

    The drumming is naturally superb, but everybody else's contribution seems a little uninspired. It's undoubtedly the weakest song on the album, but it only feels that way because it's out of place. If anyone had the courage, a compilation of all of the songs with a Roger Taylor vocal would make for an interesting stand-alone album!

    Black Side
    Take a five minute break, people!

    This is an album of two halves! It was made for vinyl with a perfect divide down the middle. The writing credits show that has been by either May or Taylor. Now we get a rub-a-dub of Freddie...

    Ogre Battle
    "The ogre-men are still inside the two-way mirror mountain"
    Oh no! Something is wrong, is my record player broken?

    The Freddie Mercury side arrives without compromise. That reversed-music sound at the start is a great big slap in the face to the listener, saying that Queen are in town and they're going to rock hard. The tempo of Ogre Battle is ludicrously fast and doesn't let up.

    It's perfect for a song about giant monsters throwing rocks and trees at each other. The tone is apocalyptic and fantastical. Brilliant stuff! I particularly love the 'Ah-ah-ah-ah-AHHHHH!'s!!
    8/10


    The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke
    "Taterdemallion and a Junketer"
    And then things get even better! The lyrics to 'Fairy Feller's' are almost totally indecipherable without recourse to the inlay sleeve.

    There's so much going on in this song, it's hard to believe that it's only 2.40 long. There's a sense that they've got to try to pack in as much as possible goddamit before the time limit runs out! There's a huge amount of urgency and attack in the way that the harpsichord is attacked from the intro onwards.

    It's a great reflection of the painting by Richard Dadd:

    Dense, over-populated and utterly bewitching.

    What a ponce. 9/10

    Nevermore
    "Now I haven't anything to grow"
    This might be the first Queen song without any rock elements at all. In a way it's another precursor to Bohemian Rhapsody here, as Queen discover they can do a beautiful piano/vocal ballad, underlined by Brian May's guitar and the choral harmonies of the group.

    A great song of love and life lost; one of my absolute favourites from this era. 10/10

    The March of the Black Queen
    "Put them in the cellar with the naughty boys, A little N****r sugar then a rub-a-dub-a baby oil"
    If Nevermore was a little under-developed this song gets everything and the castle kitchen sinks thrown in. Fie-fo the Black Queen!

    Seriously, this song might be the most perverse and mental thing that Queen have ever produced. The only reason it gets overlooked is because it's on dense old Queen II. It seems a shame to keep going on about Bohemian Rhapsody, but it's all here, this is the genesis point of the ideas that would drive Queen to the top of the charts. It even has virtually the same 'slowing down' ending at 5.50, yet here it's a trick! There's still another 30 seconds to cram in!

    Everything is turned up a bit for this song, the guitar solos are a bit more memorable, there's a great 'slow and sweet' passage in the middle and the nonsensical lyrics are trying harder and boiling away at a lick that makes them impossible to understand.

    9/10 (when you're in the right mood!)

    Funny How Love Is
    "Funny how love is coming home in time for tea!"
    I also love this one. There's a great shuffling beat and a hypnotic drone in the harmonies, giving it a washed-out feel that drives the song forward. The constant changes upwards in pitch also show off Freddie's remarkable vocal range.

    The only down side is that it's a build-up song that doesn't quite go anywhere. Everything goes up, and up, and up, then it fades out. Yet the use of repetition means that this is another song that is more likely to stick with you from the album.
    8/10

    Seven Seas of Rhye
    "Oh I do like to be beside the sea side"
    When I didn't like 'Queen' and 'Queen II' so much, I always looked at 'Seven Seas of Rhye' as your reward for finishing each album. 'Queen' wasn't that hard to get through, so you only got a short instrumental version. 'Queen II' was a real slog, so to thank you for your efforts you got the full single version that you knew from 'Greatest Hits'.

    The piano playing is more assured this time round. There's no fumbles! The musicianship on display here is astonishing, frankly. Everything is so fast, yet nailed down perfectly to the beat.

    There's so much that I love about this song, but I'd just like to pick out the line where Freddie says 'I challenged the might Titan and his Troubadours' and Brian May chips in a little 'fanfare' on his guitar. The fanfare slips right into the rhythm of the song, yet accentuates and compliments the lyrics perfectly.

    The lyrics are great too! 'Be gone with you, you shod and shady senators' and 'Can you hear me you peers and privy counsellors?' show some lovely alliteration. Plus they roll off the tongue in such a satisfying way AND they use strange and archaic language that you wouldn't get anywhere else in pop music!

    Just astounding.
    10/10.

    Bonus Tracks
    See What a Fool I've Been (BBC Session July 1973) [Remix 2011]
    Queen do an American bluesy-rock number, singing about Georgia and Greyhound buses! Perhaps they'd just been on tour? Still, it shows how versatile the band were. There's even a hint of gospel in this one.

    White Queen (As It Began) [Live at Hammersmith Odeon, December 1975]
    "Ok Darlings, this is a little... a delicate little number called White Queen."
    For those of you who thought that the Queen II sound could only be achieved through use of extensive over-dubbing, here's White Queen sounding more-or-less exactly the same live. How the f*** did they do it?!
    This is probably actually better than the album version, Brian gives a better guitar solo and the piano playing is much more to the fore. It sounds a bit like Pink Floyd.

    Seven Seas of Rhye (Instrumental Mix)
    Oh, this is MAGNIFICENT! Seven Seas of Rhye without the 'Seaside' outro and no vocals. One of my favourite thing about the re-issues has been the instrumental versions of well-known songs and this is one of the absolute best.

    Nevermore (BBC Session, April 1974)
    Same as the album version, but sounding a little more 'complete' on it's own.

    See What a Fool I've Been (B-Side Version February 1974)
    Er... see above. Except... the American howl is binned... and it features Freddie's campest ever vocals. 'Oh you naughty thing you', 'he just kept on barking, the vicious thing' and 'See you later sailor boy' get added to the mix, along with a high-pitched 'Now hit it. Like That.' If he'd been signing like this all the time, I think people might have twigged a bit earlier! Brilliant and hilarious.

    Now I've given a lot of high marks in these reviews so far. But rest assured, there are some 1's and 2's to come. Maybe even on Sheer Heart Attack!
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  2. #27
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    Superb. I thought I was the biggest Queen fan but Steve has put me to shame. Time to up my game!

    Si.

  3. #28
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    Hahah! You just wait. There's a whole bunch of dreck in the late seventies / early eighties that I'm going to enjoy tearing apart.

    Thanks for the compliments, I'm loving re-assessing these two albums. I've known them for ages but never got to know them properly to the extent that I could tell each track from the title. They've all just been one big lump to me!

    Queen stretch right back to my childhood. The Greatest Hits was played a lot in the car.
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  4. #29
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    Sorry, I haven't had time to do an in-depth post but this has long been one of my favourite Queen albums. In fact it was the first one I ever bought after deciding to explore their back catalogue once I'd played their Greatest Hits to death in 1981...

    The first thing I loved about this back then was the album cover and inlay with it's black and white sides; the cd I got years later sadly only had the white inside photo in B&W...it didn't have the same impact. And of course on cd there couldn't be a 'Side White' and 'Side Black' as there was on the lp...

    Procession: A nice little instrumental, designed to ease us into a heavy rocker...not particularly memorable in it's own right but good as an intro 5/10

    Father To Son A good strong rocker. A solid start to the album, much punchier and stronger than anything on their debut album. Not quite a classic but getting there...6/10

    White Queen Easily the best song on this side...delicate, as Freddie says, but powerful at the same time. Excellent! Great vocals by Freddie...I love this one...9/10

    Some Day, One Day A bit of a filler. There's nothing really wrong with it, a catchy enough little number, but rather forgettable... May would give us much better later 5/10.

    Loser In The End Ditto. Just insert Taylor's name for May...6/10 because it's a bit stronger. I tend to skip both these songs though, they're the weak point of the album.

  5. #30
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    There are some big scores there from Mr McCow - even though 2 tracks didn't get a score, from the rest gives an appreciation score of at least 80%. And we're not even close to the big hitters yet !!
    Bazinga !

  6. #31
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    Ah - well spotted Jon!

    Some Day One Day gets 5/10
    While Loser In the End gets a less respectable 4/10.

    On the later albums I think there's a wider split in levels of quality... but we'll see when we get there! To be honest I was expecting most people to come in with 2/10 "what-is-this-horsesh*t" style reviews. I've been pleasantly surprised!
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  7. #32
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    Queen would settle into an albums format I'd describe as:

    4-5 superb tracks (the singles)
    2-3 "hidden gems"
    3-4 crap filler tracks

    So many Queen albums are like that. And it's unfair because the singles are so famous and well-loved that people tuck into the albums not actually counting them as part of it, and inevitably discover not much else. There are a few exceptions, but many Queen albums follow this formula. People forget that the big singles count as part of the albums too.

    That said, there are some albums ("The Game" anyone?) where I'm sure they recorded a few singles then thought "Damn, better finish it off and make an album" and just did the minimum to knock the bugger out. Freddie was far too busy having sex and partying to spend too long on them. There's a reason why, when he died, they looked into the rarities cupboard and found it bare. The bare minimum to get the album out each time I reckon!

    Si.

  8. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    Queen would settle into an albums format I'd describe as:

    4-5 superb tracks (the singles)
    2-3 "hidden gems"
    3-4 crap filler tracks


    Si.
    Ah, but the arguments will start when we look at whether the best tracks were released as singles - I don't always think so !
    Bazinga !

  9. #34
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    They will, as I think they were!

    Si.

  10. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    They will, as I think they were!

    Si.
    Not always!


    Side Black

    This is much the stronger of the two sides, imo...the first four tracks are one of the strongest runs of songs without any filler between them to appear on any Queen album. Ever.

    Ogre Battle: I've always loved this one. It's one of the highlights of the album for me. THE highlight, in fact. An unrelenting, fast paced rocker which I think is the first real instance of what will emerge as the Queen 'sound'. Like Steve says, the hard-rocking, fast tempo of the song is perfect for the subject matter. An all-time favourite of mine, which always makes its way onto any compilation I make up. A solid 10/10, up there with the groups best rockers...the first Queen classic, imo.

    The Fairy Fellers Master Stroke Another cracker. I love how the sound is such a contrast to Ogre Battle, but the subject matter again is such a perfect fit to the sound. A little too whimsical for my taste to fit on a general compilation album, but still a cracking little song. 9/10.

    Nevermore What can I say that hasn't been said already? Simply the first classic Queen ballad. Brilliant stuff! 10/10.

    March Of The Black Queen Loads of different musical styles here, jumping around a bit. It's like a practice run for Bohemian Rhapsody, isn't it? They just based it on the same template a year or so later with a lot more experience and confidence and had the audacity to release it as a single...they would never have got away with releasing Black Queen as a single though, particularly at this early stage in their career. As Steve says, it's perverse and mental. Totally bonkers is how I'd describe it...but I love it! 9/10

    Funny How Love Is The weakest song of this side. It's a catchy enough little tune, but unlike the other songs it's quite dull and out of place here. Filler material. 5/10.

    Seven Seas Of Rhye Although the intro is a bit out of place, this is a solid slab of rock well deserving of it's 'classic' status. However, the intro apart, it feels more like an album track than it does a single. A strong finish to the album, if not quite as good as the first several tracks. 7/10.


    Looking at the first two albums, does anyone think that there are any other songs there which should have been released as a single? I think Great King Rat and Liar were strong enough songs on the first album, although possibly a bit more polish would have been required. And of those on Queen II, Ogre Battle should have been a single imo. They still probably wouldn't have been hits though, although they're certainly strong enough songs.

  11. #36
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    Great King Rat would have attracted attention, it has an interesting 'novelty' value.

    I don't know - perhaps they could have released the Roger Taylor songs as singles?

    The bare minimum to get the album out each time I reckon!
    I wonder... the Queen songs are all so well crafted, yet there doesn't seem to be much evidence of alternate takes or acoustic demo versions in existence. I suspect that they were either ludicrously talented (possible) or that they released everything they did - we are talking about a dozen* albums in fifteen* or so years.

    *figures may not be accurate.
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  12. #37
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    No, there are loads of demo versions and footage in the vault, it just hasn't been released yet. When the Freddie Mercury Solo Box Set came out in 1997 (officially the most beautiful and beloved object I own) the booklet mentions that they were working on a Queen box set (under the notes for Freddie's solo song "There Must Be More To Life Than This" which began as a Queen song) to follow shortly... and it never materilised! I read more recently that such a beast was on the way again....

    I think the gist is, there are lots of demos and WIP versions but they are mostly of songs that got finished, not of lost new songs! Most great abandoned Queen songs got re-used eventually. I have the demo version of "One Vision" which goes:

    "One prawn, one clam, one chicken.... one turd to face John Deacon!"

    And then there are the "Michael Jackson recordings" which is basically Jackson singing "...More To Life Than This" with Freddie playing piano, and them both riffing away to "State of Shock", which later got made into a song by either Mick Jagger or The Jacksons I think.

    Si.

  13. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    Queen would settle into an albums format I'd describe as:

    4-5 superb tracks (the singles)
    2-3 "hidden gems"
    3-4 crap filler tracks
    Although I probably won't agree on exactly what songs belong in each category, sadly Si is quite right in his statement. I say 'sadly' because almost every album has some filler in it, not always crap filler btw, but even so it's enough to make it almost impossible to say that Queen ever had that one real classic album that was great from start to finish. Many, many classic songs...yes; but a single classic album...?

  14. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacNimon View Post
    but a single classic album...?
    Them are fightin' words, Kenny !
    Bazinga !

  15. #40
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    it's enough to make it almost impossible to say that Queen ever had that one real classic album that was great from start to finish.
    *cough* Innuendo *cough*

    Oh yes, I forgot about "The Hitman".

    "The Miracle"? Eh? EH?

    Of course, "Made In Heaven" is such an album. But that's much, much later.

    Si.

  16. #41
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    <pub argument> "Don't hit 'im, Si. He aint worth it " </pub argument>
    Bazinga !

  17. #42
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    And "Night at the Opera". And "Day At The Races".

    You can have "Jazz", it's shit.

    Si.

  18. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    You can have "Jazz", it's shit.

    Si.
    Right, that's it. Someone hold my coat for me please while I teach this young upstart the error of his ways !!
    Bazinga !

  19. #44
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    I can think of filler in all of them...but like I said, filler isn't always 'crap' just songs which aren't as good as the others. I'll slightly amend my last post though; Queen did have some classic albums but none that couldn't have been improved on by stronger 'filler'. There are only a handful of albums I can listen to from start to finish without wanting to skip a track.

  20. #45
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    There is a reason for this, and it can be expressed in two words. One of them is "Taylor".

    Si.

  21. #46
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    When we get to the end of this run I'll put together a 'Roger Taylor' compilation and force myself to listen to it.
    Pity. I have no understanding of the word. It is not registered in my vocabulary bank. EXTERMINATE!

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Si Hunt View Post
    There is a reason for this, and it can be expressed in two words. One of them is "Taylor".

    Si.
    A Kind of Magic ? These are the Days of our Lives ?? RADIO GA GA ????

    For Shame, sir
    Bazinga !

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    I adore "Days of our Lives", but for our time team that's fifteen years away. Is it telling his worthy songs only really come along when Queen becomes more of a collaborative effort?

    Si.

  24. #49
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    It could possibly be a maturity setting in, and different priorities being stressed in his song writing as he got older perhaps?

    I've just got my handcuffs and my truncheon and that's enough.

  25. #50

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    Due to a ringing deafness in one ear I've come down with I haven't been posting in this thread as I thought I would have.
    Well that and I actually like Roger Taylor's songs. Even "Modern Times Rock n Roll" so... I don't think I could handle the abuse!
    I didn't see him, but when Roger Taylor was playing small venues in the 90's, as a response to him doing a song about "We've got to kick out these stinking Nazi's!" some er... stinking Nazi's altered the billboard so instead of reading "Roger Taylor" it read "Pooer Taylor" and it only got changed back to normal the very day Roger played!
    I miss the Royal Court as a venue. Well, as a music venue.

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