A landmark recording on nearly every level was Queen’s 1975’s ‘A Night At The Opera’, but how to follow-up on such a masterful work?, the pressure must have been enormous and while ‘A Day At The Races’ is marked down as a lesser sequel, it’s a lazy and completely unfair comparison.
Written by: Eric
ALBUM: A Day At The Races
LABEL: EMI (UK), Elektra (USA)
SERIAL: EMTC104 (UK), 6E-101 (USA)
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Freddie Mercury – lead and background vocals, piano * Brian May – electric and acoustic guitar, piano, plastic piano, harmonium, lead and background vocals * Roger Taylor – drums, percussion, electric guitar, lead and background vocals * John Deacon – bass, acoustic guitar
Additional Musicians: Mike Stone – vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Tie Your Mother Down * 02 You Take My Breath Away * 03 Long Away * 04 The Millionaire Waltz * 05 You And I * 06 Somebody To Love * 07 White Man * 08 Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy * 09 Drowse * 10 Teo Orriatte (Let Us Cling Together)
WEBLINKS: Site Link
1976 was a huge year for Queen bolstered by the runaway success of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and the utterly charming ‘You’re My Best Friend’ singles, as well as a hugely successful world tour, the band as Freddie Mercury always predicted, were now stars with a platinum album as a souvenir.
A landmark recording on nearly every level, ‘A Night At The Opera’ can now be viewed as a direct descendant of The Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’, but how to follow-up on such a masterful work? The pressure must have been enormous and often the resulting ‘A Day At The Races’ is marked down as a lesser sequel to the previous album, but artwork aside, a variation on the ultra cool Queen crest, its a lazy and completely unfair comparison.
Brian May’s Japanese influenced guitar solo and spiraling harmonium on ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ opens what has to be one of the weirdest and greatest hard rock songs of all time. What a riff, instantly memorable with what sounds like a pissed off Mercury, ready rumble, itching for a screw and insisting we lock Daddy outdoors and take our little brother’s for a swim with a brick in order to make it happen, not to mention the Mommy angle.
It’s all slightly sick but a lot of fun and this along with the fog machine hell that is the ensuing music video (filmed at NY’s Nassau Coliseum) are nothing short of classic. In a completely different direction is the ballad ‘You Take My Breath Away ‘which is one of Mercury’s better attempts at the genre while Brian May’s ‘Long Away’ is stellar jangle pop. Released as a single that should have been bigger than it was, it’s a forgotten jewel in the bands repertoire.
Up next is ‘The Millionaire Waltz and the closest the album comes to recalling ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Written in several vocal and instrumental ‘movements’ while borrowing from Johann Strauss‘ The Blue Danube’, it’s a fun romp.
As is John Deacon’s ‘You and I’ which also had single potential in my opinion. On the b-side the gospel-tinged ‘Somebody To Love was all the hit it should have been. If I were to pick a least favourite Queen song it has to ‘White Man’. Lyrically May gets a little too pompous for my taste addressing the plight of the American Indian, but a lot of heavy guitar and dark vibe will please Led Zeppelin fans.
I’ll pass in favor of Mercury’s brilliant ‘Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy’ and Roger Taylor’s slide guitar sleeper ‘Drowse’ which I could play repeatedly and never tire of. Lastly, Japan was a massive market for Queen and ‘Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) was a tribute to Japanese fans and succeeds admirably fading away with the same harmonium scale that opened the record.
Easily one of Queen’s finest efforts, by this time the boys had become arena rock kings and in North America were supported by none other than Thin Lizzy which has to go down as one of the most inspired concert billings in rock history.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)