Queen released this second album against the backdrop of the 3 day week, power shortages and political unrest in the UK, it was a shining beacon on an otherwise bleak landscape.
Written by: Explorer
ALBUM: Queen II
SERIAL: EMA 767
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Freddie Mercury – lead and backing vocals, piano * Brian May – guitars * Roger Taylor – drums, percussion,, backing vocals, additional vocals (#9)’, lead vocals (#5) * John Deacon – bass, acoustic guitars
TRACK LISTING: 01 Procession * 02 Father To Son * 03 White Queen (As It Began) * 04 Some Day One Day * 05 The Loser In The End * 06 Ogre Battle * 07 The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke * 08 Nevermore * 09 The March Of The Black Queen * 10 Funny How Love Is * 11 The Seven Seas Of Rhye
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Released against the backdrop of the 3 day week, power shortages and political unrest in the UK, ‘Queen II’ was (for this reviewer at least) a shining beacon on an otherwise bleak landscape. This follow up to the poor selling debut album of ’73, saw the bands creative imagination explode with ideas in terms of arrangements, song writing and performance which I believe has never been bettered.
With this album Queen created a dark, complex majestic rock masterpiece. In fact the band put so much into this record that they even considered calling the album ‘Over The Top’. Queen II went on to be the band’s first Top 10 album in the UK and paved the way for greater success which I’m sure every reader of this piece will be more than aware of.
Rather than the orthodox naming of sides 1 and 2 the album is split using Side White and Side Black, and is loosely conceptual in nature (good vs. evil) with Side White being written by Brian May (with the exception of ‘Loser In The end’ which was written by drummer Roger Taylor.), and Side Black written entirely by Freddie Mercury.
The songs offer up a dense tapestry weaved by 4 musicians who were not afraid to experiment and befitting Queen indulging themselves in creating some of the greatest songs committed to vinyl. Lyrically the album is full of, for its time imagery such as misty castles, queens, ogres and fairies but I for one I`m not complaining.
Side White starts the album with the short but stately ‘Procession’ with layers of Brian May’s guitars before the band burst into ‘Father To Son’ a cacophony of beautiful noise which highlights May’s guitar playing and the band’s unique vision: stacked harmonies, layered instrumentation before ending with a gorgeous coda and segueing into the ethereal ballad ‘White Queen’. Here the band shows off a more tender side and in particular Roger Taylor’s drumming being wonderfully understated and a lovely vocal by Freddie Mercury.
Next up is ‘Some Day One Day’ featuring Brian May on lead vocals which offers up an acoustic based ballad displaying a tender, light feel which Queen have excelled at many times. Side White closes with Roger Taylor’s sole composition the aforementioned ‘Loser In The end’ a delightful Who like romp with Taylor’s trademark vocals used to great effect.
Side Black is a side long suite which has (to my ears) no equal, the songs, production, playing is of the upmost quality. ‘Orge Battle’ is Queen doing Proto Thrash, guitars wail and vocals scream.. possibly the heaviest track that Queen ever recorded. ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke’ is a song inspired by the Richard Dadd painting of the same name and like the painting it is an intricate work of art, with fantastical lyrics, dense overlaid harmonies and harpsichord!!.
‘Nevermore’ is a short tender piano led ballad before breaking into the album’s centrepiece ‘The March Of The Black Queen’ which at six and a half minutes long crams in so many time changes and different sections it makes ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ look positively straight forward!
This is Queen at their most inventive, this song alone sums up Queens uniqueness.’Funny How Love Is’ is a gorgeous Phil Spector inspired song with its wall of sound production and again layered harmonies.
If all this wasn’t enough the album finishes off with the adrenalin rush that is ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ all pomp and circumstance and gave the wider UK public their first taste of Queen courtesy of some memorable performances on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and giving Queen their first top 10 hit.
I make no apologies for the hyperbole regarding this album. From the Iconic Mick Rock artwork to the OTT production of Roy Thomas Baker this album for me has never been bettered. At the tender age of 15 hearing this album proved somewhat of an epiphany, it started me on a musical journey that has lasted to this very day.
Queen lost me somewhat after ‘News Of The World’ as my tastes turned to the pomp/AOR bands from the USA, the bombast and layered harmonies of Queen can be heard in many a late 70’s/early 80’s pomp/AOR bands i.e. Styx, New England etc, and their influence is still heard today.
If I was asked to take only one album to my desert island with me, without hesitation this would be it. If you only know Queen from their many hit singles then please give this album a listen, and then prepare to be truly astonished and you`ll have the many misconceptions about this band blown right out of the water.
The March Of The Black Queen