What can you say about a band such as Queen, who back then were untouchable, SHA comes in the middle of a run of albums that are damn near perfection.
Written by: Explorer
ALBUM: Sheer Heart Attack
SERIAL: EMC 3061
CD REISSUE: Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Freddie Mercury – vocals, piano, jangle piano, vocal extravaganzas * Brian May – guitars, vocals, piano, genuine George Formby ukulele-banjo, guitar orchestrations * John Deacon – bass guitar, double bass, acoustic guitar, almost all guitars on ‘Misfire’ * Roger Taylor – drums, vocals, percussion, screams
TRACK LISTING: 01 Brighton Rock * 02 Killer Queen * 03 Tenement Funster * 04 Flick Of The Wrist * 05 Lily Of The Valley * 06 Now I’m Here * 07 In The Lap Of The Gods * 08 Stone Cold Crazy * 09 Dear Friends * 10 Misfire * 11 Bring Back That Leroy Brown * 12 She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos) * 13 In The Lap Of The Gods.. Revisited
WEBLINKS: Site Link
‘Sheer Heart Attack’ (SHA) was released mere months after the seminal ‘Queen II’ album, and was recorded under some duress as Brian May was hospitalised not once but twice.
Firstly, contracting Hepatitis whilst on tour in the US with Mott The Hoople (more from them later) and then falling ill with a stomach ulcer that had lain dormant for some five years. The rest of the band duly carrying on recording with May recording his parts later, not the ideal circumstances to record what would become their international breakthrough album.
In the main, the songs on SHA are of a shorter format, ‘Brighton Rock’ being the exception clocking in at just over 5 minutes. Queen moved ever so slightly away from the heavy, multi layered epics that prevailed on ‘Queen II’ to more direct, melodic offerings.
Opener ‘Brighton Rock’ starts with swirling fairground music, (as ‘Queen II’ ended with the ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ refrain) and shows in one song why Brian May is rightly revered as one of the guitar greats.
Quite how a band can start an album with a guitar solo and get away with it is a testament to not only Queen’s bravery but also their out and out self belief. It has to be remembered that back then the UK press in particular would be fairly vitriolic towards the band and saw their self confidence as pure arrogance.
Anyways, back to the music. ‘Killer Queen’ with its Noel Coward like swing delivered the hit single with ‘Flick Of The Wrist’ and all its attendant eastern promise as its double A side companion.
‘Now I’m Here’ written as an ode to days on the road with Mott The Hoople rocks big time, whilst we also get the first of the arm waving anthems that Queen did so well with ‘In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited’.
The bands secret weapon in waiting, John Deacon makes his song writing debut with the calypso flavoured ‘Misfire’, oh, and we get a touch of early thrash too with the frantic ‘Stone Cold Crazy’. In fact I’m doing a disservice to the others songs that I haven’t mentioned, Damn those word limits!
What you do get though is a cornucopia of pleasure. Not one duff track in sight. The band were also to carry on with putting a proud ‘No Synthesisers’ disclaimer on the album sleeve too, how times change eh? With another sumptuous production from Roy Thomas Baker and ably assisted by star producer in waiting Mike Stone, SHA still sounds fresh and exciting and bursting at the seams with ideas.
What can you say about a band such as Queen, who back then were (in my book) untouchable. SHA comes in the middle of a run of albums that are damn near perfection. Making that all important breakthrough in the States with this album, the band really did spread their wings (sorry!) on this release.
Queen managed to put out this, ‘Queen II’, and ‘A Night At The Opera’ in less than two years, what would today’s bands give to put out even a smidgen of what Queen produced back then?
The recent ‘Live At The Rainbow’ box set shows what a powerful live animal Queen were back in ’74, and as I’ve said in previous Queen reviews the band did lose me somewhat as the 70’s drew to a close. But Queen in 1974 were a thrilling, visceral experience and stood head and shoulders above pretty much everyone else. Essential.