Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Retrospective: Queen - Queen II (1974)

I know this has been a long time coming, but here it is, part 2 of the Queen retrospective.

While Queen II continues the progressive sound heard in their debut album, it also is a step towards the main-stream stadium-rock that they would become world renown for.Now I have listened to this album a lot less often then the first Queen album, and as such, I am not as familiar with the tracks. With the first part of the retrospective I wrote, I could complete the entire article without listening to a single song (except "Son and Daughter") and still pull off a decent description. For this one, I will need to work through every song, which is why I have taken forever to continue this project.

Queen II
  1. Procession - Just a musical intro that leads directly into the next song.
  2. Father To Son -The first real song, this one is a straight hard-rock song, complete with guitar solos and drum fills. While a little more laid back then their previous works (as far as their rock songs are concerned), this song still keeps up the flow. It has several breaks, and changes of styles (not as drastic as "Liar" but the song still moves about), that keep up the progressive elements. It's a nice opening track.
  3. White Queen (As It Began) - Seemingly keeping up the idea of fast song, slow song (see the previous retrospective), "White Queen" is a lovely piece, focusing more on Eddie Mercury's voice and his piano then anything else. It continues to show the range of a group like Queen. You are never sure where they will take you, or what story will be told.
  4. Some Day One Day - A move from the policy of the aforementioned quick/slow song rhythm, "Some Day One Day" is another charming piece, matching Mercury's superb sound with a choral background and a mix of acoustic and electric guitars. I feel that this is not on par with "White Queen" and it lacks all of the progressive sound that is at least hinted on every other track thus far. While it's not a bad track, it's not my idea of Queen.
  5. The Loser In The End - And we're back with the rock songs. "The Loser In The End" is a song I'd expect sung by Zeppelin or another blue-rock/forefathers of metal band. Once again, this song is lacking the progressive elements, but it is a new direction for the band as a whole, and to me that makes up the difference. It really is amazing to hear the differences between this song and the one previous, it's like two different bands on a mix album. I'm not even 100% that Freddie Mercury is the one actually singing. that is the direction this song takes. ...ok on doing some actual research I see that it is the drummer, Roger Taylor, who is both the writer of the song and the singer. So really not as far outside the norm as I was making it to be, but it still was something different.
  6. Ogre Battle - Keeping with the blues sound, "Ogre Battle" is one of the heaviest songs by Queen, depicting an epic battle between man and ogre. Although written during the recording their debut album, the song was shelved for a time when they would have more freedom within the studio, and it was worth the wait. This song is a forerunner for heavy metal as we know it, with a proto-thrash sound throughout, and with the 'ogre' wail of Mercury at the half-way point, this song pushed the envelope of accepted music - especially by a group such as queen. Simply a superb song.
  7. The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke - Following the energy of the previous song, "The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke" keeps the speed but moves the feeling back towards progressive rock. This song sounds like it belongs off their first release, sounding more akin to "Keep Yourself Alive" or "Modern Times Rock 'N Roll" then anything else off this album.
  8. Nevermore - You could combine "Nevermore" with the previous track (in a very Pink Floyd kinda way) and it would just seem like the second movement. The songs blend seamlessly, both in key and in musical sound. This one is just the slower, more piano-driven half, and outro if you will.
  9. The March Of The Black Queen - One of the groups most challenging works, "The March Of The Black Queen" is a song written with two different time signatures being played simultaneously (8/8 and 8/12). Seemingly an 'answer' to the song "White Queen", the song is quick, heavy and (as could be guessed) very progressive. The song grooves, the song moves, all the while keeping the lightness of the Queen-style backing vocals. The drums are very heavy, almost to the overpowering extent, and work hand-in-hand with the dual guitar solos (and later with Mercury's voice) to create a feeling of foreboding and danger. All to be suddenly taken away with the drop of all instruments except for Mercury's voice and the piano - giving a very 'black and white' sound - and then it is all rebuilt to the former imposing sound, all for the climactic ending.
  10. Funny How Love Is - Another song that flows from the previous (so much so that I didn't notice the new song for a good minute), "Funny How Love Is" once again seems to be 'Part B' of an overall movement. While very dissimilar lyrically, it once again contains the same key and tempo (at least ending tempo) of the song it segues from. This 'Part A' and 'Part B' style seems to go back to the first album's policy of a quick rock piece followed by a more gentle slow piece. But they have mixed in some progressive elements, so the back and forth is alot less noticeable.
  11. Seven Seas of Rhye - A reworking of an instrumental song from the debut album, this version of "Seven Seas of Rhye" was the only single from Queen II, and as such pops up occasionally on classic rock radio. Seeing as it borrows a song from Queen, it is no wonder that this song sound like it belongs on that album. It is much lighter, as far as their rock songs are concerned - from this album at least - but keeps up the rock and the progressive elements that were much more prevalent on the last year's release. Honestly this is probably the only song off this album that the 'Average Joe' would recognize.
Another long one about Queen, but they are a great band and are worth the hour-plus I spent on this article (most other articles are around 20 min). More to follow, at least six more single-album articles, before I can get into the combined ones (due to the worsening of the sound). So stay tuned.

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