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Monday, June 5, 2017

990. Queen / News of the World. 1977. 4/5

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There will always be a debate over what is the best ever Queen album, and generational change will always be a part of that. Whether it was the albums of the 1970’s that you think are the real deal, or the releases in the 1980’s that hold together best can often be dependent on which era you grew up with. By the time News of the World came around Queen was well established in the music scene, and even in comparison to those albums that had come before it this is an impressive and enjoyable release.

The album leads off with what are still two of the biggest arena anthems ever written. Any major sporting spectacular that you go to, you are a big chance to hear either one or both of these songs sometime within the framework of the event taking place. “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” surely need to have nothing said by me in regards to their greatness as songs and to their transcendence through all musical genres. They stand alone on their own as pillars, but when played back-to-back create the perfect atmosphere for anyone who needs a pick-me-up before a performance before an audience. Forty years on and surely no better anthems have been written.
The track “Sheer Heart Attack” was apparently only half written when the album of the same name came out, and so it appears here some time afterwards. Roger Taylor wrote the song and sings in the chorus, and plays on most of the instruments as well. It rattles along pleasingly after the opening salvo. “All Dead, All Dead” follows the opening blast triumvirate, and reels the mood back in fiercely, with this soft and slow piano based song written and sung by Brian with Freddie providing backing. It’s a tough ask to place this song after those first three tracks, and also to have it followed by yet another blockbuster in “Spread Your Wings”. As a result it feels a little lost, and perhaps out of place. “Spread Your Wings” is yet another of John Deacon’s amazing contributions to the band, and is highlighted by Freddie’s amazing vocal performance and the short sharp lead burst from Brian, which punctuates the middle of the song.
Following on from this, “Fight From the Inside” is an almost complete Roger Taylor composition - written by him, sung by him, featuring him not only on the drums by he played bass and rhythm guitar as well. Thus it isn’t surprising that “Fight From the Inside” does sound familiar to many songs that appear on Roger’s first solo album “Fun in Space” where he did practically everything. This is followed by Freddie’s “Get Down, Make Love” where he makes a loud statement in uncompromising terms.
“Sleeping on the Sidewalk” is a harmless song that lacks the kind of things that made Queen songs great. There is no great majesty of about the song, and Brian’s vocals are muted most of the way through, such that it is a quite soft and shallow song. “Who Needs You” is another Deacon song with Spanish guitar and maracas, and though it also is a good song with its own character, the softer side of these two songs also seem to change the course that the album was heading.
“It’s Late” almost bounds off the vinyl at you in comparison to the songs that preceded it, loud and proud, not only with Freddie taking centre stage but with the choir vocals filling the mix, and the drums, bass and especially lead guitar pounding out of the speakers. It’s a real theatrical hard rock song, with each member playing their part with boundless enthusiasm. “My Melancholy Blues” closes out the album with some trademark Freddie piano-based softly spoken vocals which sounds like it is being performed in a piano lounge, with just John’s bass and Roger’s drums in accompaniment.

This album flows evenly between the two sides of Queen’s imagery, with the hard rock anthems balanced by the thoughtful and less raucous piano and acoustic settings. It’s what Queen has always been about, combining the individuals styles into an album based on their strengths without compromising on quality. While there is a mix within the content that may be difficult for some to accept, overall this album provides you with the best of each individual without necessarily showing their combined talents together. For some that will make it feel unhinged rather than a group effort.

Rating:   “Kicking your can all over the place”   4/5

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