Review : Queen - Queen 40 Limited Edition Collector's Box Set Volumes 2 & 3
PopmattersWhen you get right down to it, Queen is one of the most misunderstood bands in all of rock history.
Today, they’re remembered for their era-defining, arena-rocking epics (“We Will Rock You”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Another One Bites the Dust”), and – to a lesser extent – their expertly executed pop numbers (“Under Pressure”, “You’re My Best Friend”, “I Want to Break Free”). What’s odd, however, is the fact that none of their albums – save A Night at the Opera – has ever been given the same critical hosannas as their near-endless list of hit singles. In fact, during their two-decade existence with Freddie Mercury, the band was never treated kindly in critical circles, which isn’t too surprising when you realize that running concurrent with them (until 1980) was none other than Led Zeppelin, whose ever-dramatic presence always managed to make Queen sound absolutely poppy and disposable in comparison (although in Queen’s defense, they never once shied away from a pop hook they didn’t like).
As such, with Hollywood’s epic 15-album re-release effort this year (to tie in with the group’s 40th anniversary), there rests a hope that the band’s catalogue will be rediscovered, perhaps even completely revalidated. For this, Hollywood did several things. First off, they broke up the band’s discography into three separate five-album box sets. Although this may be a bit of a shrewd move on the label’s part, the truth is there is quite a bit of logic to the manoeuvre, as the band’s discography breaks quite well into a three act structure: the first five LPs (1973-6) show the group starting from their proto-rock early days and gradually developing more ambition, skill, and songwriting finesse, culminating in their undisputed masterwork, A Night at the Opera. The second set, covering their albums from 1977-1982, show the band perfecting their sound before moving it into a more pop-friendly, danceable direction. The last set, spanning from 1984-1995, shows the group practically losing their way in their pursuit of pure pop music, culminating in their absolute nadir (1986’s painful A Kind of Magic), but not before redeeming themselves with their last studio effort made while Mercury was still alive (1991’s rock throwback Innuendo).
Secondly, the label hired Bob Ludwig to remaster the group’s complete catalogue, which, while certainly welcome (the group’s early efforts certainly sounded flatter in their early CD embodiments), doesn’t actually provide any new revelations to speak of. Lastly – and most critically – Hollywood decided to round up all the group’s rarities, separate them out by album, and then attach them to each album in the form of a bonus EP. It’s a great move that provides a lot of insight into each album’s development and eventual interpretation (let’s not forget Queen’s reputation as a live act). For Queen fans, the answer is unfortunately, yes, these releases are now the new standard of which to truly appreciate the band. That said, Hollywood has taken the somewhat unusual move of allowing the first set to go directly to all retail outlets that are willing to carry it, while leaving the last two sets as Amazon exclusives. This review focuses on those latter sets....full text
BlogcriticsHighlights of the bonus disc include the “Highlander Version” of “A Kind Of Magic.” There are also two more versions of “One Vision.” The single differs slightly from the LP release, but the recording of the song at Wembley Stadium on July 11, 1986 is something to hear.
Although Queen had experimented in a number of different genres throughout the eighties, they never succumbed to trendiness quite as completely as they did on their 1989 album The Miracle. Out of the 15 albums that make up the three box sets Hollywood Records has put out this year, The Miracle sounds the least like Queen.
Despite the presence of the very “Queen-like” single “I Want It All,” most of The Miracle sounds like it could have been recorded by any generic eighties studio band. Queen’s personality is almost completely drowned out in favor of trendy effects. Unfortunate examples abound: “Khashoggi’s Ship” recalls Robert Plant’s “Tall Cool One,” for instance. “Rain Must Fall” sounds like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had been recruited for a day, and “Scandal” tosses every single clichéd eighties musical effect into the blender regardless of context. On The Seinfeld Chronicles that year, there was a fictional film that the gang went to see, titled Prognosis Negative. That would have been a much more appropriate name than The Miracle.
Like the mythical phoenix, in 1991 Queen rose from the ashes and delivered one of their finest albums ever, Innuendo. This was to be the final Queen album released in Freddie Mercury's lifetime, and he and the group came up with something very special. A key factor was fairly simple: since they possessed one of the finest guitarists in rock, they decided to start using him again. May’s distinctive guitar sound is all over Innuendo, and makes one wince at the previous decade’s reliance on keyboards and drivel....full text
CollectionboxseQueen's 40th anniversary is now upon us, and the band plans to pull out all the stops to celebrate this historic occasion. This yearlong event will be marked by a series of releases, re-releases, special limited-edition items and events around the world. As the centerpiece in the 40th anniversary celebration, Queen's studio catalog is being reissued in a series of deluxe editions. Every note is being tweaked, every piece of artwork is being cleaned, freshened up and resourced, wherever necessary, with the legendary Bob Ludwig doing the remastering, working from the original source material.
Each studio album will be released in a new two-CD edition, the first containing the updated, remastered original LP, the second disc packed with rarities--and we don't use the term lightly. Some of these gems have never before seen the light of day, but now they can be yours in this fan centric box set only available at Amazon....full text
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