QUEEN — A Night At The Opera

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QUEEN - A Night At The Opera cover
4.24 | 61 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1975

Filed under Proto-Metal
By QUEEN

Tracklist

1. Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To...) (3:43)
2. Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon (1:07)
3. I'm In Love With My Car (3:05)
4. You're My Best Friend (2:52)
5. '39 (3:31)
6. Sweet Lady (4:04)
7. Seaside Rendezvous (2:16)
8. The Prophet's Song (8:21)
9. Love Of My Life (3:39)
10. Good Company (3:23)
11. Bohemian Rhapsody (5:55)
12. God Save The Queen (1:15)

Total Time 43:16

Line-up/Musicians

- Freddie Mercury / vocals, piano
- Brian May / guitars, ukelele, vocals, toy koto, harp
- Roger Taylor / drums, percussions, vocals
- John Deacon / bass guitar, double-bass, piano, vocals

About this release

21 November 1975
EMI

Reissued in 1991 by Hollywood Records with the following bonus tracks:

13. I'm In Love With My Car (Remix By Mike Shipley, 1991) (3:28)
14. You're My Best Friend (Remix By Matt Wallace, 1991) (2:52)

Reissued in 2011 by Universal Records with a bonus disc with the following tracklist:

1. Keep Yourself Alive (Long Lost Retake, June, 1975) (4:04)
2. Bohemian Rhapsody (Operatic Section) (a-cappella mix) (1:03)
3. You're My Best Friend (backing track mix) (2:57)
4. I'm In Love With My Car (guitar & vocal mix) (3:18)
5. '39 (Live At Earl's Court, June, 1977) (3:46)
6. Love Of My Life (recorded at Festhalle Frankfurt, 2 February, 1979 (3:43)

Reissued in 2011 by iTunes the following videos:

7. Bohemian Rhapsody (No Flames Original Version)
8. Seaside Rendezvous (30th Anniversary, 2005)
9. Love of My Life (Live At Milton Keynes, 1982)

Thanks to Time Signature, UMUR, Lynx33, adg211288 for the updates

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QUEEN A NIGHT AT THE OPERA reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
By the time their third album “Sheer Heart Attack” had been released and run its course, QUEEN found themselves perched on a rather peculiar precipice. Not only had that album launched them onto the world’s stage with two huge hit singles, a Billboard top 20 album charting and a successful debut headlining tour that took them across the world on a 77 show live circuit that lasted several months but due to the rather unscrupulous shadiness of their business manager Norman Sheffield, the band was left in a state of unthinkable poverty despite the new found success, a state of affairs so utterly dismal that drummer Roger Taylor was even advised not to drum too hard because they couldn’t even afford to replace the drum sticks if they happened to break.

This left QUEEN in a very strange position where they would either soon become irrelevant and fade into history as a mere footnote of obscure 70s flashes in the pan or on the contrary go back into the studio and create one of the best albums of all time. After acquiring the management skills of John Reid who had helped Elton John become one of the top stars of the 70s, the band went into many studios and cranked out their fourth album A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, which took the name of the famous Marx Brothers film and it should go without saying created their most successful and revered album of their entire career. Fate was truly on QUEEN’s side as EMI Records not only welcomed the band’s return to the studio but had enough faith to grace it with a lavish production job which would make A NIGHT AT THE OPERA the most expensive album ever recorded at the time.

With this do or die situation at hand, the 70s version of the Fab Four: Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Deacon and Roger Taylor spent months in various studios crafting their most ambitious album yet and in many ways, the album that the previous three had been hinting at all along. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA took QUEEN’s eclectic styles of genre skipping with a lush complex production that implemented unthinkable layers of overdubs and multitrack recording techniques. All the efforts proved successful of course with A NIGHT AT THE OPERA going platinum on both sides of the Atlantic and spawning the band’s most successful single of their career “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a multi-segmented song so magnanimous in nature that it single-handedly made QUEEN one of the most popular rock bands in history.

Like the albums prior, A NIGHT AT THE OPERA continued QUEEN’s signature mix of catchy pop hooks, classically infused piano riffs, heavy rock bombast and progressive rock nuances. This fourth album puts all those attributes on steroids and finds Freddie Mercury’s operatic flamboyancy reaching its apex. In addition to the expected styles, QUEEN added even more disparate genres such as skiffle, Victorian music hall and even Dixieland jazz which gives A NIGHT AT THE OPERA the ping pong ball effect where one track cedes into another seemingly unrelated one that often gives the impression that tracks were recorded by completely different bands however careful listening will reveal a few underlying themes. The tracks segue together in the same key, May’s ubiquitous harmonic guitar overdubs and an extreme appetite for pomp and awe where no limitations are considered.

The state of affairs that found QUEEN starving while the bigwigs running the show got rich off their efforts found Freddie Mercury in a less than happy mood where he lashed out in the form of the album’s opener “Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To….)” which once the story is understood about the bloodsucking management makes perfect sense as the name Norman Sheffield can easily be inserted in the missing credit. The track opens with Mercury’s infamous piano style which quickly finds May’s equally eccentric guitar parts joining in. The track is a vituperatory heavy rock format with a catchy melodic development. While no names were mentioned, the thematic delivery ruffled feathers and found a lawsuit for defamation that was settled out of court.

Starting with the second track “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”, the album begins to alternate between heavy rock tracks and more piano driven music hall styles which are rather short little ditties that offer the spirit of the variation experienced in the music hall era of English musical halls that remained popular from the 1830s well into the 1960s. QUEEN joined bands like The Beatles and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in implanting this traditional form of music into their format. After track two’s short stint, it is quickly followed by the outstanding Roger Taylor penned “I’m In Love With My Car” which not only remains one of QUEEN’s most recognizable tracks with its heavily produced series of guitar sounds and unmistakable hooks but adds the humorous touch that fits in with the album titles Marx Brothers theme. While Taylor wasn’t a main songwriter, he was sort of the George Harrison of the band meaning when he was allowed to contribute he only delivered top quality.

Next up is “You’re My Best Friend,” a tender ballad that allowed bassist John Deacon to shine where he not only wrote the song but played the Wurlitzer piano as well as his usual bass. This would prove to be another huge hit for QUEEN which hit the top 10 and has remained one of the band’s most popular having appeared on every sort of Greatest Hits compilation conjured up over the years. Like Taylor, Deacon proved to be a vital ingredient to the band’s overall chemistry even if his contributions to songwriting were overshadowed by the dualistic prowess of the formidable Mercury and May team.

The next two tracks were all written by May with the self-described sci-fi skiffle track “39” being written and sung by Brian May. This acoustic guitar tale of a group of space explorers who engage in a time defying journey finds Deacon playing a double bass and Mercury and Taylor relegated to only serving as backup vocalists. Contrast ensues when the next heavily distorted and heavy rocker “Sweet Lady,” also a May construct, zigzags in waltz timing but finds a more 4/4 rich timing in various segments giving the true rocker of the album a rather progressive feel with one of May’s heaviest off-the-leash guitar solos on the entire album.

After the honky tonk jangle piano flashback of the Mercury piano driven “Seaside Rendezvous” which found a wealth of wind instruments such as clarinet, tuba, trumpets and kazoo and even a thimble induced tap dance section, the second side of the album finds May’s outstanding “The Prophet’s Song” adding some progressive rock touches, which is one of the album’s most ambitious tracks as well as longest as it extends past the eight minute mark. Graced with a toy Japanese koto, a strong guitar driven melody, passionately delivered lyrics and an unusual vocal canon that is bathed in psychedelic production techniques, this track displays a wild display of ever-changing dynamic shifts as it refers to the Book of Genesis with the famous line “return like the white dove” in reference to the tale of Noah’s Ark. It also showcases some of the band’s most outstanding vocal harmonies on overdrive. Probably one of my all time favorite tracks by QUEEN.

While the Mercury piano ballad “Love Of My Life” and the May banjo / ukulele Dixieland score “Good Company” are more of brief intermissions than actual serious compositions, they prove to be more like mood generating fluffers for the larger than life “Bohemian Rhapsody” which has remained QUEEN’s most recognizable contribution to the music scene in all of history. This idiosyncratic behemoth was developed as Mercury’s classic piano runs which dictate the other instrumentation but the score runs the gamut from tender piano ballad music to the famous ending opera segment that exhorts operatic themes in true Wagnerian pomp with references to Scaramouche, Galileo, Figaro, Beelzebub, Bismillah and of courses the fandango. The famous heavy metal ending and reprise to the piano melody have made this standout track immortal and entire books could be written about it. The track hit the top 10 once again in the 90s when it appeared on the film “Wayne’s World” proving that the track had multi-generational appeal.

As the album ends with the short reworked cover version of “God Save The Queen,” the British national anthem, it signifies that a new royalty had arrived with the release of A NIGHT AT THE OPERA and with a new royal seal appearing on the album cover, it was clear that indeed a strange updated musical act had usurped the rock and roll crown and delivered one of the most ambitious, most expensive and most outlandish albums to have emerged in the 70s. While i find this album to the masterpiece that most deem it to be, it doesn’t necessarily start out that way. While some tracks are clearly stronger than other, a masterpiece isn’t about every track existing on an equal playing field but rather how they are juxtaposed next to each other and what their purpose is. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA has instantly lovable tracks but once the instant flash wears off, allows repeated listens to unleash new magic. That’s exactly what A NIGHT AT THE OPERA offers. An ever changing series of reactions that allows this to remain a classic in modern times just as it must’ve been when it was released. The only downside to this album is that the band was never able to replicate its grandiose heights again but nevertheless it made QUEEN a household name for the rest of time and continues to have new periods of interest.
UMUR
"A Night at the Opera" is the 4th full-length studio album by UK rock act Queen. The album was released through EMI/Parlophone in Europe and Elektra/Hollywood in the US in November 1975. Having released "Queen II (1974)" "Sheer Heart Attack (1974)" within a year, "A Night at the Opera" was the 3rd album by the band within a two year period. Queen were undeniably on a creative high and especially with "Bohemian Rhapsody" they would also make an incredible commercial impact.

Listening to a track like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the equally theatrical "The Prophet's Song", it´s obvious to me that the times were very different back in the seventies. Such intricate, flamboyant, progressive and clever compositions would never make it unto the radio had they been released today. A track like the more pop oriented "You´re My Best Friend" would though but that doesn´t make it any less interesting. In fact no matter what music style Queen touch on "A Night at the Opera", the outcome is quite brilliant. The band are such skilled performers and composers that they can pull off this eclectic blend of styles with ease and great conviction. As usual it´s the outstanding vocals/backing vocals/choirs that steal the show, but there are some really powerful and intricate instrumental performances on the album too. Paired with a warm and organic sound production we´re talking a high quality release. Favorites for me on the album are the above mentioned "The Prophet's Song", the opening track "Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...)" and of course "Bohemian Rhapsody". The latter might be one of the most well written and intriguing rock songs I´ve ever heard. Even though it´s been played to death on the radio, it still moves me in the most incredible way every time I hear it.

"A Night at the Opera" is an interesting release as it features some of Queen´s most theatrical/progressive moments but also more than hints at the more easily accessible nature of their future material. It´s definitely an album for those who like their music with variation and can appreciate elements from many music styles. I guess I´m one of those and I think a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.
Warthur
A transitional album, A Night at the Opera finds Queen poised on the tipping point between campy art rock and full-blooded proto-prog metal. The album's sheer diversity of musical styles is both is strength and its weakness - it's almost certain that there'll be songs you love on here, but unless you have exceptionally broad (or uncritical) musical tastes it's also likely there'll be songs on here you can't stand.

For my part, I love Death on Two Legs and I'm In Love With My Car, find You're My Best Friend and Bohemian Rhapsody too catchy not to enjoy, think The Prophet's Song is OK but could do without the overlong a capella sections, but the rest of the album comes across to me as filler, nothing more and nothing less. A decent listen, but there's severe consistency issues creeping in.
AtomicCrimsonRush
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

Queen's 'A Night at the Opera' is a definitive album of 1975. Let's put this into perspective before tackling why Queen's album is a let down. The album features one of the all time greatest songs and a handful of mediocre material. A moment of brilliance shines through.

Of course I speak of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to gush over this song. I believe it is quite simply the greatest rock song in history. It features a rock opera within its complex structure. We can all recite its Wagnerian lyrics with multi layered vocal harmonies:' Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning me, (Galileo) Galileo (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Figaro, Magnifico!... Bismillah! No, we will not let you go (Let him go!)' It is safe to say that the song became ingrained into pop culture as a result of this section alone. The structure is really three sections encompassing three distinct genres of rock.

The piano driven rock ballad begins the track after an intro of harmonies. The ballad speaks of a man who has killed a man, shot him in the head and now he is facing death row. As he is waiting in his cold cell for the bell to chime reflecting on his past life and it doesn't have much time (Iron Maiden, anyone?), about to walk down the corridor of no return to the electric chair, he hears angelic choral voices calling him; a battle between good and evil ensues in the murderer's mind.

The opera section is the most celebrated, most discussed section in Queen history. Using operatic terminology and harmonies the song defies anything done before or since. As the song builds to a crescendo the paroxysm of lightning explodes onto a power riff that is pure metal. The doors are blown apart with dynamite.

Section three is metal complete with the killer riff, lead break and screaming vocals. The murderer has escaped, a violent struggle and he is free. Mercury is stunning in this section as he screams to the world: 'So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye, So you think you can love me and leave me to die, Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby, Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here ?ah!' It is a short section really and yet has managed to be the head banging national anthem. 'Wayne's World' captured it perfectly as the boys banged heads furiously in their car during this section. It all ends with a bookend, more piano, same melody as beginning; 'nothing really matters' and like all good operas finishes on a resounding gong. That's how you create a masterpiece.

That's about it, isn't it? Oh, that's right there are other songs. They pretty much disappear in light of this track but they are worth a small mention. The problem is the BR track is so massive that if you are expecting more like this you are in for a shock as nothing comes close and nothing is metal. This is disappointing and Queen had a huge opportunity to present a masterpiece and it is not even a pale imitation.

There are good tracks such as the single, 'You're My Best Friend' with a radio friendly catchy melody that I like a lot. 'I'm in Love With My Car' is fun with quirky lyrics and even quirkier structure. 'Prophet's Song' is very strange with great hooks and an acapello section repeating Mercury's vocalisations over and over, no music just masses of multi layered vocals. Weird and memorable but annoying on subsequent listens. And the live set and album closer, the bombastic patriotically British 'God Save the Queen'. Of course this is infamous for the track where Mercury appears on stage at the end in flowing royal robes and royal crown. He dips his crown to the loving crowd and retains his enthroned position as Queen of rock. Looks good in concert but sounds rather bombastic on CD.

Of course pomp rock was Queen's Curriculum Vitae but there is a lot of very ordinary music on the album. 'Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon' is short but appalling. 'Sweet Lady' is kitschy and corny. 'Seaside thingy' is eccentric trash. 'Love of My Life' is a crowd pleaser where Mercury gets crowds to sing along and that may be great to hold lighters up in the air and sway, but on album it is mediocre at best. So all this considered, here is an album that does not live up to the hype. Yes, it features Queen's and rock history's greatest song, and a killer single, but is that enough to gain masterpiece status? The songs mentioned should appear on any rock connoisseaur's list, and you can get these on any Queen compilation which are recommended over this. You will get all the best songs of this on 'Greatest Hits' and the latest 'Absolute Greatest'. I think 'A Night At The Opera' is a worthwhile album but you may well find yourself using the skip button to get to the good stuff.

arcane-beautiful
There's nothing really I can say about Queen, they are a monument of music. They have been heard by everyone, they have been liked by everyone, and if you haven't heard of them, then you must have been in a cave for the last 100 years. This album is quite monumental, it's not a masterpiece in my opinion, there are some areas which I think should have been shown more and some songs that I wasn't too much enjoying.

This album did spawn one of the most known songs of all time, so maybe my rating doesn't match it's effect, but to be honest, I am just a speck of dust on the monument that is Queen.

1. Death On 2 Legs - Yea, an amazing song and a feeling that should have been more promiment on the album. Amazing vocals (as always) from Mr. Mercury.

2. Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon - Obviously a homage to old matinee like songs. Very nice and very fun to listen to.

3. I'm In Love With My Car - Very Spinal Tap. I'm not the biggest fan of this song to be honest, a wee bit annoying, and I find drummers singing annoying (except for Phil Collins & Nick D'Virgillio obivously).

4. You're My Best Friend - This song just makes you happy.

5. '39 - Very Jethro Tull. All the Brian May songs on this album sound like Jethro Tull. I love the vocal harmonies on these songs.

6. Sweet Lady - Not a massive fan of this song, I like the sleazy nature of the song.

7. Seasdie Rendezvous - A tribute to George Formby I believe. Again it has a comical and jaunty nature.

8. The Prophets Song - Why did the rest of the album not sound like this. Very Rush and very epic. The accapella section was very cool and very experimental. One of their most underlooked songs in my opinion.

9. Love Of My Life - An amazing ballad song which shows off again Freddie's vocals.

10. Good Company - Another weird folky song. This isn't the strongest one in my opinion.

11. Bohemian Rhapsody - Don't need to really comment. If you haven't heard this song, then you need to basically.

12. God Save The Queen - Very dire and completely pointless.

CONCLUSION: Classic album basically. Could have had a few emisions and it would have been way better.

Members reviews

Losimba
I admit I'm quite mainstream with my feelings of this album. But it is very hard not to be, looking at the variety of the songs which already makes this album as complex as possible without looking at the really complex songs. There's only one superfluous track, God Save The Queen, but if you put it into context with the name of the band and eccentrics of some of the musicians, it finds some justification, too. But let's start at the beginning.

The piano intro to the first track is a first hint of what to expect and soon evolves into the accusing Death On Two Legs, a song directly aimed at the boss of their former record company who tried to have it banned, but without success. It is followed by the short and innocent Lazing On a Sunday Afternoon and the very heavy anthem of every proud European middle class twenty-odd year old man, I'm In Love With My Car. It is only after this fabulous song that the first half second of actual silence is set before the next song, one of Queen's classics, You're My Best Friend, the first ballad on the album. Number five is an up-tempo acoustic piece with Brian May at the microphone, '39 with some weird lyrics. It is followed by another Heavy Metal track, Sweet Lady, which is really good for a "weakest" song of the album, before side 1 ends with funky and funny Seaside Rendez-Vous.

All in all, 7 fine and nice short songs that would make a fine album for themselves if re-recorded in some extended versions. But then the extensions would probably only destroy the compact and strong feeling of those songs.

This all ends with the first track of the second side of the album. The definition of "epic" songs is a very wide one, and many prog fans use a certain length in minutes and seconds as the only parameter. While this is an easy and clear option, it sometimes does not do the songs justice. The Prophet's Song is one example, as many would not consider it long enough. But the song's structure more than makes up for the missing two or so minutes. The acapella section in the middle of the song is certainly not everybody's darling, but I like it not only because it hints at what will still come, but also for the show of vocal skill of all 4 band members. The outro is a direct link to the second ballad of the album, Love Of My Life which shows that Freddie Mercury might have been a strong contestant to Elton John in the race for best piano rock performer if he had wanted to. The album closes in to the end and gives the audience three and a half minutes to either dance or breathe through with the easy going Good Company before Freddie Mercury unleashes his opus magnum.

When I first heard Bohemian Rhapsody as a 13 year old lass, I hated it because I didn't understand the complexity of both music and lyrics. A few years later, when I had become older and wiser (yes this pun was borrowed from Alan Parsons), this epic song had become another of my all time top 5 songs and will probably never be relegated from this status. The gong at the end would be a perfect conclusion for the album, but this is Queen, so the British anthem was added as an outro and doesn't even spoil the overall impression of genius.

Full and undisputed 5 stars for one of the greatest albums ever recorded.

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  • Jack Revelino
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