QUEEN — Queen II (review)

QUEEN — Queen II album cover Album · 1974 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
AtomicCrimsonRush
When the white queen and the black queen collide...

'Queen 2' is a very strong rocking album with shades of light and dark and some of Queen's best material. After the 'Procession' heralds the entry of Queen the heavy riffing 'Father to Son' blazes away. It features the trademark harmonies, Mercury's provocative crooning and Mays scorching guitar solos. The track segues seamlessly to 'White Queen (As It Began)' which is a proggy thing that has many sections beginning with a quiet minimalism, Mercury and acoustic guitar. At the sound of a gong a gentle melodic guitar picking figure carries Mercury's voice along and harmonies swell in at the chorus, lifting the mood. The lyrics are about the sadness of the lonely Queen: 'needing, unheard, pleading, one word, so sad my eyes, she cannot see, how did thee fare, what have thee seen, the mother of the willow green, I call her name, and 'neath her window have I stayed, I loved the footsteps that she made, and when she came, white queen how my heart did ache, and dry my lips no word would make.' An eastern sitar changes the atmosphere, feeling very psychedelic and mystical at this stage. A great track found only on this album.

Other highlights of the album include 'Loser in the End' with a backbeat feel and very cool guitar licks. The sound is vintage Queen, nothing like their 80s hit singles and quite surprising.

'Ogre Battle' has a wind effect that swells up with backmasked guitar riffing and is as prog as the band were going to get. The riff is fast and angular, the lyrics are a fable of medieval storytelling in prog style: 'The ogre men are still inside, The two way mirror mountain, You gotta keep down Right out of sight, You can't see in but they can see out, Keep a look out, The ogre men are coming out from the two way mirror mountain, They're running up behind, And they're coming all about, Can't go east 'cause you gotta go south.' I love the way Mercury delivers these lines. And the ending is terrific with battle effects.

The next track, 'Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke' continues from this track that has set the scene, Mercury continues to tell the epic tale and this merges without interruption into the balladic 'Nevermore'. The best and proggiest track on the album is the gate crashing 'March of the Black Queen', one of the longest Queen tracks at 6 minutes, it begins with heartfelt harmonies. A killer chorus heralds the entrance of the Black Queen, with a very catchy melody. The multi layered harmonies and song structure are hyper complex. The piano and guitar trade off intricate time signatures and it builds to a crescendo until Mercury is given space to quietly sing remember to deliver with the speed of light... everything you do there's a will and a why... a little bit of love and joy.' The time sig shifts tempo and a faster pace locks in as the next verse is pounded out. The lead break is overshadowed by lyrics of strong conviction, bombastic and pomp rock at its highest level but Queen did it like no other. Mercury sings triumphantly 'Now it's time to be gone forever'. The track segues instantly into 'Funny How Love Is' which sounds psychedelic.

'Seven Seas of Rhye' is another very famous track, perhaps the most well known from this album. It is a quirky very well structured piece that moves in many directions. Mercury sings the lyrics with a self importance that is quintessential Queen: 'fear me you lords and lady preachers, I descend upon your earth from the skies, I command your very souls you unbelievers, bring before me what is mine, the seven seas of rhye, can you hear me you peers and privvy counsellors, I stand before you naked to the eyes, I will destroy any man who dares abuse my trust, I swear that you'll be mine the seven seas of rhye.' The lead break in this track is simply astonishing. The lyrics are perhaps a precursor to 'Flash' that the band would become involved with in the 80s; 'storm the master-marathon I'll fly through, by flash and thunder-fire I'll survive, then I'll defy the laws of nature and come out alive.' You have to hand it to Queen to finish their album on such a bombastic note but it is a great way to finish.

So there you have it, not as good as 'Sheer Heart Attack' but 1974 was a strong rock year and this is a strong Queen album, defiantly putting their 80s material to shame. When they were hot they were hot. 4 shining musicians, 4 glittering stars.

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