You may know Queen from their superstar and rock-anthem stage of the 80's, but Queen II, highly forgotten among casual Queen fans, reflects the period when Queen were just beginning. With one album in their belt, Queen dipped their feet back into the water, and released a follow-up album.
And what an album it is. Where the first album failed, this record triumphs. Though it was delayed at the time of release, due to market labeling and a petroleum crisis, and despite bad critical reviews from many sources, Queen II still stands today as one of progressive rock's best offerings.
The record kicks off with "Procession," and while it is short (1:12 mins, to be exact), it helps introduce the record, with a beating heart-like drum pattern, and Brian May's guitar styles which are as harmonic as ever. Following this teaser (and the first gem of the album), "Father To Son," a catchy little number penned by May, proves just how hard Queen can play. Crosby, Stills, and Nash-like vocals are delivered by the band, but CS&N never rocked like this!
"White Queen (As It Began)," another Brian May composition, starts off with a guitar riff that sounds like it's crying .. and that is just the beginning! Queen descends into a moody state, rocking around close harmonies and the interwoven guitars that May provided. Any prog lover will cherish this track.
On again to yet another May creation, and this one is delivered once again in style! The first song on the album that May sings himself, "Someday One Day" stirs deva-vu of common folk songs; however, folk songs rarely are this well thought-out. Another highlight of the album, with a beautiful melody and tear-jerking lyrics.
"The Loser In The End" is the only Roger Taylor track on the album, and some may say that it's weak and drab, because of the simplicity of the lyrics. I disagree, however. It may not be up-to-par with the "Black Queen" and "Father To Son", but don't write it off just yet! This track is one of the album's best rockers, with cutting-edge guitar wails, pounding drums, and great vocals from Taylor. This song would easily make the top ten (in a perfect world) if it was redone today.
Next comes "Ogre Battle", which starts off with intricately done backwards looping, and hard rock guitar slams from May. This is another one of the highlights on the album, delivered with class and precision.
A ticking clock and then....a circus organ? Yes, and Mercury delivers another one of his masterstokes, "Fairy Feller's Masterstroke," with comical lyrics and yet another one of rock's great melodies. Once again, a great tune, short and sweet.
The follow-up, "Nevermore," is yet another example of how Mercury can construct beautiful and heartfelt melodies and tie them together with meaningful lyrics. It clocks in only at a min and thirty seconds, but it's worth it just to hear it in it's entirety.
"The March Of The Black Queen," the next track, starts off with Mercury's trademark piano tinkling, and then commences into a complicated and satisfying musical journey, with Brian May producing his signature guitar wails, Mercury's falsetto vocals, and complex harmonies interwoven throughout the piece. This song is yet another victory, as it goes in many different directions and styles, but never loses the listener despite its extravagant musical remarks.
"Funny How Love Is" is, in my opinion, the weakest track on the album, but it's still a good song. It's a hit or miss for Queen fans; either take it or leave it. It's to me a very good idea, but it could have been better executed.
And finally, we're to the closing song on the album, "Seven Seas Of Rhye." Despite being the big single (and as we all well know, some singles are the worst songs on the album), it remains to be one of my all-time favorites by Queen, in a time period where they were at their most brilliant. Freddie Mercury was indeed a genius, and this is one of his masterpieces. Whenever this song is over, I feel like playing it again. A wonderful closer for the record.
This album is highly underrated among Queen fans, so I want to set the record straight: this is a fine release by one of the world's greatest bands. I only wish that music today could be this intelligent and artistic.