A Night At The Opera, recorded in 1975, is inarguably the quartet's finest, most expensive to make, intricately recorded, and best-loved album, a collection of high-quality, diverse songwriting, masterful studio experimentation and a fearlessly over-the-top sound.
The eleventh cut, vocalist/pianist Freddie Mercury-composed "Bohemian Rhapsody", is justifiably the most popular cut, a five-minute combination of melodic balladry, hard rock bombast, carefully complex vocal and guitar orchestrations, and neo-classical dynamics. But the remainder of the album also has much to recommend for it.
Fierce opera-rocker "Death On Two Legs" is a nasty diatribe to their first manager, whom presumably cheated Queen out of royalties and left a bitter taste in the group's mouths. 30's cabaret informs the tongue-in-cheek "Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon", which segues into drummer Roger Taylor's double-entendre-laden blues-glam-rocker "I'm In Love With My Car", complete with phased wall-of-sound guitar at the end. "You're My Best Friend", driven by bassist/composer John Deacon's electric piano, shows Queen in full power-pop glory. The semi-acoustic "'39", written and sung by guitarist Brian May, can be classified as the world's first folk-rock song about quantam time travel, and its singalong flavor made it a concert favorite. The hard-rocking "Sweet Lady" features clever, striking use of the Eventide harmonizer by Brian at the end, and great riff-rocking throughout. "Seaside Rendezvous" is an amusing Vaudeville-style number reminiscent of Noel Coward or Irving Berlin and featuring an over-the-top Mercury falsetto.
May's "The Prophet's Song" is the only true rival to "BoRhap" in terms of ambition, dynamics and dramatics, with a mid-section showcasing Freddie's layered vocal round-harmonies; utilizing a chain of Echoplex monaural analog tape delays set to produce two echo repeats of each note sung (description courtesy Guitar World magazine, July '92) across the stereo spectrum, the vocalist creates something of an electronic choir effect. "Love Of My Life", featuring harp and acoustic guitar by Brian (who also plays beautifully-orchestrated electric guitar harmonies in the middle), is a tender and tuneful Freddie ballad which also proved a popular live favorite. "Good Company" shows Brian's skiffle roots, with "woodwind" accompaniment courtesy of Brian's guitar.
"Bohemian Rhapsody", Queen's tour-de-force, follows, a hooky, multi-movement testament to all four members' vocal and instrumental strengths, studio virtuosity and Mercury's solid classical training. He and May play beautifully on this track and Deacon and Taylor provide strong accompaniment.
The album closes with a Hendrix-meets-Les Paul guitar-harmony instrumental version of "God Save The Queen" (the original, not punk-rock one), a fitfully regal ending to this album, one of the cornerstone rock recordings of the 1970's (and of all time). A great headphone listen and strongly recommend for fans of progressive metal and intelligent English pop music.
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