Queen – Queen II (1974): Review

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Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, Robin Geoffrey Cable & Queen
Label – EMI/Elektra

The start of 1974 saw Queen announced as “Britain’s Biggest Unknowns” by Sounds Magazine. Their moderately received, hastily recorded debut album had yet to set the world alight, with journalist Nick Kent describing the collection as “a bucket of urine”. Even at this early stage in their career the band were the scourge of the music press, but the touch paper smoldered into an explosion created by two critical albums released during the year, “Queen II” and “Sheer Heart Attack”. Rumblings of interest across the Atlantic alerted record label EMI, and the band were afforded the luxury of a month to record their sophomore long player. The extended period certainly suited their collective creativity, and the elaborate vocal and guitar overdubs, heard here for the first time, would become a synonymous trademark. For all the reverence for their spectacular live performances, Queen were equally as adept in the studio, and although there’s clearly a sense that this album sees them forging their own identity, there’s still some exciting moments that show both experimental and expansive capabilities far beyond many of their glam/rock/pop contemporaries.

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There’s an inadvertent sense of competition formed by the arrangement of the “Queen II” track line up. Brian May’s “white” side (interrupted by Roger Taylor’s tagged on “Loser In The End”), follows many of the traits of their debut, albeit better produced. His guitar playing is as ever, exaggerated, colossal and anthemic in equal measure. The songs aren’t quite as memorable as both his and Taylor’s future creations but the detailed multi-tracking and the mixture of traditional hard rock and the Zeppelin-esque restrained balladry keeps the entertainment level on target. Whilst May was studiously exhausting the new freedom of his recording environment, Freddie Mercury was joyously basking in its glory. All those conceptual ideas, splenderous imaginations and complex musical interpretations that were floating around in his mind were fully realized. His “black” side shows the magnificent harmonies, the operatic obsessions, the bravado and the bombast. “The March Of The Black Queen” is a pre-cursor to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, full of choral vocals, seamless segues, it shapes much of his output for the forthcoming years. It’s a revelation in that it feels like the foundation for a multitude of Freddie’s classics. The album closes with the breakthrough single “Seven Seas Of Rhye” which for all it’s roots in hard rock, has the swooping immediacy of any great pop single. Queen had stuttered at the start, but the song is a thrilling ride and a perfect example to show that the band had finally arrived, flamboyant, flourishing and full of ambition.

“Queen II” may not be their greatest collection, but as a statement of intent it may just be as monumental as the band would become in the future. Years of searching for direction, supporting other bands and being largely unheard were over. Welcome to the new rock monarchy.

7/10

Track Rating
1 – Procession (6)
2 – Father To Son (7)
3 – White Queen (As It Began) (7)
4 – Some Day One Day (7)
5 – The Loser In The End (6)
6 – Ogre Battle (7)
7 – The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke (7)
8 – Nevermore (6)
9 – The March Of The Black Queen (9)
10 – Funny How Love Is (7)
11 – Seven Seas Of Rhye (8)

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