In and around the mid 70s, there was a cluster of different styles and temperaments stirring around in the pop music kettle. With progressive, glam and hard rock all leading the way, a band like Queen — zestful, intelligent and crafty — couldn’t help but become a flourishing success. Their first three discs — Queen, Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack — offer comparative studies of a band on the rise. The groundwork was set for their epic, A Night At The Opera. It was just a matter of meshing the elements together into a cohesive piece of musical theater that offers as much diversity and pomposity as Sgt. Pepper. The result is astonishing as a sonic force, a songwriting tour de force, and a luminous performance. Most of all, A Night At The Opera is a total group effort that proudly boasts in the liner notes that there are “No Synthesisers!”
With the help of producer Ray Thomas Baker, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon turned the music world on its keister with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The band themselves could never replicate the middle a Capella stanza on stage (which was nevertheless hilariously interpreted in Wayne’s World), but the recording itself is a hi-fidelity marvel of the thickest variety. Like the Beatles before them, the members of Queen could effectively sing and harmonize with subtle grace and ambiance. Mercury is especially a siren of the song, shifting from melancholy to edgy, quickly and seamlessly. His piano playing — credited as Bechstein Debauchery — is grand and sporadic while May weaves a tapestry of curdling joy with each pluck of the string. They say he uses a coin to get that mighty and thunderous, almost angelic tone. Money in the bank, for sure.
Aside from the Bohemian-like viciousness of “Death On Two Legs,” this is a rather optimistic record. How can you not smile when Roger Taylor declares: “I’m In Love With My Car.” Whether you’re in “Good Company” or “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon,” making a “Seaside Rendezvous” to meet a “Sweet Lady” — you get the idea. A Night At The Opera is a fun and whimsical collection that never fails in its effort to be an over-the-top romp. Then again, John Deacon’s single songwriting contribution of “You’re My Best Friend” may put things in perspective. You be the judge.
~ Shawn Perry