What does it sound like?:
Back in 1975, the acquisition of any record was something I considered very carefully. Funds were scarce and it could be months before I’d saved up enough money to buy something new and better. As a dyed in the wool rock guitar fan, I just couldn’t decide if “Sheer Heart Attack” was too risky a punt. This 2 CD set includes the 1974 “Sounds Of The Seventies” session that piqued my interest, as “Now I’m Here” and “Stone Cold Crazy” sounded just my thing. Trouble was, “Flick of the Wrist” and “Tenement Funster” sounded less so. It was the Christmas Eve televised gig from Hammersmith Odeon that finally opened my wallet (helped in no small degree by my parents going out enabling viewing at close to concert like volume) and “Sheer Heart Attack” remains in my collection to this day. And “Tenement Funster” an all time favourite track.
This 2 CD / 3LP release covers all the BBC session material– a total of 24 tracks in all that span a 1973 set, 5 months prior to Queen’s first LP release through to a sixth session in 1977, post Bo Rap, coinciding with the release of “New Of The World”. For the Queen obsessive, there’s also a 6CD set that adds a further CD with 24 live tracks, taken from shows in 1973, 1981 and 1986 plus 3 CDs (220 minutes) of interviews. I can’t help but think a 3 CD set of music without the chat would have been a little more listener friendly, particularly as the 1973 live recording from Golders Green was originally broadcast between the second and third “Sound Of The Seventies” sessions featured on the first CD.
All the sessions were recorded for the BBC’s “Sounds Of The Seventies”, with 3 made in 1973 and 2 more in 1974; across the same time period they released their first 3 studio albums. Yes – bands these days – don’t know they’re born do they. As a consequence, some tracks such as “Keep Yourself Alive”, “Liar” and “Son And Daughter” appear twice. What immediately struck me listening to the sessions is just how carefully crafted they were, overdubbed guitars and perfect multi track vocals and often almost note for note copies of the tracks that made it on to the albums. Listening to them back to back as a non-Queen specialist it’s hard to spot any difference, and left me wondering just how live in the studio they really were. A bit of digging around on the internet unearthed a 2011 Record Collector interview where Brian May gives an insight as to how Queen recorded the sessions:
“We started off with backing tracks, which were already in progress for the album, and over-dubbed the vocals – a guitar here and there, and other things. So what you are hearing is a mixture of stuff recorded at Trident Studios, and stuff recorded very hurriedly in the BBC studios. Time and facilities were tight, which dictated that we record the sessions in that way. Typically, we would do one or two tracks live, but adopt this compromise for the others”.
Queen favoured staples of their live set, which means the hard rock side of their material predominates the 1973 tracks. “Keep Yourself Alive” ends up sounding relative light and poppy compared to the more riff driven “Son And Daughter” (which includes some early nods to the guitar work out that later became the center piece of “Brighton Rock”) whilst “Ogre Battle” has some occasionally Zeppelinesque bombast. There’s a nod to the blues on “See What A Fool I’ve Been”, which although a 7inch B side never made it on to an album. For the 1974 sessions, Queen in their full pomp are more in evidence, mixing the manic heavy metal of “Stone Cold Crazy” with the dainty “Nevermore”. These tracks are now 42 years old and it’s striking just how ageless they still sound.
By the time of the final session in 1977 Queen were now one of the biggest acts in the world, with a million selling single under their belt. Their decision to offer the BBC a session was therefore something of a surprise, equaled only by John Peel and John Waters – firmly ensconced as Radio One’s champions of punk – decision to take them up on it. They were rewarded by a set that reworked 4 songs from the recently released “New Of The World” including a smoky “Melancholy Blues” that focuses on May and Mercury and the punchy rocker in “It’s Late” that tails off somewhat when the tape delay guitar and vocal gymnastics take over. Stand out of the whole 2 CDs is the alternative version of “We Will Rock You”, driven not by hand claps and drum beats but May’s frantic Quo like guitar riffing. The more familiar version was also recorded, and is presented here with the odd spoken word sequence at the end intact – a snippet from a prior BBC radio program on the tape the session was being recorded over that Queen decided to leave in. I hope whoever it was gets a royalty…
What does it all *mean*?
Some of the music in the 70’s was much better than I remember
Goes well with…
Moët et Chandon, caviar and cigarettes
Might suit people who like…
Queen. Probably not a release for the uninitiated but as good as any of the “Greatest Hits” packages.