After their first two albums, Queen started to change their musical style from a more progressive rock style to a pure rock band as shown on their third album, Sheer Heart Attack. With songs like Brighton Rock and Killer Queen, the band started to sharpen their sound into the Queen we all know and love.
Building off these changes, the band really let themselves loose on their fourth album, which became the album most associated with Queen and their style of rock. That album is A Night at the Opera and it is my vinyl of the week.
By the time Queen were recording A Night at the Opera, they really knew who they were as a band and that maturity that started to blossom on Sheer Heart Attack was fully formed as the band created some of their best music to date and eventually their career. Opening track Death On Two Legs starts the album off with that familiar Freddie Mercury piano chords leading into Brian May’s fantastic guitar work.
As the entire band kicks in, we are treated to one of the best tracks on the album. The song is essentially an screw you to the band’s first manager which caused the band legal issues after its release, but in that scathing ode to the man, we were given this amazing track.
Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon makes you feel like you are at an old vaudeville show as Mercury’s lyric delivery and the style of the entire song gives you a carnival feel and lets you truly understand the meaning behind the album’s title. And the song is a minute long.
Roger Taylor steps out from behind the drum kit to take lead vocals on I’m In Love With My Car. His scratchy voice makes this feel like an early heavy metal song but slowed down a bit. Brian May’s epic guitar playing is the real star here and proof that he is a guitar god who was meant for large epic moments.
Even if you're not a fan of Queen, you will know You’re My Best Friend from television and movies. Written by bassist John Deacon while he was learning to play piano, You’re My Best Friend is a total pop song and even though the band weren’t huge fans of it, the song is one of Queen's best known songs.
Years later Deacon would redeem himself when he wrote Another One Bites the Dust. One thing about Queen was that the four members could all sing, hence the harmonies they put together over many of their songs over the years.
On 39, Brian May takes the mic on this campfire style sing-a-long. As the rest of the band joins in, you get some of those amazing harmonies they do so well.
Side 1 closer Seaside Rendezvous goes back to the band playing a Broadway style number. The campiness of the track is what makes it endearing. These style songs would become a constant of the band through the years, but on this album they seem to fit perfectly with the theme of A Night at the Opera. Plus, Mercury’s voice was made for songs like this, not just the epic ones.
Speaking of epics, side 2 begins with legendary track, The Prophet's Song. This Brian May written track is Queen at their hard rock finest. Mercury’s delivery and the band's harmonies still give the song that stage show feel that is woven throughout the album, but this is a pure rocker and a nice companion to Brighton Rock on their previous album.
The songs second half, with the bands vocals going operatic before May’s guitar solo are just a preview of the greatness to come in a few more tracks. The grandness of The Prophet's Song reflects the grandness of Queen in general.
Love of My Life was written about Mercury’s soon to be ex-girlfriend. Looking back knowing what we know about Mercury now, this is a true heartbreaker of a ballad. What I love about this song is how it really showcases Mercury’s vocals as he truly is one of the best singers to ever live. The song became a huge fan favorite live with the crowd usually taking over on vocals during the performance.
What is there to say about Bohemian Rhapsody that hasn’t already been said. Not only is it Queen's greatest musical accomplishment, it has lived many lives over the years, reappearing on the charts a few times.
This is the band's epic opera in one song. Almost 45 years after it was recorded, the song still feels fresh and its mix of genres throughout make this one of the best songs ever recorded.
The album comes to a close the only way it could, with a cover of God Save The Queen. The national anthem of England, the song has been covered countless times, but Queen give it that little extra grandeur and makes for a perfect close to their “opera” that was just performed.
A Night at the Opera is a must-have for music fans interested in history and especially for any Queen fan. It is their finest moment on record in a career full of them. If anything, buy it for Bohemian Rhapsody and stay for the rest of the show.