A Night At The Opera


Hollywood Records, 1975


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Editor's note: An earlier version of this review appeared in On The Town magazine on January 7, 1997]

This is one of those albums that, at the time, absolutely blew me away.

I mean, who WERE these guys? On one song they would chord-crunch like Led Zeppelin, on the next they'd do a letter-perfect straight-ahead pop song, and on the next they'd come off like a baroque chamber orchestra flying on acid. Topping off all the bizarre musical identity changes, production trickery and dramatic flourishes was this little coda: "No synthesizers." Now how in the hell did they pull that off??my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The key lay in understanding that this was always a band made up of four distinct individuals, all of them talented musicians and songwriters in their own right. There was earthy, hard-rocking drummer Roger Taylor; soft-spoken, romantic bassist John Deacon; adventurous, multifaceted and sweet-voiced guitarist Brian May; and on lead vocals and piano, the one and only Freddie Mercury, who shared elements of each of the other three's musical identities, in addition to being the performer for whom the word "flamboyant" would undoubtedly have to have been invented if it didn't already exist.

On this career-making album, the band kicks off with the blistering bile of "Death On Two Legs," a miles-over-the-top kiss-off message to their former manager which, whether they would ever admit it or not, likely inspired legions of nascent punks with its thoroughly unleashed anger (try "You suck my blood like a leech" -- for an opening line). From there it's wild ride through bizarre British-class-system-deconstructing numbers like "Lazing On a Sunday Afternoon" and "Good Company," dramatic rock numbers like "Sweet Lady" and "The Prophet's Song," the pristine pop sentiment of Deacon's classic "You're My Best Friend" and the folk-tinged historical romance of May's "'39."

And then there was that completely off-the-wall six-minute number near the end that no one ever thought radio would play. Now what was that one called? Oh yeah -- "Bohemian Rhapsody." But I'm guessing maybe you've heard of that one.

A Night At The Opera was the disc that would catapult Queen from British hitmakers to global superstars. As with many such landmark albums it became part milestone and part millstone, with every album that followed compared in some way or another to the musical and commercial success they achieved here. Be that as it may, the music is what counts -- and it is simply amazing.

Rating: A

User Rating: A



© 2004 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hollywood Records, and is used for informational purposes only.