A Night At The Opera


Hollywood Records, 1975


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


The number of Daily Vault reviews that have already been devoted to this particular Queen album only bolsters my belief that  A Night At The Opera is indeed the band’s very best.  At first, I was only going to collect Queen albums from the '80s, but because of the magnum opus that is “Bohemian Rhapsody” I finally succumbed and bought the 1975 album that contained it.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” has had almost as many lives as Cher. It has been featured in films like Wayne’s World and TV shows like Rockstar: INXS.  However, the song is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the whole package of A Night At The Opera is concerned (speaking of packaging, there is a great 30th Anniversary CD/DVD combo now available that is well worth the few extra bucks).

As if to wake the listener up from some kind of twisted nightmare, the album opens with a cascading piano solo leading into a menacing bass guitar riff.  The first proper song, “Death On Two Legs,” is a rocker that has the '70s written all over it. With rebellious lyrics like “but now you can kiss my ass goodbye,” this track is meant to impress and/or offend, depending how “daring” you were as a listener back in 1975.  I'd lean more toward the latter, as the song was a screed against the band's former manager, but then again I was six when this came out and it took me a while to come around.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After the pleasant, lilting melody of “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon,” we get back to the classic rock business at hand with “I’m In Love With My Car.” Written and performed by drummer Roger Taylor (a rarity in itself), this song was dedicated to the late race car driver Johnathan Harris. For the next selection, John Deacon trades his bass for an electric piano on “You’re My Best Friend,” and with all the love songs out there a song about mere friendship is always a nice change. 

It was upon hearing this track that I knew this album was really going to be something special, which was confirmed by “39.”   This song, written by guitarist Brian May, was not only about the year 1939 but also happened to be the 39th song in Queen’s catalog. The track gives the listener something of a history lesson. The lyrics are so dense and complex that it’s little wonder lead vocalist Freddie insisted that Brian sing the song himself.  Set to a rhythmic beat and acoustic accompaniment, “39” is one song that has been reborn thanks to some new greatest hits compilations.

One of the very few inconsequential tracks on A Night At The Opera is “Sweet Lady.”  It’s passable guitar-based rock, but nothing more, really only proving that Freddie Mercury dug women, too. “Seaside Rendezvous” isn't much either, though the video made for the song is clever and fits the tune perfectly.

Which brings us to the first real jaw-dropper of the album, “The Prophet’s Song.” Like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it is a multi-part operetta that not only brings pop music to a whole new level but to its knees completely.  The tune is most notable for its a cappella mid-section, in which Freddie Mercury’s vocal experimentation pays off quite handsomely. Unfortunately, it leads into “Love Of My Life,” something of a let-down because of its hymn-like feel. Even a tragically misplaced guitar solo can’t salvage this song from its melodramatic depths. 

“Good Company” is a bouncy, fun little ditty that best demonstrates the band’s ability to think outside of the box.  And once again, the jack-of-all-trades Brian May isn’t afraid to stretch his own musical boundaries…this time he’s playing the ukelele. Closing out the album, of course, is “Bohemian Rhapsody” (kept from the #1 spot in 1994 by the hideous Kris Kross hit “Jump” after its first comeback) and the standard “God Save The Queen,” which is performed by Brian on his true forté, the electric guitar. 

A Night At The Opera was undoubtedly one of the most adventurous albums to come out of the 1970s.  If ever there was an answer to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this was it.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 2006 Michael R. Smith 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.