Classic Queen


Hollywood Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Way back in 1978, Aerosmith (or, more accurately, Columbia Records) released two greatest hits albums for the band. One covered the biggest and best known songs and the second, Gems, covered key album tracks that really cut to the spirit of the band while also picking up leftover songs that should have been on the first collection.

Classic Queen does the same thing, albeit on a CD format with 17 songs. It is the companion release to Greatest Hits, which did a near perfect job of covering Queen's biggest songs from the band's mid ‘70s to early '80s heyday. But it missed some things and barely touched on the 1980s, so the good folks at Hollywood decided this second compilation was needed. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The biggest song here is "Bohemian Rhapsody," and why that was not included on the main hits collection is a mystery; same goes for "Under Pressure," the soaring duet with David Bowie and that famous rubberband bassline. Also present from the '70s are very good album cuts like "Tie Your Mother Down," "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Stone Cold Crazy," all of which share a basic no-bullshit rock philosophy that is free from the fey affectations of Queen's better known songs. In short, they rock hard.

The bulk of this disc is given to Queen's '80s output, which featured many ballads and synthesizers and not much in the way of truly memorable, lasting material, which was common to many '70s bands trying to stay relevant in the decade of New Wave and alt-rock. The disc features the best of those '80s albums, songs like "The Miracle," "Radio Ga Ga," "I'm Going Slightly Mad," "I Want It All" and "The Show Must Go On," as well as the good rocker "Headlong" from 1991's Innuendo.

A collection that spans 17 years might result in an incoherent listen, but the non-chronological sequencing actually results in a great flow, resulting in songs like "A Kind Of Magic" and "Hammer To Fall" being redeemed. True, about half of the ‘80s stuff is fairly bloodless and corporate, featuring a band in decline that couldn't seize a decade that, by all rights, they should have owned. But some of it is quite good, and the rescued '70s cuts are excellent, so this is a necessary companion to a hits collection for those who don't want to search through the many studio albums.

In a perfect world, the Greatest Hits would have left off ballads like "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy" in favor of "Bohemian Rhapdosy" and "Under Pressure," and then only one collection would be necessary. But most people know pretty much every song on that disc by heart. Classic Queen digs deeper to flesh out the story, and though it's not as consistent or vital a listen as Hits, it's every bit as necessary to understanding the band.

Rating: B-

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