News Of The World

Queen

Hollywood Records, 1977

http://www.queenonline.com/

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/12/2019

"I feel the Queen style of well-produced or production sort of albums is over. We've done to death multi-tracked harmonies and, for our own sakes and for the public's, we want to go on to a different sort of project. And the next album will be that." – Freddie Mercury, 1977

It’s interesting to see just what the musicians of a certain era thought the big and bold new trends were going to be – which direction popular music was headed towards. It is not difficult to imagine that, sitting in the 1977, the influences of punk would spread throughout the industry, and sooner or later everyone would end up sounding like that. It’s clear from Freddie Mercury’s quote that he thought the trappings of A Night At The Opera or A Day At The Races were no longer a viable route to becoming a successful band. Needless to say, thank God he would be proven completely wrong.

Queen’s approach to recording News Of The World reflects the era most certainly, but don’t be mistaken: it is still definitively Queen record. It would be impossible to eliminate the strengths of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, etc. And Queen was selling themselves short in a few regards: there had been a hard rock/punkish edge to their material even since their self-titled debut record. Obviously, they pursued a course that was a bit....more precious than the Sid Vicious’ of the world would care for, but Queen was always a rock band, first and foremost.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There’s no better track that demonstrates the melding of genres than “Sheer Heart Attack.” A blisteringly ferocious ode to adolescence, Mercury attacks each syllable with attitude while conjuring up that swagger that early rock and rollers like Elvis displayed all the time. When paired over Brian May’s monstrous riffing, it fits the punk era as perfectly as Queen could express it. Pair this up with “Stone Cold Crazy” from Sheer Heart Attack, and you’d have a killer 1-2 opening salvo to any concert.

But as I mentioned before, it’s impossible to remove the personality and undeniably genius ability of Queen to craft beautiful melodies and stellar pop songs. The soaring ballad “Spread Your Wings” is one of Queen’s most underrated compositions. On albums past it wouldn’t have surprised me if it had received the “Queen style” of production with multiple layers of vocals and guitars. But with the more stripped-down approach of News Of The World, it takes on an understated power, built on Mercury’s knockout lead vocal.

It’s probably impossible at this point in 2019 to even have a discussion about “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” but suffice it to say that when you listen to the songs in the context of the album, they really fit in incredibly well. It goes without saying, but Freddie Mercury remains one of the greatest talents who has ever performed in popular music and to hear his talents on display across these two songs can never get old.

But as much as I come to praise Mercury, it’s important not to overlook the other members of the band. By the time the record is done spinning on the ol’ turntable, you come to the realization that the best songs on News Of The World were written by the non-Mercury talent in Queen. The aforementioned “Sheer Heart Attack” and its spiritual cousin “Fight From The Inside” were both written by Roger Taylor, with the latter featuring a Taylor lead vocal. “Spread Your Wings” is a John Deacon tune, and the bluesy ZZ Top “Sleeping On The Sidewalk” is a Brian May joint. “It’s Late” is probably the most “traditional” Queen song of the entire lot, and that is another May tune. That is some great music right there.

Queen has been in the public eye moreso than usual lately due to the release of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, and while there are some glaring, GLARING factual inaccuracies throughout the course of the film, it did capture something that I believe this album displays prominently. That is, the notion that Queen truly was a band of equal opportunity. They just happened to have the greatest lead vocalist of all time at their disposal. That’s a winning formula, no matter how you parse it.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A


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