A Day At The Races


Elektra, 1976


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


In the shadow of a great success, what do you do for a follow up? Queen's fifth album A Day At The Races doesn't try to overshadow its predecessor. Instead, it comes across as sort of a companion piece to the masterful A Night At The Opera. It never achieves the power of Night, but it has great songs and is consistent with the quality we had come to expect from Queen.

The album starts off with one of its two best tracks, the raunchy "Tie Your Mother Down." A classic boy-meets-girl, boy-does-away-with-girl's-parents love song, delivered with the naughty panache that Freddie Mercury does so well. A tasty hard-rocker, and a staple of their live show for years to come.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The other great track that lifts this album up is the melancholy "Somebody To Love." Only Queen could pull of a gospel flavored ballad like this in 1975, and get away with it. The boys do their trademark multi-layered vocals harmonies in a Greek chorus-like fashion. Punctuating the verses with an echoing response to Mercury's soaring lamentations. Surprisingly, this would be the standout single from the album.

There are many lighter moments on this album; in fact the more pastoral pieces outnumber the hard rockers. Not that there isn't power on this album. They don't quite reach the level of "Bohemian Rhapsody" or the doom-laden "Prophets' Song" from A Night At The Opera but they do crank the heat up and come close a couple of times, notably on "Tie Your Mother Down" and "White Man."

Two surprisingly satisfying pop-oriented pieces appear on Day. "You And I" has a Beach Boys/Brian Wilson feel to if, with its jangley guitar and piano. The lyrics invoke some of Wilson's more emotional pieces as well; it kind of reminds me in tone of "Don't Worry Baby" or "Forever," with verses like; "I never could foresee the future years / You know I never could see where life was leading me / But will we be together forever? / What will be my love? / Can't you see that I just don't know.""Long Away" is an upbeat balled, with a nice vocal by Brian May.

One of the heavier songs is the mournful "White Man" about the fate of American Indians, sort of topical for these guys, who generally don't delve into social issues. I really like this song, but it feels out of place among the more upbeat numbers.

One of the Queen traditions of their use of more traditional non-rock oriented styles, music hall-style vaudeville seems to be a favorite of theirs, and two songs, "Millionaire Waltz" and "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy" exemplify this style, and add some light-hearted humor to this album.

Closing out the disc is the beautiful "Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)". Freddie sings in both Japanese and English, and this gentle song has become a favorite of mine through the years.

Not their best work, but a great album to be sure.

Rating: B

User Rating: A-


© 2004 Bruce Rusk 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 Elektra, and is used for informational purposes only.