28 June, 2017

Queen On Air

I finally got a copy of the On Air 6-CD set! I'm sure in 2017, people may be puzzled about my still purchasing CDs. Downloading stuff would certainly offer up instant gratification, but I love/hate/love the anticipation of waiting for an order to ship, physically holding my purchase... I prefer my Queen stuff to be tangible :-)

Anyway! I was excited to upload all six discs to my iTunes library (I love this (tedious) process, too!), and I noticed a couple disturbing things. First of all, disc 3 starts with Freddie and Kenny Everett going through A Day At The Races,, but Freddie's name was misspelled! Mistakes happen, but this just seemed like a pretty gross oversight!

Disc 6 yielded no proper track names when I uploaded it. I thought for a minute that I'd gone back in time to the days of burning CDs, and everything was organized by "track 01", "track 02", etc. so I had to go through and label everything manually (Kids, this was prior to the days where a trusty internet connection and music storage worked hand-in-hand. Those were dark times). I have no idea if this was my desktop being weird, or if that's how it looks for everyone...

I'm glad to have this collection, and Queen Productions, Ltd. has phoned it in on cover art plenty, and I grudgingly switched out parentheses and brackets on the rerelease bonus CDs to make everything consistent, but..? Was On Air assigned one track per person to digitize and put together, or something? Would that explain some of the spelling errors and some interview tracks ending in periods? Maybe they need rejuvenated and motivated staff? I don't know... It just seems more careless than usual.

But on with the actual content! There is a LOT of stuff in this set! And none of it is filler! The first 2 discs are recordings from the BBC studio sessions, and it's fun to have the announcers voice at the end name each song because it gives my generation and folks younger than me an idea of what it might've sounded like to hear Queen's early days as if they were current. And it's fun to compare the BBC versions to the proper album versions!

Disc 3, which I admittedly have not actually listened to yet because my attention span doesn't always allow me to give a thing the attention it deserves at first listen. But on there is concert footage that played over BBC Radio, which is fun. It's additionally amusing and amazing to me because there's a few tracks of Queen in Germany in 1986, which is where my friend George saw them!

Discs 5 and 6 are interviews. I've only been able to listen to Freddie on Kenny Everett's show so far (with a ridiculous amount of pausing because, again, attention span), and the sound quality is lacking, unfortunately, but it's clear that QPL really did the best they could with what they had. Their voices are loud enough, but over the years what might have been perfectly clear conversation just now sounds almost mumbly. I would suggest headphones and minimal background noise if you have auditory processing issues like myself.

Still, I think it's worth it to have all 6 discs if you can afford it, and if you care at all about radio interviews (some of which aren't particularly long, if that helps). But those who just want the music can opt for the 2-disc set.

21 December, 2016

The Freddie Mercury Story: Who Wants To Live Forever

I just finished watching this and OMG! The reenactments continuously jumped between "So bad, they're good," and, "Bad. Just really bad!"

I appreciated the actor playing Freddie (John Blunt) clearly wanting to do right by Freddie, but the writing, other actors, and probable budget and licensing issues made me pause a few times because, "That's not what Freddie's Garden Lodge bedroom looked like! ... Freddie didn't smoke in 1975! ... That's not how the conversation went down when he and Mary broke up! ... etc." And then there was the one astonishingly TERRIBLE attempt at a New York/American accent! Although that might be a dig at every time an American tries any sort of English accent...

But I think some of the Queen fandom will rejoice when they see how Freddie and Roger act in this. Like the writers saw all the internet posts that have ever shipped Freddie and Roger and were like, "let's do a not-so-subtle nod to that!"

Here's a Youtube link for anyone who wants to see this in all its... glory? I guess?


11 December, 2016

Queen I review

I've been sitting on this draft since 2013... Whoops!

Anyway! The Queen album has been described by the band as random picks of tracks thrown together in no particular order. Maybe it's because I'm so used to the track order, but I don't see it as a disorganized mess. I mean, I know most of the them were technically dated by the time the album got released, but I think they're a great demonstration that Queen does not stick to a particular sound or formula. The entire album doesn't sound like one continuous noise, to paraphrase Roger. Yes, there are signature sounds throughout their entire catalog, but I look at Queen as sort of making up for lost time, since so many record companies rejected them at the time.

According to Freddie on Live At The Rainbow '74, Brian wrote Keep Yourself Alive as a teenager (he specifically said, "young boy," which is amusing because they were all in their early-mid twenties at the time). It's unusual in that it doesn't have that "shitty poetry" feel that a lot of teenaged writing tends to have on a universal level. When I had just started seriously getting into Queen, my uncle would constantly say that this track is one of the most metal songs he's ever heard. That's kind of weird, as he's very much into all sorts of metal bands that definitely have a consistently heavier sound (Megadeth, and the like). But he would also later introduce me to Simon & Garfunkel and No Doubt. That throw-away line is just to ensure readers that my uncle's tastes in music are hardly strictly light or conservative. Keep Yourself Alive doesn't rank especially high as a heavy track for me, but the guitar riff is probably one of Brian's catchiest and infectious. Also, this song is super fun to sing, and I often turn to the Live Killers version when I really want to pretend I'm on stage rocking out.

I fucking love Doing Alright! The whole sound of it is perfection to me. Brian and Roger would later say that they weren't happy with the drums being on the quieter end, but I think it works especially well on this track (it did not, however, work so well on Innuendo, in my opinion. Who made that decision, and why wasn't it vetoed?!). I find myself torn on this version and the one on At The BBC, even if Roger's voice is out of place (Nice! But out of place).

I think Great King Rat is the first track where Freddie seems to be battling it out with his religious upbringing. I'm not at all an expert in Zoroastrianism, nor any sort of religious scholar, but I do know that Zoroastrianism considers homosexuality "unclean." I firmly believe that Freddie's always known that he was gay (yes, even though he has slept with women. He identified as gay, so let's respect that). And considering queer rights were nowhere near where they are today (still a TON of work to do!), it makes all the sense in the world to me that he didn't always have the "fuck you, I am who I am" attitude he'd adopted later. I think the drum sound works on this track as well, and compliment Freddie's vocals (maybe my favorite on this album). This is also one of many great reminders of Freddie's songwriting ability. I didn't love the Biblical references when I first heard it as a kid, but have since come to appreciate them, but I further sincerely appreciate that he was able to move past the messages that he got in his life that said that he was bad for being gay.

The intricate layers in My Fairy King defy words for me. All I can coherently say is that I love this song.

The intro to Liar is one of my favorites of all time! It's a real pity that the drum mix turned out so quiet, because it was clear that this whole song's loud parts are supposed to be LOUD. I love hearing the Rainbow '74 version (Sheer Heart Attack tour) and the audience demanding this, probably assuming that this was Queen's absolute peak of perfection. Oh, how the world would learn...

I love The Night Comes Down, and would really love to seriously ask Brian what it was about, because sometimes not knowing keeps me up at all hours!

Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll is such a great song, and it makes me wish I could track down this one person on the old forums who used to be really pissed about Freddie not singing lead on some of Brian and Roger's songs, and point this track to him. I'm really sorry, but Freddie's voice was not made for this song. I get why he sang it live, but I very much prefer Roger's voice on this.

Like The Night Comes Down, I'd love to pick Brian's brain about Son & Daughter, but this time because I feel like it falls devastatingly short. The riff is catchy, guitar effects are amazing, the lyrics are really fun and raw, and then it feels like it loses its momentum just as the words start to REALLY get interesting! I think John's bass playing really shines here, as well.

My friend Tony (hi, Tony!) really pushed for this review because Jesus is one of his favorite tracks. It makes sense since he's Ordained and all (:-P), but it's not one of my favorites. I don't hate it, but I can't help but wonder how this song would pan out if Queen had been in a good recording contract and had been able to record during reasonable hours at the time? Maybe this was a demo they'd added at the last second as an album filler? Maybe I'm just being a jerk about it?

My favorite thing about the mini sample of Seven Seas Of Rhye is that people at the time probably thought it was an accurate taste of things to come on Queen II, but then IT TURNS OUT QUEEN II IS A BILLION TIMES BETTER THAN ANYONE COULD HAVE ANTICIPATED (but I'm super biased, as that's my favorite album)!

04 December, 2016

That Guy is 30!

Thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes! The weather is actually pretty nice here in the Boston area, so I got an iced coffee, then took a walk while listening to Queen II. Being 30 feels pretty good so far!

I'm hoping to post stuff soon! Thanks for bearing with me!

17 November, 2016

RIP Jer Bulsara

Freddie Mercury's mother died today, and my heart's a little heavier for it. 2016, you were going to be marked in history as The Worst, so this was totally not necessary!