Rumor has it that Queen shall soon be crowned “the new Led Zeppelin,” which is an event that would certainly suit this observer just fine. There’s no doubt that this funky, energetic English quartet has all the tools they’ll need to lay claim to the Zep’s abdicated heavy-metal throne, and beyond that to become a truly influential force in the rock world. Their debut album is superb.
The Zeppelin analogy is not meant to imply that Queen’s music is anywhere near as blues-based as the content of Led Zep I & II. No, their songs are more in the Who vein, straight-ahead rock with slashing, hard-driving arrangements that rate with the finest moments of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Yet there’s a certain level of intelligence with which the show is presented, a structured sanity that coexists alongside the maniacal fury that gives me the impression that the band must have had a lot of Yessongs on their turntables in the three years this album was taking shape.
“Great King Rat” and “Doing All Right” are most indicative of the intricacy of Queen’s product, each a lengthy piece composed of several vignettes. The contrasting moods of the latter are stark, at opposite moments calm and thunderous, summoning up memories of a thing called “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” The group does direct, three-chord rock just as well, though, with “Keep Yourself Alive” displaying a truly awesome move for the jugular.
Personnel: Brian May plays guitar, and if it seems as though he really knows the ins and outs of his instrument it’s for good reason. He made it himself, from wood he found in a 100-year-old fireplace, a bizarre creation with rollers where you’d normally expect to find a nut. And where you’d normally expect to find holes in a three-piece band’s sound you’ll instead find May making excellent use of his instrument’s electrical attributes. A master of fuzz, wah and sustain, his solos are persistent, hard-hitting and to the point.
Vocalist Freddie Mercury has a strong, steady voice that never lacks for power and authority. Through the storms of “Liar” to the artsy, choir-boy innocence of “My Fairy King” he handles a wide range of vocal chores, never once losing his air of cocky, regal arrogance.
Let’s just say that the product of drummer Roger Meddows Taylor and bassist Deacon John is explosive, a colossal sonic volcano whose eruption maketh the earth tremble.
There’s a song on the album (remarkably reminiscent of “Communication Breakdown”) called “Modern Times Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and that’s exactly what Queen’s music is. They’re the first of a whole new wave of English rockers, and you’d best learn to love ’em now ’cause they’re here to stay. Regal bearings aside, Queen is a monster.