Queen: News of the World

News of the World
(Island Records)

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With 1977’s News of the World, Queen fulfilled their promise to return to their rock and roll roots, producing songs that were tougher and more focused. The album still sported multi-layered vocals and Brian May’s army of dubbed guitars, but the overindulgent mush was gone. Island Records two-disc reissue of News of the World is a royal treat. The second disk includes live tracks, a studio outtake and a session recorded for the BBC.

Freddie Mercury’s mile-a-minute musings, Brian May’s rapier guitar solo and Roger Taylor’s slave ship beat made May’s “We Will Rock You” the de rigueur rally cry at athletic events. But News also sports two other classic Queen standouts, Mercury’s dark and dirty “Get Down, Make Love” and May’s heavy metal blitzkrieg, “It’s Late.”

The Chinese warlord percussion and ragged guitar work make “Get Down, Make Love” sound like a demented demand rather than a seductive request. Mercury’s S & M delivery promises whips, chains and leather instead of lollipops and roses. “Get Down, Make Love” is a grimy, greasy pleasure, an edgy rocker one wouldn’t associate with the effete Mercury. “It’s Late” is propelled by May’s crunching riffs, Mercury’s hell bent vocal and Taylor’s stop-on-a-dime drumming.

Taylor’s turn as a composer on “Sheer Heart Attack” and “Fight from the Inside” are ambitious and noisy failures that nevertheless cement Queen’s intention to man up their sound. The delicate parlor piano and somber harmonies of May’s “All Dead, All Dead” and Deacon’s “Spread Your Wings” remind loyal fans that Queen hadn’t forsaken the fine art of blending harmonies with melancholy melody.

Among the tracks unearthed for the deluxe edition, the rowdy studio cut “Feelings, Feelings” sounds like “Smokin’ In the Boys Room” with a touch of Led Zeppelin. The BBC session version of “Spread Your Wings” takes flight when May launches into a melodic solo, while “My Melancholy Blues” is pure Freddy doing his music hall thing, vamping like a rock and roll version of Tiny Tim. Queen fans will nevertheless rejoice because, overall, the News is good.

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