Queen: A Day at the Races

A Day at the Races
(Hollywood Records)

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Queen pulled out all the stops creating some of their most mature songwriting to date with their 10-song pretty near masterpiece, A Day at the Races. Opening with Brian May’s hammering electric guitar, “Tie Your Mother Down” is all rock and roll. (“Tie” is actually preceded by a one-minute May instrumental, which is actually a reprise of the ending of the last song here, “Teo Torriatte,” an attempt to create one continuous circle of an album.)  “You Take My Breath Away” follows with a nice Freddie Mercury piano/vocal piece that overstays its welcome for me, but there’s some spectacular 12-string work (really all around great guitar playing) on the jangly-moving “Long Away,” complete with those amazing backing vocals we have come to expect from Queen. Like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Millionaire Waltz” sees May’s multilayered guitar and is one of the few instances of John Deacon playing “lead” bass. The piano trend continues in the float-y “You and I” (and there is John Deacon walking all over in the simple way he does on this song he penned); these two tunes really work for me.  They are perfect Queen.

The hit “Somebody to Love” follows.  Mercury, May and drummer Roger Taylor provide overdubbed vocals to get that famous 100-voice gospel choir. I always look for the Taylor-penned/sung tunes on Queen albums and here “Drowse” certainly stands out as one of his slower songs. The album ends with the sprawling “Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together),” Brian May’s tribute to the band’s Japanese fans.  (Yes, Queen was actually big in Japan.)

As with all of the recently released Queen re-masters, there is a second disc of extras with some worthwhile tracks and some tracks that are not so great. We get the backing track for “Tie Your Mother Down,” which is a complete waste of time and money.  There are some wonderful live versions of “Somebody To Love,” though on which Mercury doesn’t try for the high notes, but still delivers a charismatic performance.

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