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Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) War Pigs / Paranoid (8/29/70; #61 US, #4 UK, #25 AR) / Planet Caravan / Iron Man (1/29/72; #52 US, #32 AR) / Electric Funeral Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to…) / Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon / I’m in Love with My Car / You’re My Best Friend (5/22/76; #16 US, #7 UK) / ’39 / Sweet Lady / Seaside Rendezvous / The Prophet’s Song / Love of My Life (7/14/79, #63 UK) / Good Company / Bohemian Rhapsody (11/8/75; #2 US, #1 UK, #16 AR, sales: 1.0 m) / God Save the Queen
Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.3 UK, 10.0 world
Peak: 4 US, 1 4 UK
Review: Queen’s A Night at the Opera can be simultaneously viewed as the group’s “crowning achievement” PR and “an extravagant indulgence.” PR On the latter front, “this is where the band let its over-the-top tendencies loose.” RS500 The group “celebrate their own pomposity” AMG in “a self-consciously ridiculous and overblown hard rock masterpiece.” AMG In his book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, Tom Moon called it “the campiest rock concept album ever.” TM
On the other front, it was the most expensive album made up to that time, taking months to record in as many as six studios simultaneously. PR That “detailed, meticulous productions” AMG was a mutual effort from Queen and producer Roy Thomas Baker, who “was more than happy to oblige the boys, piling on the overdubs until the analog 16-track tape shed almost all its oxide and literally went transparent.” GW
The Queen sound by definition was filled with electric guitars in harmony, a rock-solid rhythm section, and many layers of vocals,” CRS but even by their own standards, Queen “broke down all the barricades on A Night at the Opera” AMG with a mix of “hard rock, wistful ballads, music hall pastiche and perfectly crafted pop with classical trimmings.” PR It was “the disc that established them as a completely unique entity in rock music, quite distinct from the Seventies glam/proto metal pack with which they’d formerly been grouped.” GW “It’s prog rock with a sense of humor as well as dynamics.” AMG
“Delivered with sly winks and high-gloss dazzle, these put Queen closer, sensibility-wise, to the theatrical entertainments of a bygone age than anything on pop radio.” TM “Fully half of the album tends toward camp - there are seafaring sing-alongs (‘39) and vaudeville-style soft-shoe tunes (Seaside Rendezvous) and a few themes that might have been inspired by a toy calliope (Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon).” TM
You’re My Best Friend
However, “tucked between the kitschy, amazingly detailed period pieces are several conventional pop songs.” TM The album “encompasses metal (Death on Two Legs, Sweet Lady), pop (the lovely, shimmering You're My Best Friend)...mystical prog rock (…The Prophet’s Song)” AMG, and “the zooming, cleverly harmonized confession I’m In Love with My Car.” TM They all serve as “head-spinningly intricate, illustrations of Queen’s ability to conjure music of preposterous flamboyance that somehow still manages to flat-out rock.” TM
They “eventually bring it all together on the pseudo-operatic Bohemian Rhapsody.” AMG The group fretted that “this strange song with suicidal overtones, mood changes, and a pseudo-operatic section” CRS “was a bit over the top; it would either be a huge success or an equally huge failure.” CRS It proved to be the former, becoming the group’s most beloved song and one of classic rock’s staples.
Resources and Related Links:
- Queen’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
- AMG All Music Guide review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- CRS Tim Morse (1998). Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Rock Songs of All Time. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin.
- RS500 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
- GW Guitar World 50 Greatest Guitar Albums (2/19/2009)
- TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
- PR Paul Roland (2001). CD Guide to Pop & Rock. B.T. Batsford LTD: London.