Queen Queen II on 180g LP
Sourced from the Original Master Tapes, Mastered By Bob Ludwig, Cut at Half-Speed at Abbey Road Studios, and Pressed at Optimal in Germany
A month after releasing their debut Queen returned to Trident Studios to commence work on follow-up and many a fan favorite, Queen II. It is certainly the first time one hears their trademark multi-layered overdubs, those rich harmonies and the sheer joie de vivre of a group of young men refusing to be hindered by boundaries and conformity. Realizing that as songwriters Mercury and May had radically different lyrical agendas – Brian the guitarist preferring a personal or emotional slant, while Freddie the singer liked to operate in realms of the phantasmagorical – it was decided to give the record a loose concept, splitting the material into ‘White’ and ‘Black’ sides to match the light and shade of the songs.
It starts with "Procession," played by May in funeral march time on multi-tracked guitar, the Red Special hand-built by Brian and his father, Harold, when the aspiring musician was a teenager. Brian’s "Father to Son" was written with Harold in mind and combines metal guitar bridges and introspective piano played by the writer as well as John Deacons’ acoustic guitar and a neat vocal harmony. The fortuitously titled "White Queen (As It Began)" was a song Brian had written in 1968 when he was just about to go to Imperial College to study physics. Inspired by the Robert Graves treatise on poetry and myth, The Golden Fleece, May also had a female muse in mind, and the combination of courtly love lyrics and an ideal of feminism struck a chord with Queen’s audiences who would soon realize this wasn’t just another standard glam rock group.
May makes his debut as sole lead vocalist on "Some Day One Day" and also contributes startling guitar overdubbing, with the outro section featuring three instruments playing different parts rather than meshing together in synch. Drummer Roger’s "The Loser In The End’ closes out the ‘White’ side with a variation on the Mother to Son theme, albeit with a slightly tongue in cheek or ambiguous humor in the verses and some lovely marimba work.
If Freddie’s contributions thus far were sporadic he took over for the ‘Black’ side. "Ogre Battle" was carried over from the first album and given a proper arrangement, a damn heavy one with chilling vocal screaming and a taut thrash of guitars and drums, a classic gong and plenty of sound effects to herald a suite that is Queen at their most progressive. "The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke" was inspired by frequent visits to the Tate Gallery, taken by Freddie and the others to admire Richard Dadd’s nightmarish painting of the same name. "Feller" flows in segue form with Mercury at the piano picking up the closing three-part harmony to introduce "Nevermore." The octave bending, polyrhythmic "The March Of The Black Queen" was written by Mercury at the piano and developed as an electric and acoustic guitar extravaganza with May adding symphonic tubular bells. As such it was virtually impossible to replicate live but remains an album highlight.
Another segue leads the listener into "Funny How Love Is," a Mercury song blessed with one of his most poignant and lovely lyrics. And so to the finale – "The Seven Seas Of Rhye" – a song first heard by many when Queen snapped up David Bowie’s cancellation of a Top of the Pops engagement to debut "Rebel Rebel." The song was released as a single two days later. Noted for it’s panning and arpeggios and a cross-fade that leads into a brief rendition of "I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside," this is a magnificent piece of work on every level. A classic glam rock item of the era, one that recalls the brutal intensity of The Move, it peaked at #10 in the UK and drove the album to #5 while also boosting sales of the debut.
Queen II is now acknowledged as a landmark in the band’s development and while it is hardly obscure, in America it is considered to be a cult artifact revered by the likes of Billy Corgan, Steve Vai and Axl Rose, and remains an obvious influence on everyone from U2 to Muse. Even Bowie sat up and took notice, no doubt allowing himself a wry smile at Queen’s arrival due to his no-show and probably basking in some of their limelight.
Queen Queen II Track Listing:
2. Father To Son
3. White Queen (As It Began)
4. Some Day One Day
5. The Loser in The End
6. Ogre Battle
7. The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke
9. The March of the Black Queen
10. Funny How Love Is
11. Seven Seas of Rhye