Queen (Deluxe Edition)

Queen (Deluxe Edition)

Released in 1973, Queen’s first album is a product of its time: There’s a little a bit of Led Zeppelin, a little bit of The Who and a few fairies thrown in for good measure. But like the preliminary sketchings for what would later become a masterwork, Queen shows off talents and ideas the band members would flesh out more fully in the years ahead. On Queen, you can hear Freddie Mercury’s penchant for operatic flair (“My Fairy King”), Brian May’s layer-cake guitar approach (“Keep Yourself Alive”) and the band’s overall balance of theatricality and straight-up heaviness that would eventually redefine hard-rock masculinity (“Great King Rat”). Compared to The Rolling Stones, Queen sounded like weirdo sci-fi. But compared to prog-rock bands like Genesis or Yes, the group sounded almost old-fashioned in its directness, as though the four band members had figured out how to take all the imagination and complexity of where rock was going—and synthesise it with the simplicity of where it’d been. That made Queen (and Queen) a tough sell—at least at first. After spending eight months trying to shop the album to labels, the group members ended up releasing the album themselves, under a licensing deal with EMI. But despite that initial setback, the group’s determination was there. Chris Smith, who played keyboards in the pre-Queen band Smile, remembers Mercury coming into the pub one night with a dejected look on his face, and saying, “I’m not gonna be a pop star.” Smith tried to console him, at which point Mercury rose, slowly spread his arms like wings, and declared, “I’m gonna be a legend.”

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