Queen – Jazz (1978) [Japanese Limited SHM-SACD 2012 # UIGY-9516] PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 44:52 minutes | Scans included | 1,82 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 907 MB based on Digital Remaster 2011
Famously tagged as “fascist” in a Rolling Stone review printed at the time of its 1978 release, Jazz does indeed showcase a band that does thrive upon its power, thrilling upon the hold that it has on its audience. That confidence, that self-intoxication, was hinted at on News of the World but it takes full flower here, and that assurance acts as a cohesive device, turning this into one of Queen’s sleekest albums. Like its patchwork predecessor, Jazz also dabbles in a bunch of different sounds – that’s a perennial problem with Queen, where the four songwriters were often pulling in different directions – but it sounds bigger, heavier than News, thanks to the mountains of guitars Brian May has layered all over this record. If May has indulged himself, Freddie Mercury runs riot all over this album, infusing it with an absurdity that’s hard to resist. This goofiness is apparent from the galloping overture “Mustapha,” and things only get a lot sillier from that point out, as the group sings the praises of “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Bicycle Races,” as May and Mercury have an unspoken competition on who can overdub the most onto a particular track while Roger Taylor steers them toward their first disco song in the gloriously dumb “Fun It.” But since over-the-top campiness has always been an attribute in Queen, this kind of grand-scale exaggeration gives Jazz a sense of ridiculousness that makes it more fun than many of their other albums.
Queen – News Of The World (1977) [Japanese Limited SHM-SACD 2011 # UIGY-9515] PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 39:15 minutes | Scans included | 1,6 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 821 MB based on Digital Remaster 2011
If Day at the Races was a sleek, streamlined album, its 1977 successor, News of the World, was its polar opposite, an explosion of styles that didn’t seem to hold to any particular center. It’s front-loaded with two of Queen’s biggest anthems – the stomping, stadium-filling chant “We Will Rock You” and its triumphant companion, “We Are the Champions” – which are quickly followed by the ferocious “Sheer Heart Attack,” a frenzied rocker that hits harder than anything on the album that shares its name (a remarkable achievement in itself). Three songs, three quick shifts in mood, but that’s hardly the end of it. As the News rolls on, you’re treated to the arch, campy crooning of “My Melancholy Blues,” a shticky blues shuffle in “Sleeping on the Sidewalk,” and breezy Latin rhythms on “Who Needs You.” Then there’s the neo-disco of “Fight from the Inside,” which is eclipsed by the mechanical funk of “Get Down, Make Love,” a dirty grind that’s stripped of sensuality. That cold streak on “Get Down, Make Love” runs through the album as a whole. Despite the explosion of sounds and rhythms, this album doesn’t add up to party thanks to that slightly distancing chilly vibe that hangs over the album. Nevertheless, many of these songs work well on their own as entities, so there is plenty to savor here, especially from Brian May. Whether he’s doing the strangely subdued eccentric English pop “All Dead, All Dead” or especially the majestic yet nimble rocker “It’s Late,” he turns in work that gives this album some lightness, which it needs. And that’s the reason News of the World was a monster hit despite its coldness – when it works, it’s massive, earth-shaking rock & roll, the sound of a band beginning to revel in its superstardom.
Queen – A Day At The Races (1976) [Japanese Limited SHM-SACD 2011 # UIGY-9514] PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 44:11 minutes | Scans included | 3,55 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 898 MB based on Digital Remaster 2011
In every sense, A Day at the Races is an unapologetic sequel to A Night at the Opera, the 1975 breakthrough that established Queen as rock & roll royalty. The band never attempts to hide that the record is a sequel – the two albums boast the same variation on the same cover art, the titles are both taken from old Marx Brothers films and serve as counterpoints to each other. But even though the two albums look the same, they don’t quite sound the same, A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor, yet tighter doesn’t necessarily mean better for a band as extravagant as Queen. One of the great things about A Night at the Opera is that the lingering elements of early Queen – the pastoral folk of “39,” the metallic menace of “Death on Two Legs” – dovetailed with an indulgence of camp and a truly, well, operatic scale. Here, the eccentricities are trimmed back somewhat – they still bubble up on “The Millionaire Waltz,” an example of the music hall pop that dominated Night, the pro-Native American saga “White Man” is undercut somewhat by the cowboys ‘n’ indians rhythms – in favor of a driving, purposeful hard rock that still could have some slyly hidden perversities (or in the case of the opening “Tie Your Mother Down,” some not-so-hidden perversity) but this is exquisitely detailed hard rock, dense with minutiae but never lush or fussy. In a sense, it could even function as the bridge between Sheer Heart Attack and Night at the Opera – it’s every bit as hard as the former and nearly as florid as the latter – but its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they’re globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.
Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975) [Japanese Limited SHM-SACD 2011 # UIGY-9513] PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 43:06 minutes | Scans included | 1,75 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 869 MB based on Digital Remaster 2011
Queen were straining at the boundaries of hard rock and heavy metal on Sheer Heart Attack, but they broke down all the barricades on A Night at the Opera, a self-consciously ridiculous and overblown hard rock masterpiece. Using the multi-layered guitars of its predecessor as a foundation, A Night at the Opera encompasses metal (“Death on Two Legs,” “Sweet Lady”), pop (the lovely, shimmering “You’re My Best Friend”), campy British music hall (“Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon,” “Seaside Rendezvous”), and mystical prog rock (“’39,” “The Prophet’s Song”), eventually bringing it all together on the pseudo-operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” In short, it’s a lot like Queen’s own version of Led Zeppelin IV, but where Zep find dark menace in bombast, Queen celebrate their own pomposity. No one in the band takes anything too seriously, otherwise the arrangements wouldn’t be as ludicrously exaggerated as they are. But the appeal – and the influence – of A Night at the Opera is in its detailed, meticulous productions. It’s prog rock with a sense of humor as well as dynamics, and Queen never bettered their approach anywhere else.
Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974) [Japanese Limited SHM-SACD 2011 # UIGY-9512] PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 39:00 minutes | Scans included | 1,59 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 791 MB based on Digital Remaster 2011
Queen II was a breakthrough in terms of power and ambition, but Queen’s third album Sheer Heart Attack was where the band started to gel. It followed quickly on the heels of the second record – just by a matter of months; it was the second album they released in 1974 – but it feels like it had a longer incubation period, so great is the progress here. Which isn’t quite to say that Sheer Heart Attack is flawless – it still has a tendency to meander, sometimes within a song itself, as when the killer opening “Brighton Rock” suddenly veers into long stretches of Brian May solo guitar – but all these detours do not distract from the overall album, they’re in many ways the key to the record itself: it’s the sound of Queen stretching their wings as they learn how to soar to the clouds. There’s a genuine excitement in hearing all the elements to Queen’s sound fall into place here, as the music grows grander and catchier without sacrificing their brutal, hard attack. One of the great strengths of the album is how all four members find their voices as songwriters, penning hooks that are big, bold, and insistent and crafting them in songs that work as cohesive entities instead of flourishes of ideas. This is evident not just in “Killer Queen” – the first, best flourishing of Freddie Mercury’s vaudevillian camp – but also on the pummeling “Stone Cold Crazy,” a frenzied piece of jagged metal that’s all the more exciting because it has a real melodic hook. Those hooks are threaded throughout the record, on both the ballads and the other rockers, but it isn’t just that this is poppier, it’s that they’re able to execute their drama with flair and style. There are still references to mystical worlds (“Lily of the Valley,” “In the Lap of Gods”) but the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records; the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own.
Queen – Queen II (1974) [Japanese Limited SHM-SACD 2011 # UIGY-9511] PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 40:47 minutes | Scans included | 1,66 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 813 MB based on Digital Remaster 2011
In one regard, Queen II does indeed provide more of the same thing as on the band’s debut. Certainly, of all the other albums in Queen’s catalog it bears the closest resemblance to its immediate predecessor, particularly in its lean, hard attack and in how it has only one song that is well-known to listeners outside of their hardcore cult: in this case, it’s “Seven Seas of Rhye,” which is itself more elliptical than “Keep Yourself Alive,” the big song from the debut. But these similarities are superficial and Queen II is a very different beast than its predecessor, an album that is richer, darker, and weirder, an album that finds Queen growing as a band by leaps and bounds. There is still a surplus of ideas, but their energies are better focused this time around, channeled into a over-inflated, pompous rock that could be called prog if it wasn’t so heavy. Even with all the queens and ogres that populate Queen II, this never feels as fantastical as Genesis or Uriah Heep, and that’s because Queen hits hard as a rock band here, where even the blasts of vocal harmonies feel like power chords, no matter how florid they are. Besides, these grandiose harmonies, along with the handful of wistful ballads here, are overshadowed by the onslaught of guitars and pummeling rhythms that give Queen II majesty and menace. Queen is coiled, tense, and vicious here, delivering on their inherent sense of drama, and that gives Queen II real power as music, as well as a true cohesion. The one thing that is missing is any semblance of a pop sensibility, even when they flirt with a mock Phil Spector production on “Funny How Love Is.” This hits like heavy metal but has an art-rock sensibility through and through, which also means that it has no true hook in for those who don’t want to succumb to Queen’s world. But that kind of insular drama is quite alluring in its own right, which is why Queen II is one of the favorites of their hardcore fans. At the very least, it illustrates that Queen is starting to pull all their ambitions and influences into a signature sound, and it’s quite powerful in that regard.
Queen – Queen (1973) [Japanese Limited SHM-SACD 2011 # UIGY-9510] PS3 Rip | SACD ISO | DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 38:43 minutes | Scans included | 1,59 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Full Scans included | 806 MB based on Digital Remaster 2011
Like any patchy but promising debut from a classic rock group, it’s often easy to underrate Queen’s eponymous 1973 debut, since it has no more than one well-known anthem and plays more like a collection of ideas than a cohesive album. But what ideas! Almost every one of Queen’s signatures are already present, from Freddie Mercury’s operatic harmonies to Brian May’s rich, orchestral guitar overdubs and the suite-like structures of “Great King Rat.” That rich, florid feel could be characterized as glam, but even in these early days that appellation didn’t quite fit Queen, since they were at once too heavy and arty to be glam and – ironically enough, considering their legendary excess – they were hardly trashy enough to be glam. But that only speaks to the originality of Queen: they may have traded in mystical sword ‘n’ sorcerers themes like so many ’70s prog bands, and they may have hit as hard as Led Zeppelin (and Jimmy Page’s guitar army certainly was a forefather to May’s overdubs), but they didn’t sound like anybody else, they were too odd in their theatricality to be mistaken for another band. That much was apparent on this debut, but one thing was crucially missing: songs that could coalesce their sound and present it in a memorable fashion. There is an exception to that rule – the wild, rampaging opener “Keep Yourself Alive,” one of their very best songs – but too often the album plays like a succession of ideas instead of succinct songs, and the group’s predilection for suites only highlights this, despite the occasional blast of fury like “Modern Times Rock & Roll.” This can be quite appealing as sheer, visceral sound and, in that regard, Queen is kind of irresistible. It showcases the band in all their ornate splendor yet it’s strangely lean and hard, revealing just how good the band was in their early days as a hard rock band. That might not quite make it an overlooked gem – it remains patchy on a song for song basis – but it sure makes for an interesting debut that provides a rough road map to their later work.
The Doobie Brothers – Stampede (1975) [MFSL 2013] PS3 Rip | ISO | SACD DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 41:09 minutes | Scans included | 1,65 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 813 MB Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab # UDSACD 2061 | Genre: Rock
Talk about greatness — the Doobie Brothers, with Jeff “Skunk” Baxter added to their lineup, delivered their best album to date helped by a fairly big hit, though “Take Me in Your Arms” never did anything close to its predecessors despite some chords and modulations that recalled “Black Water” ever so slightly. Stampede’s virtue was its musicianship, which, in addition to new member Baxter, was also showcased in the guises of some impressive guests. the Doobie Brothers’ rootsiest album to date, Stampede was virtuoso soulful countrified rock of a gritty nature, crossing over into blues as well as reaching back to a raw, traditional rock & roll sound that wouldn’t have sounded too out of place 20 years earlier. That was the opener, the searing “Sweet Maxine,” which just might’ve made a good single with an edit or two to bring it down to three and a half minutes; the record gets better with the bouncing “Neal’s Fandango,” which is highlighted by lyrical as well as instrumental acrobatics on the verses and a delicious guitar and piano break. “Texas Lullaby” is one of the prettiest pieces of country rock (though it’s a little more “Western rock”) to come out of the genre since the Byrds and the Beau Brummels had treaded into it eight years earlier, and gets a magnificently soulful performance from Tom Johnston. And speaking of soul, Curtis Mayfield is the arranger on Johnston’s hard-driving “Music Man.” The group strips down to its acoustic basics for “Slat Key Soquel Rag,” which could have been an outtake from the group’s self-titled debut album; Maria Muldaur is the guest vocalist on “I Cheat the Hangman,” representing Patrick Simmons’ songwriting at its most ethereal. Baxter’s “Précis” was the group’s nod to classical and Spanish guitar technique, and “Rainy Day Crossroad Blues” provides guest artist Ry Cooder with a gorgeous canvas on which to paint his slide guitar licks. And the album lands with its feet firmly in 1970s-style roots rock on “I’ve Been Workin’ on You” and “Double Dealin’ Four Flusher”. (more…)
The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets (1976) [MFSL 2010] PS3 Rip | ISO | SACD DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 38:38 minutes | Scans included | 1,60 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 811 MB Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab # UDSACD 2043 | Genre: Rock
Takin’ It to the Streets is the sixth studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers, released in 1976. It was the first to feature Michael McDonald on lead vocals. (more…)
The Doobie Brothers – The Captain And Me (1973) [MFSL 2010] PS3 Rip | ISO | SACD DSD64 2.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 41:45 minutes | Scans included | 1,69 GB or FLAC(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/88,2 kHz | Scans included | 841 MB Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab # UDSACD 2042 | Genre: Rock
The Captain and Me is the third studio album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers, released in 1973. It features some of their most popular hits including “Long Train Runnin’ “, “China Grove” and “Without You”. The album is certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA. (more…)