[Review] Queen (1973)

Their ambitions were bigger than their production budget at first, but we’re clearly in the presence of rock royalty.

Kronomyth 1.0: In the land where honey bees have lost their stings, there’s singing forever.

“Please, to the see the Queen,” I said, and was quickly ushered into the great hall. There she stood, a fountain of wild compositions, struggling to keep her own composure. Mad perhaps, but there was a method to her madness, an arching toward some higher purpose where glimpses of a greater hall could be seen that transcended our own mortal world. Like all true lunatics, her mood was mercurial: at first sweating in a nightmare where she imagined herself the hunted (“Keep Yourself Alive”), then leaning back into a docile state of acceptance (“Doing All Right”). Her ravings were often of imagined acquaintances, the doomed figures of fiction and history in whom her own paranoia found favor: “Great King Rat,” “Jesus.” What lies at the heart of “Liar,” “Son And Daughter” and “My Fairy King” could be an unsettling stream of the subconscious or merely human foibles played to high camp.

She might have been winking at me when I left, still rambling on (as she would for years to come). I’ll allow the royals their eccentricities, especially when my patience is rewarded with “The Night Comes Down,” the likes of which I haven’t heard since The Beatles’ white album. As for this first meeting, there are bits of it that remain stuck in my head, though the Queen had more to say on these subjects later on, settling into the pomp and elegance befitting her rank with time. Yet it was clear from the beginning that she had something important to impart, that seriocomic excess had its place in the regal ranks of progdom. She had ambitions, this one, much as a group of Northern renegades made plain during a Fly By Night campaign. And so it was that one’s first audience with the Queen led to a lasting audience…

That was the original review I wrote back in 2004. Fifteen years on, my opinion hasn’t changed much on it. The only new wrinkle is that I’ve since heard the band’s original 1971 demos of many of these songs and was surprised to find they were nearly identical to the versions recorded here. Thus, Queen’s first clearly wasn’t a case of rushing into the studio to record new material (although some if it was written there, like “My Fairy King”), but rather a case of preserving for posterity songs that had already been polished on stage. The band’s eyes were bigger than their budget, at least in the beginning, so I’d point you toward their later albums first, then pick this up before you venture past The Game.

Original elpee version

A1. Keep Yourself Alive (Brian May) (3:42)
A2. Doing All Right (Brian May/Tim Staffell) (4:11)
A3. Great King Rat (Freddie Mercury) (5:42)
A4. My Fairy King (Freddie Mercury) (4:06)
B1. Liar (Freddie Mercury) (6:25)
B2. The Night Comes Down (Brian May) (4:24)
B3. Modern Times Rock ‘N’ Roll (Roger Meddows-Taylor) (1:49)
B4. Son And Daughter (Brian May) (3:22)
B5. Jesus (Freddie Mercury) (3:45)
B6. Seven Seas of Rhye… (Freddie Mercury) (1:15)

Expanded CD bonus tracks
11. Mad The Swine
12. Keep Yourself Alive (long lost re-take)
13. Liar (1991 bonus remix by John Luongo and Gary Hellman)

Bonus EP tracks
11. Keep Yourself Alive (De Lane Lea demo)
12. The Night Comes Down (De Lane Lea demo)
13. Great King Rat (De Lane Lea demo)
14. Jesus (De Lane Lea demo)
15. Liar (De Lane Lea demo)
16. Mad The Swine

The Players

Deacon John (bass guitar), Brian May (guitars, piano, vocals), Roger Meddows-Taylor (percussion, vocals), Freddie Mercury (vocals, piano) with John Anthony (backing vocals on B3). Produced by John Anthony, Roy Baker and Queen; engineered by Roy Baker, Mike Stone, Ted Sharpe, Dave Hentschel and (on B2) Louie Austin; American production supervision by Jac Holzman.

The Pictures

Cover design by Brian May, Freddie Mercury and Douglas Puddifoot. Photography by Douglas Puddifoot. American art direction by Robert L. Heimall.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on July 13, 1973 in the UK (EMI, EMC/TC-EMC 3006), in 1973 in Argentina (EMI, 8560), Brazil (EMI, 31C 064 94519), Germany (EMI, 1C 062-94 519), the Philippines and Singapore (EMI, EMC 3006) and on September 4, 1973 in the US, Australia and Canada (Elektra, EKS/ET-75064); reached #24 on the UK charts and #83 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record). Uk and US covers are slightly different. Cassette features different track order. 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the Netherlands (EMI, 1A 038-1575011).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Spain (EMI/Fama, 056 1945191).
  3. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in September 1982 in the UK (Fame, FA/TC-FA 3040). Cassette features different track order.
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in the UK (EMI, CDP 7 46204 2).
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1991 in the US (Hollywood, HR-61064-2) with 3 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-issued on compact disc on November 6, 1998 in Japan (Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-65101).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc on February 11, 2004 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-67341).
  8. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee on July 6, 2009 in Europe (EMI, Queenlp 1) and in 2009 in the US (Hollywood).
  9. Re-issued on remastered compact disc and CD+EP in 2011 in Europe (Universal, 276 387 6/9) with bonus EP.
  10. Re-released on 180g purple vinyl elpee in 2015 in the UK (EMI, 00602547202642A) with lyrics insert.
  11. Re-released on ultra high-quality compact disc on December 12, 2018 in Japan (Universal, UICY-40251).

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