News Of The World: 40th An­niver­sary Edi­tion

Classic Rock - - The Hard Stuff Reissues - Chris roberts

Ex­tra! Ex­tra! Old news, now with from -the-vaults raw ver­sions and bonus film.

The sixth Queen al­bum has the sta­tus of an indelible ref­er­ence point in rock his­tory, thanks largely to its two mon­strous, mag­nif­i­cent open­ing an­thems, We Will Rock You and We Are The Cham­pi­ons. Its Frank Kelly Freas art­work has car­ried a near-clas­sic “ter­ri­fy­ing ro­bot” plot line on Fam­ily Guy, and its record­ing ses­sions are im­mor­talised as the ones where Fred­die Mer­cury replied to Sid Vi­cious’s in-cor­ri­dor query as to whether he was still bring­ing bal­let to the masses with: “Oh yes, Mis­ter Fe­ro­cious dear, do­ing our best.” It gave them quadru­ple-plat­inum suc­cess in the States, and de­spite mod­er­ate Bri­tish suc­cess, it rather pooh-poohed the no­tion that Queen were too elab­o­rately in­dul­gent to sur­vive punk’s cull.

All of which is odd, given that it was a tran­si­tional, some­what piece­meal con­struc­tion that few would ar­gue was one of their best. Yes, it’s fun, be­cause many of the in­di­vid­ual tracks are laser-guided bel­ters, but it has no real co­he­sive iden­tity.

Rather than giv­ing Mer­cury and May the lion’s share, it’s demo­crat­i­cally di­vided be­tween four writ­ers, as if Queen were 10cc in flashier clothes. For­tu­nately, Dea­con and Tay­lor, at least short-term, brought vi­able ideas, and their col­leagues never know­ingly un­der­sold any piece of mu­sic ever. So they ditched the pacey, adrenal­ized prog of their early work and the sub­se­quent oper­atic at­tempts to outdo Bo­hemian Rhap­sody. If punk was the new thing, they’d get honed and heavy.

Tay­lor’s Sheer Heart At­tack – which, con­fus­ingly, hadn’t been fin­ished when the far su­pe­rior 1974 al­bum that bore its name came out – is a fren­zied low blow, snip­ing at the band’s in-vogue de­trac­tors.

Prior to that, May, with the fat-free, stomp-stomp-clap ge­nius of We Will Rock You, and Mer­cury with that cham­pi­onship­win­ning bal­lad, have made hard-to-top state­ments. The al­bum’s madly front­loaded, though Dea­con’s Spread Your Wings is one of the most un­der­val­ued Queen songs. Fred­die gives the vo­cal ev­ery­thing, get­ting so emo­tion­ally caught up that he pro­nounces ‘very far’ as ‘werry far’, and it has a yearn­ing melody and cho­rus that other bands would kill for.

From here on, the al­bum be­comes a slightly ran­dom juke­box. Four decades of fa­mil­iar­ity have granted it a sense of struc­ture, but it leaps from Tay­lor’s warped disco pre­mo­ni­tion Fight From The In­side (cited by Slash as one of his favourite gui­tar riffs) to Mer­cury’s pout­ing Get Down Make Love (later cov­ered by Nine Inch Nails). Sleep­ing On The Side­walk nods to the blues, while My Melan­choly Blues doesn’t, but has Fred­die back in camp cabaret mode.

May’s It’s Late is the most am­bi­tious track, pitch­ing it­self as a three-act play and see­ing May adopt­ing the then-novel ‘tap­ping’ play­ing tech­nique. It strains to be epic more than Queen usu­ally have to, but clam­bers to its goal even­tu­ally. This all adds to the sense of a pe­cu­liarly eclec­tic al­bum, self-pro­duced, which is glued to­gether purely by the force of Queen’s per­son­al­ity. De­spite damp­ing down their in­stincts so punks wouldn’t spit at them, they still sound like flam­boy­ance has burst through the wall, rid­ing a Har­ley and wear­ing a tiara. They can’t help iden­ti­fy­ing as them­selves, even when tread­ing wa­ter to sat­isfy the arena crowds.

So what new News has been ex­ca­vated? Well, as deluxe edi­tions go, this makes a proper ef­fort. Book of pho­to­graphs, posters, a pure ana­logue vinyl re-cut, and three CDs: the orig­i­nal al­bum plus 11 “raw ses­sions” (demos and al­ter­na­tive takes) and 19 bonus tracks (BBC ses­sions, along with live and in­stru­men­tal takes).

The raw ses­sions are or­dered to of­fer a rad­i­cal read­ing of the al­bum, in se­quence. Fred­die sings May’s All Dead, All Dead; We Are The Cham­pi­ons is looser, longer; other tracks just ad lib more as they fade. For full-on Queen fans, this chance to hear pre­vi­ously in­ner-cir­cle-only Mer­cury vo­cals, in his pomp, will be ir­re­sistible.

Then there’s a DVD doc­u­men­tary,

Queen: The Amer­i­can Dream. One hour of footage shot on their 1977 world tour by Bob Har­ris and crew for a film that never reached fruition, it in­cludes ex­clu­sive live clips from Hous­ton.

Most charm­ing is the back­stage and stu­dio footage. What comes across is that Queen would ob­serve each other and in­stead of think­ing, “He’s so ir­ri­tat­ing, I can’t bear it,” they’d muse, “He’s so ir­ri­tat­ing, I can’t help laugh­ing.” No time for losers.

‘An eclec­tic al­bum, glued to­gether by the band’s per­son­al­ity.’

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