Mike and I were in Taranna yesterday. Wahoo!
Now, I already had yesterday’s Stones post done and ready to post for yesterday, but I wouldn’t have had anything ready for today… so I’ll update a story instead…
This one’s for fans of Good Omens, the epic Neil Gaiman / Terry Pratchett masterpiece of hilarity. As you’ll all know from that text, once any album is left in the car long enough, it will turn itself into a Greatest Hits Of Queen. True story.
Anyway, a year ago this month, I posted this:
We were jamming a hits of Queen in the car and the kids loved the lines “She’s a Killer Queen / Gunpowder, gelatine / Dynamite with a laser beam / Guaranteed to blow your mind / Anytime.”
They made up all kinds of ideas about what it could possibly mean to be dynamite with a laser beam. The laughter in the backseat was beautiful.
Well, we had occasion to be in the car today, and the Hits of Queen was back on, and this time they had a blast llistening to Fat Bottom Girls. It was fun watching them memorize the chorus…
And then, the next song is Bicycle Race. And in that song, my son’s sharp ears picked out “Bicycle races are coming your way / So forget all your duties oh yeah! / Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today / So look out for those beauties oh yeah…” He commented immediately the carry-over from the previous song.
Well-played, makers of Queen’s Greatest Hits! And well-heard, my boy!
Well this one is like shooting fish in a barrel, isn’t it! This isn’t an On Spec purchase for me because I love Queen and, when I saw this on the rack at work and it was all lonely after two days waiting for my chance to get it, I immediately gave it a good home. Did I need it? Heck no. I already own a few Queen albums and at least one other Hits set. So why did I buy it? Because Queen, that’s why.
And also because of this track list. It’s insanely good. It provides a moment of reflection on just what level that band was operating on, which most mere mortals cannot hope to duplicate. Check it:
We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions
Another One Bites The Dust
I Want It All
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
A Kind Of Magic
You’re My Best Friend
Don’t Stop Me Now
These Are The Days Of Our Lives
Who Wants To Live Forever
Seven Seas Of Rhye
Heaven For Everyone
Somebody To Love
I Want To Break Free
The Show Must Go On
I mean, seriously. 20 tracks of that calibre all on one disc is sure enough to lay waste to all pretenders! Look also at the title of this disc. Absolute Greatest. Of course we take this to mean that this disc contains the absolute greatest hits of Queen. But, of course, read another way, it can also mean that Queen is one of the Absolute Greatest, pure truth of course.
There’s a great bit in Good Omens, a novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, in which it is made known that every album left in a car will eventually become a Greatest Hits of Queen. If it became this one, only a fool would argue!
A million thumbs up.
This album was released in 1995, four years after Freddie Mercury’s death. Mercury recorded as many vocals as he could, and told the band to finish the album after he was gone, and that’s what they did here. Imagine working on that, after he passed… Man. Accordingly, I got the sense that a lot of the songs were a form of farewell from Freddie, and homage from the band. Bittersweet, spiritual, human, and uplifting. Makes sense, and it works perfectly.
Now, I’m no Queen expert but I’m a fan, and to me this sounds like a Queen album. The songs are strong, soaring, beautiful. Lots of different approaches here, from (somewhat) cheesy keyboard forays to full-on rockers, though mostly ballad territory. Queen had a sound that was unlike any other, instantly recognizeable as Queen, and that sound is here, for sure. The songs carry extra weight, of course, but even if Freddie had lived to see this released, this would still be a solid Queen record. I’d never heard this album before this, and while it was hard to write about, I quite liked it, honestly.
I was going to go through this track by track but found that, for one of the first times ever in writing for this blog, I simultaneously couldn’t and didn’t want to do it that way. No aspersions on the record, you just have to hear it for yourself, I think, because in all likelihood it’ll mean something slightly different to every listener. Cop out? In most cases yes, but for this one I don’t really think so. It just felt right to leave it up to you. Go get your copy! There are song-by-song blurbs HERE.
One cool thing: There’s a brief intro track called It’s A Beautiful Day, then the album proper. Following A Beautiful Day reprise at track 11, there’s a track 12 of Freddie saying YEAH!, and then at track 13 there’s a 22 minute track that iTunes lists as ‘Reprise.’ It’s beautiful, very ambient, spacious, experimental, a lot of chording. Just let it play and drift away…*
It’s actually a bit of a wrench to listen to Made In Heaven, but it’s definitely well-worth the time you spend with it. RIP Freddie.
* Running at 22 minutes and 32 seconds, Track 13 was an experiment by Richards with an Ensoniq ASR-10 sampler. He took the opening chords of “It’s a Beautiful Day” and made them loop, and then added Mercury’s voice through strange echoes. May and Taylor also added some ideas to the track. This track was previously only available on the CD edition of the album and the aforementioned promo cassettes.
Standard cassettes of the album end with the shortened “It’s a Beautiful Day (Reprise)”, fading out after Track 12 (“Yeah”), where this untitled track would continue on. Track 13 can be purchased also as part of the full album or as a separate piece from Queen’s official online store.
The LP (vinyl) edition of the album has only the first few seconds, which run into the run-off of the groove on the record, which actually means that if a listener has a record player which does not have an automatic stop activated at this point, it will play indefinitely, consisting only of the few seconds looped over constantly.
Track 13 created a good deal of surprise and confusion among fans, given its ambient musical nature and its sheer length, neither of which have much precedent in Queen’s catalogue (the longest of Queen’s prior songs, “The Prophet’s Song” from A Night at the Opera, running a mere 8:20). The album’s last listed track (all formats) is track 11: “It’s a Beautiful Day (Reprise)”. After, Freddie Mercury is heard loudly saying “Yeah”, which at four seconds long comprises the entire Track 12. Fans took to calling this track by that monosyllabic name. The ambient music underneath this track continues into Track 13, which ebbs and flows for another 22:32, and ends with Mercury calling out “Fab!”
Two schools of thought emerged amongst fans: one was that these were to be considered not only separate tracks, but separate “songs”; the second was that tracks 11, 12 and 13 were all one song (“It’s a Beautiful Day [Reprise]”) and that the splitting of it was a deliberate tongue-in-cheek gesture by the band. Initially, the band were content to maintain the air of mystery around Track 13. Over time, May has discussed it and shed a bit more light on it, such as the aforementioned creation by David Richards and the subsequent involvement by himself and Taylor.
In 2015, upon the re-issuing of Queen’s discography on vinyl, Made In Heaven was re-issued as a double disc set with track 13 taking up the entirety of side D. The track was given the name “13” and is listed on the artwork. (Wiki)
Well, I’ve run out of days to be sick. It’s back to work today. And straight into hell week. Hooboy. Today is a 50% off sale in the store. And then Tuesday is the usual 30% off senior’s day. If the place is still standing on Wednesday, it’ll be a miracle.
And what a welcome back to work! I’ll need every reserve of strength, I imagine. Nothing like jumping in with both feet.
Some cool news from yesterday, partially music-related. For Christmas, my Dad got us tickets to see an NHL alumni hockey game, which was held yesterday. They didn’t release any player names beforehand, so it could be big names, or who knows. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go, feeling as sick as I was, but come yesterday around noon, I thought I could do it. We went.
The tickets said doors at 1pm, puck drop at 2pm, but no one was assigned seats. It was general admission, first come and first served. So of course we showed up around 12:00, thinking there’d be a line-up. No one. We go into the building, the folks are still setting things up. They had a lot of the stairways roped off, only one way in. We stood around, and finally I approached an official-looking lady at the stairs and she let us up to the seats, just as a guy came over to say we couldn’t go up yet. I muttered under my breath “just keep walking!” and we did. Turned out we were the first ones into the rink, so we had our pick of every seat in the place. My son (it was his choice) selected the first row at the ice, right beside the penalty box at center ice. Attaboy.
We were still hella early. They were testing the sound system pre-game, and playing Queen’s We Will Rock You. On repeat. For half an hour, at varying volumes while some guy said “check, check, check” into a microphone. Now, I love that song, but come on. And that’s the music-related bit of the story. Carry on…
Finally the players come out for a skate-around pre-game. This was a benefit game, in support of Special Olympic Ontario and the Law Enforcement Torch Run. The local team was made up of some of my town’s police officers and firefighters. The NHL alumni team… was like we’d been zapped in the wayback machine.
There was Mark La Forest in net, with Mike Krushelnyski, Lou Franceschetti and Bryan Muir on defense. There was Dan Daoust, Dave McLlwain, Luca Caputi, Mark Napier, and Todd Harvey. Even the referee was Mike Pelyk. The two players I was most excited to see were Brent Gretzky (yep, Wayne’s brother), and Rick Vaive. Man, I loved Rick Vaive as a kid, the way he’d blast up the right wing and shoot pure bullets on the net from the top of the circle… Seriously, it was (mostly) like I was back being a kid in the 80s, watching Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday night.
In all, this was a really fun afternoon. The local law were trying their best, and the old pros were barely putting in effort and still winning. It was clear that if they’d turned it on and really tried, the score would’ve been 50-0, and PDQ. The power and smoothness of the skating was still there, and the control was a pleasure to watch. I was watching Vaive in the warm-ups and he still has a wicked shot. He may have a head of white hair, but he’s been keeping up his skills, it was beautiful.
This afternoon was for fun, though, so there was a lot of horsing around. The NHLers made duff passes just to give the other team chances, and the goalie even tried for an end-to-end rush. Krushelnyski kept collecting snow from along the boards with his stick blade, then dumping it over the glass onto the kids up front, yelling “it’s snowing in here!” Fransceschetti kept knocking the net off its moorings and throwing his stick along the ice to stop breakaways. When the referee gave him penalties for it, he threw his gloves at the ref. Oh man.
A highlight was the first goal the cops team scored. La Forest, the goalie, had requested a photo with the goal scorer for his own ‘wall of shame, in his garage back home.’ So they lined up for the photo and then Gretzky pied the guy in the face. That goal scorer is a dad at my kids’ school, so I’ll have to ask him his side of the tale.
In all, it was a fun afternoon. I wish I had been feeling better – the cold of the rink didn’t help much – but I’m glad I was at least well enough to go to the game. My boy, of course, loved it, and my Dad had a blast remembering all the old players. And, of course, just being in the rink and watching hockey (at any level) is a curative for the Canadian soul.
This is a tour of games, not just a one-off here. I don’t know if they have the same players for every match (probably not, just whomever’s available to come to the rink) but it’s a great time. If there’s one in your town, for all you folks in Ontario, get out to it. It’s for a great cause and it’s a really fun time.
Another $2 score, this copy isn’t in perfect shape (though surely not bad!), but it was too good to leave it there.
Tracks 1-4 were recorded 1973-02-05:
My Fairy King is an epic, full of falsetto majesty. Keep Yourself Alive, of course, is full-on classic rock gallop. Doin’ Alright goes back and forth between being a lovely piano ballad and another rock-out banger. And Liar is an absolutely awesome musical workout. Just wow!
Tracks 5-8 were recorded 1973-12-03:
Ogre Battle is yet another Queen rawk epic with a great riff. Wait, when discussing Brian May, isn’t using the words “great riff” rather redundant? I daresay yes! Great King Rat is amazing. My notes, written while listening to this one, say “WOW! Just… wow! Rawk!” I know you appreciate my sizzling and incisive observations… Modern Times Rock ‘N’ Roll is a total barroom rock smoker that totally satisfied. And finally we have Son & Daughter which, if I was forced to choose, I’d name my favourite track on this disc. It’s heavy-bluesy, almost Sabbathy! And then that rousing build to the incredible instrumental section, with the cool echo effect on the guitar solo… Hot damn!
This CD is amazing. It made me realize that I need to get more Queen into my life. I have a couple of their records here, but not nearly enough!
As I recall it, Mike sent me this CD because he found a bonus track edition he had to have. And if I also recall correctly, before that arrangements were made to get him a digital copy from the US. Fun times! And I am the winner because I now have this CD! I played it when I received it, and liked it a lot. It’s nice now to re-visit it…
Cosmos Rockin’, despite its wacky intro, is a great 12-bar bar-room blues. Hot damn. There’s a cool Chuck Berry-style solo too. Party song! Great intro… Time To Shine’s piano/vocal intro builds into a lovely mid-tempo ballad rocker. Total high-hat workout, though. The word that comes to mind when I hear this song is ‘soar.’
Still Burnin’ goes back to the blues with a very satisfying stomping lope. I always love slide guitar. They even (briefly) brought back the We Will Rock You hand claps! Fun stuff… Small is an acoustic-driven ballad that’s almost country. Well, new country. Until the chorus, anyway. The “I like to sit here in the sunshine” bit sounded amateur, but whatever. It’s a pretty song that’s well-done. Worthy of inclusion, better if it had different lyrics.
Warboys has a great shuffling beat, and a menacing rocker approach. This one would be fun in concert. But I couldn’t get Duran Duran’s Wild Boys out of my head, listening to this. I can hear it… Gah!… We Believe has a slow build that brings a message of hope and tolerance (can anyone sing this stuff without sounding like a tree-hugger?) that becomes a marching rock ballad with washes of guitars and backing vocals. Nice sentiment, but that stuff never plays well, with me. I like what he’s saying, but it always sounds smarmy.
Call Me is a track I could really hear Freddie sinking his talents into, as it’s a happy little hand-clapper he’d have totally owned. Fun! Next is Voodoo, with its simple slinky riff that’s alittle jazzy, a little bluesy, a little rock. It really hinges on the vocals. I LOVED the guitar solo here. I told my son, as we listened to this in the car, that if he could learn to play guitar like this when he gets older, he’ll never work a day in his life.
Some Things That Glitter… well, “Once I loved a butterfly…” I mean, WHAT?!?! It’s a very pretty, piano-driven ballad, but the lyrics. Hooboy. It almost sounds like it’s built for Lite FM, or maybe Christian rock radio (though without the overt references in it), which is not a slam, just an observation… C-lebrity is unfortunately named, but the track brings the rawk. It’s a breath of fresh air after that previous track. Heavy blues rocker. Loved it. Nice old-school Queen harmonies.
Through The Night’s guitar intro is fabulous. More piano and slow-burner ballad. It plods a bit, but I suppose that was the point. GUITAR SOLO! Damn… Say It’s Not True is yet another ballad. It’s lovely enough, with country chord changes and odd vocal effects that negate the whole thing. Would’ve left those off, were it me. And once again WOW THAT GUITAR. The song takes off and becomes a full on rock crasher without raising its tempo.
Surf’s Up… School’s Out builds into a harmonica rocker with great energy. Such a simple tune but still chugs along. The outro is a little odd, but there you go… And finally we have Small (reprise). I never understood reprises. I suppose it makes for a prettier ending (not like the ending of the last track didn’t try), and it gives them yet another chance to hammer home their message, but, uh, guys… we heard this before! Ah well.
In sum? I really liked this record. ‘The guitar is the champion, my friends…’ There’s enough here to keep an attentive listener busy for a long time. My meager words here have barely even scratched the surface of what I would probably write if I had time to start listing all of the ways it’s awesome. If you haven’t heard it, get it in yer ears. And huge thanks to Mike for setting me up with this complex and varied record!
Step up to the bar for another round of your favourites… Can you believe this entry makes 25 of them already? I know!
21 HANSEN9J: Big Wreck – The Pleasure And The Greed
There was a time when I was definitely into Big Wreck, and then (as so often happens), I moved on to other bands, other sounds. In all fairness, they were only around for two records, so they didn’t have much time to entrench themselves… But hearing them again, now, was a real pleasure.
At the time, I was more into their first record, In Loving Memory Of…, but I had this one too and it was an excellent effort. Ian Thornley has a strong, distinctive voice, and the band is tight and heavy. I’d forgotten how long it is, with 16 full tracks, definitely not your typical album release.
Funny, for all the shows I went to around that time, I never got the chance to see this band in concert, but I imagine it would have been a huge show. Thanks, HANSEN9J, the nostalgia here did my heart good.
22 OMG IT’S FEELY: Everclear – So Much For The Afterglow
From its Beach Boys-inspired opening strains, So Much For The Afterglow builds into an entirely pleasing rock-pop record. Like Big Wreck (above) and a pile of others, this was a band that I was playing quite a bit in my mix of latter-day grunge/punk. I bonded more closely with Sparkle And Fade, probably because I saw the band live in 1996, before Afterglow came out. I remember one of the band members walking down the line of amps and turning everything to full…
This is a spiffy collection of tracks, and the years have done nothing to diminish them.
23 FCOLL REVIEWS: Glasvegas – Glasvegas
FCOLL REVIEWS chimed in with this soaring slice of Britpop as the current winner, another response offering up a contemporary record not an all-time favourite. Since the question didn’t specify one or the other, fair enough!
This record is a veritable wall of sound. Every instrument is treated to full-on stadium effect. Hell, the first track is an album unto itself, with its intro and outro and near-seven minute length. There’s calculated ambition aplenty here, a perfect studio-produced gem.
Personally, though, the record didn’t do much for me – on a listening level. I’m not their target market. I’ve never been a fan of that Brit-wave of Coldplay or Oasis (who even gets a shout out in track 3), and the endless list of other similar-sounding (to me) bands. If this is the current sound out of the UK, to me it sounds the same as it did fifteen years ago. The subtle differences between these groups is lost on me.
The cracked-voice affectations, learned over years of hearing other people do bad impersonations of people whose voices actually cracked when they sang, quickly grew old. Fun to once again hear the rolled ‘R’s of Scotland, though I wonder if even those have been increased, at points, beyond conversational accent.
Still, my thanks to FCOLL for introducing me to something I probably wouldn’t have heard otherwise. It’s good for me to broaden horizons now and again. Cheers!
24 STEVE: Queen – A Night At The Opera
I’ve never known whether to take Queen seriously or not. I mean, I do – listen to how powerful Mercury’s voice was, and May is a guitar g-d to those in the know. The band wrote excellent songs that have definitely withstood the tests of time and held the fleeting attention spans of the average rock radio listener. They are definitely in the pantheon.
But there are other times when I think Queen is kind of goofy.. in a nice, safe, Monty Python kind of way. Like they took what they were doing perfectly seriously but were still sniggering backstage before going out to play a concert like they were ten year old school boys getting away with something. And no, Mercury’s predilections had nothing to do with that last comment, shame on you for thinking it… Look, sometimes their songs strike me as wonky. Maybe I should blame Mike Meyers…
So, when Steve offered up this album as his favourite, I approached with both thoughts in mind, and was certainly pleased with what I heard. This is a cool record. It has all the hallmarks of the Queen sound (and you know what they are, I won’t list them here), and fulfills both my opinions of the band. I don’t know why Steve chose it, but good on you, man.
25 DENISE: Madonna – The Immaculate Collection
Here we go. I have a confession to make. Ready? I owned tapes of Madonna in the 80’s. I know, I know. Not what you’d think of me. And then when Brian gave me back all of my tapes I discovered that I now own them again. I haven’t played them in the car yet, but I’m not afraid to either. I just haven’t hit that level of nostalgia yet.
So Denise chose this hits collection as her favourite. Fair enough. We all know every word to every song on this record, largely because they were hammered into our brains so often as to be impossible to ignore. Damn you, pop radio and Video Hits! Even the songs for which I didn’t know the titles, I knew the songs themselves. So it goes.
Did I like it? Well, sure. Why not. I mean, a piece of our past is always welcome around here occasionally, as long as it takes its shoes off at the door and doesn’t just pick the pretzels out of the party mix. Will I listen to it often? No, not likely. Chacun son gout, d’accord?