With A Night at the Opera, Queen’s popularity soared into the stratosphere. They gained some acceptance on their three previous albums with singles like “Killer Queen” and progressive rock opuses like Queen II, but with Night at the Opera it was tantamount to an explosion. Songs like “You’re My Best Friend” and especially “Bohemian Rhapsody” will forever be present in the minds of music lovers everywhere. There was no turning back for these fellows now.
This album is the first to depart from the balls-out and continuous rock and roll of their previous three recordings, though you wouldn’t know it from the start. “Death on Two Legs” is an aggressive ode to an unscrupulous manager that must have ripped them off in some manner. This song rocks so hard, it hurts! Other rocking numbers include “Sweet Lady” and the Roger Taylor sung “I’m In Love With My Car.”
The record goes through so many disparate styles, and is a wonder of production and technique. Songs like “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon,” “Seaside Rendezvous” and Brian May’s “Good Company” are examples of the “veddy british” attitude with cute little campy ditties that lighten up the mood. Queen never seem to take themselves too seriously even though the approach to all aspects of the recording of the album are meticulous and deliberate. Producer Roy Thomas Baker surely spent some time pouring over the numerous tracks used in the production of this album with all the overdubbed vocals, guitars and percussion utilized in the making of Night at the Opera. But, “No Synthesizers!” says the album sleeve.
Bassist John Deacon seemed to have a knack for penning great pop hits for the band. “You’re My Best Friend” is another example of this. Brian May’s “’39” is quite singable and easy going as well. Freddie Mercury’s “Love of My Life” is perhaps one of the most beautiful ballads performed by the band. “The Prophet Song” might have fit in very nicely on one of the first two albums from Queen where the more progressive rock and forceful tight harmonies were evident. The song’s vocal rounds and harmonies are absolutely gorgeous.
What rock have you been hiding under if you have not heard “Bohemian Rhapsody?” It was a top 40 hit twice! Once when the album was released in 1975 and again over fifteen years later when those wacky guys from SNL made Wayne’s World and featured it in the movie during a classic car scene with the actors mouthing the lyrics, head banging and playing air instruments. This example of opera meets rock and roll is timeless and one of the all-time great rock songs by anyone.
This is Rock and Roll theatre, and one of the best examples of what Queen were capable of. You cannot call yourself a rock music fan never having heard this album. It is essential for any music collection.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 24th, 2010