A Night At The Opera: Why It’s Queen’s Greatest Album

A Night At The Opera

Amazon CD Link

We are living in a very exciting time in 2019. For the first time in the past twenty years a good majority of young people are finally realizing what they have been missing. After having no interest in classic rock except for the occasional guitar hero game, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody movie has turned younger people on to listening to classic rock music. For those of us old enough to remember buying the album when it was first released, it’s astonishing that it took this long for younger people to recognize how great this music was and still is. This review will serve two purposes. The first will hopefully entice our current youth generation to go out and buy the CD or at least purchase a download of the entire album. The second purpose will serve as a reminder to old fans how great this record really was.

Queen’s album A Night At The Opera was the band’s fourth official studio album release. The band’s debut album entitled Queen was released in 1973. The follow-up album appropriately titled Queen II was released in 1974. Later that year Queen released Sheer Heart Attack. In 1975, Queen released A Night At The Opera. Four incredible rock albums were released over a span of just three years.

By the time A Night At The Opera was released, Queen had already generated a huge following. However, it was nothing compared to the mass audience the band would capture with the success of the song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” from A Night At The Opera. While the song “Bohemian Rhapsody,”  has become symbolic of Queen’s breakthrough success to a mass audience in 1976 and once again in 2019, the album A Night At The Opera was a magnificent record that showcased the talents of every member of the band Queen. It was a record that defined how the band as a whole became a powerful rock and roll machine composing and producing legendary rock tracks that would stand the test of time.

A Night At The Opera – Side One:

Queen’s A Night At The Opera album opens up with the intense track “Death On Two Legs.” The opening piano riff performed by Freddie Mercury is quickly kidnapped by Brian May’s sci-fi sounding doom-filled guitar lick that sounds like nothing the listener has ever heard before. The song lyrics were filled with anger towards Queen’s first manager Norman Sheffield.

“Death On Two Legs,” is followed on the album by Freddie Mercury’s solo piano and vocal performance of his song “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon.” It was fascinating how Queen could record such heavy stuff and then counter with songs that sounded like wonderful ballads from the 1940s. That was Queen.

Roger Taylor’s iconic song “I’m In Love With My Car,” served as the third track on the record. There was always a contingent of Queen fans who loved Roger Taylor’s contributions as a composer to the Queen albums. This one was huge and is probably the most loved Roger Taylor Queen song ever released. How can you not love the lyrics to this song? Roger Taylor’s vocal performance on this track was one for the ages. Best line “Told my girl I had to forget her, rather buy me a new carburetor.”

John Deacon always seemed to be the mysterious one in the band. In concert, he just stood his ground in the same spot. However, John Deacon’s personality shined huge in his composition “You’re My Best Friend.” I there ever was a song that sounded like a hit single in the album it was John Deacon’s You’re My Best Friend. From the opening Fender Rhodes piano riff, this song was money!

“You’re My Best Friend,” was followed on side one by Brian May’s “Sweet Lady.”The musical differences between each track on the album were incredible. Nonetheless, it’s also what made listening to the album so enjoyable. Every song had a completely different feel. tempo and production. However, it always was connected by the personality of each member of the band working together in union to make it all work.

Side two closes with another cabaret-sounding Freddie Mercury tune entitled “Seaside Rendezvous.” It’s a party song sounding once again like it was written in the 1940’s. The band seems to having a blast playing in this one. Paul McCartney used to write a song like this every once in a while on his solo albums. Songs such as “You Gave Me The Answer,” from Venus and Mars were always a tribute to the 1940’s. However, Paul McCartney’s seemed to be more of a respectful spoof while Freddie Mercury’s 1940s-sounding songs seemed to be just Freddie Mercury being Freddie Mercury. 

A Night At The Opera – Side Two:

Side Two of Queen’s album A Night At The Opera opens with the epic masterpiece The Prophet’s Song. This is probably one of the most underrated songs in the Queen catalog. It was simply overshadowed by the album’s hit singles. In the 1970’s rock artists put out albums on a consistent basis. Bands and artists like The Beatles, Elton John, etc were putting out albums every six months. No one milked albums for every song to be released as a single. Bands released one or two singles and then bang! out comes the next album. So in the end songs like “The Prophet’s Song,” gets overlooked. We won’t overlook this one here. And now you know!!!

“The Prophet’s Song,” was followed on the album by the tender emotional ballad “Love Of My Life.” It became one of the most loved songs in the band’s history. After Freddie Mercury passed away, Queen continued on eventually with different lead singers. The band would perform the songs but Paul Rogers and Adam Lambert would never sing the song. When Paul Rogers toured with Queen, he let the audience sing it. It was just too personal of a song. Queen would use Freddie Mercury’s vocal track on the song in concert when they were working with Adam Lambert.

Brian May’s “Good Company,” serves as the track that falls in between the two emotional high points on the album. Once again, Queen turns to a 1940s-sounding melody and arrangement in the song “Good Company.” Looking back, what’s interesting is the 1940s were closer to the 1970s than the 1970s are to us in 2019. It just puts everything into respective.

The album’s closing track minus Brian May’s take on “God Save The Queen,” was “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  When we first heard it back in 1976, we were shocked. Everyone was shocked. Some loved it, some did not. In the end, many more people loved it way more than those who disliked it. What is truly outstanding about “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is the song’s shelf life. The song has resurfaced many times on a mass cultural scale over the past 40 years. The song’s first big resurgence happened when it was utilized in the movie Waynes World in 1992. The placement of the song in the movie was so strong that it actually won an MTV Video Award for “Best Video From A Film.”

The release of the Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody has not only fueled the song’s resurgence once again but as we all know, it has catapulted the band back to the forefront of popular culture. In 1976, Freddie Mercury and Queen were at their creative peak. The album A Night At The Opera is all the proof one needs to argue that point. Queen’s next two albums A Day At The Races and News of The World were also brilliant records but A Night At The Opera was their greatest album. An album that contained a brilliant mix of songs and an epic musical piece in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” that may just become the greatest rock song ever released.

A Night At The Opera: Why It’s Queen’s Greatest Album article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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