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News of the World

Elektra 6E-112
Released: November 1977
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 37
Certified Platinum: 12/28/77

John DeaconRoger TaylorBrian MayFreddie MercuryQueen makes elaborate music from shards of nostalgia for the British Empire. They push boys' public-school chorales and English martial music through the funnel of hard rock, aiming carefully at romantic crescendos embellished with heavy echo. Apparently, the intention is that the long-tarnished glories of "tradition" will be repolished on the band's hard pumice.

Most of the songs on News of the World either challenge Queen's artistic enemies or endeavor to establish a vision of the new order. "We Are the Champions" ends with the line, "No time for losers, 'cause we are the champions -- of the world." It's an appropriate comment for a side that also includes "We Will Rock You," which has the atmosphere of a political rally in a Leni Riefenstahl movie and is at once a rock anthem and a commandment. "Sheer Heart Attack" makes Queen the first major band to attempt a demonstration of superiority over punk rock by marching onto its stylistic turf. It works, too, because the power trio behind vocalist Freddie Mercury is truly primitive. Once you've seen Queen onstage , away from the cut and paste of the studio, it's painfully clear that "Sheer Heart Attack" is less a matter of slumming than of warfare among equals in incompetent musicianship.

Queen - News Of The World
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
The rest of side one uses the elaborate Led Zeppelin approach for which Queen is famous, but the songs go even further into punk sociology, reaching a peak with "Fight from the Inside," which seems nothing less than a Tory's sketch for a junta. It's sung like a slogan fired from a machine gun.

This is chilling stuff, but the coldness seems to befit Queen. On side two, the group lolls through a series of songs about sexual failure (hers!), stardom and ennui as they make a mildly persuasive argument for boredom as the proper posture prior to the apocalypse.

Late sons of the Empire though they may be, Queen has nothing to fear, or to do. In their moneyed superiority, they are indeed champions. Such are the salient fictions of which todays' Top Ten albums are made.

- Bart Testa, Rolling Stone, 2/9/78.

Bonus Reviews!

I've admired Queen's precision of execution and their technique, and if their albums have tended to sound the same, well, that's the way of hard rock. This time out, though, Queen seems to have gone to some lengths to ensure variety in each cut. There certainly is a diversity of arrangements and attitudes on the album. "We Will Rock You" has an amplified drum effect that sounds like the entire population of New Delhi chewing on betel nuts, and "Sheer Heart Attack" is as powerful a straight-ahead, hard-rocking performance as you're likely to hear. "All Dead, All Dead" is a cool ballad, and "My Melancholy Blues" is done as a spoof of torch singing. Quite impressive.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 3/78.

Queen's characteristic use of grandiosity rising from a basic rock lineup drives the group's latest LP through its soundtrack-like song structure. Alternating between clear melodic piano to solid driving rock guitar force, the songs range from a strolling acoustic samba/ballad to a heavy dose of punk frenzy. Freddie Mercury's crystal operatic voice spearheads vocal contributions from the entire quartet featuring moments of rich harmonic texture. Songs of self-potential realization, youthful searching, frustration and love memories comprise the group's writing and production efforts. Best cuts: "We Are The Champions," "Sheer Heart Attack," "It's Late."

- Billboard, 1977.

In which the group that last January brought us a $7.98 LP to boycott devotes one side to the wantonness of woman and the other to the futile rebelliousness of the doomed-to-life losers (those saps!) (you saps!) who buy and listen. C

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Queen's magnificent rock anthem "We Will Rock You" fails to pack either the expected stomping low frequency power or the slicing clarity from Brian May's lead guitar. Indeed the story here is much the same as with A Night at the Opera -- a slightly lacklustre and muddled sound, especially in the heavily produced sections of songs like the hit "We Are the Champions" and the wall-of-sound which introduces "Sheer Heart Attack." At least the reproduction medium is free from distortion when reproducing the very limited dynamic range high level rockers -- cymbals are positively leaden.

"Flight from the Inside" does however manage to power its way through the limitations of multi-track analogue taping with its incessant pounding drum sound (echoing the beat of "Champions") and its processed, packaged vocals, as does the simpler mix in the raunchy but toungue-in-cheek "Get Down Make Love" and the predominantly acoustic track "Who Needs You." Hiss is present but not unduly obtrusive.

Queen deserved digital technology ten years before it was generally available!

Comments relate to UK sourced EMI discs -- the Elektra issues were not auditioned.

- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.

In the balance between Queen's operatic tendencies and its desire to rock out, the rock side once again gained an upper hand on this release. Not that the bombast lessened, but songs like "We Will Rock You" were actually dry runs for the stripped-down approach of The Game, and even "We Are the Champions" was a ballad. Well, almost. * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

News of the World is as entertaining an album as A Night at the Opera or A Day at the Races. It finds Queen moving into the safer regions of rock, marking something of an end to Queen's most adventurous period. * * * * 1/2

- Mike Joiner, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

From the classic stadium chant "We Will Rock You" and the famous "We Are the Champions" to the punk smackdown of "Sheer Heart Attack," this is an awesome album that any collection of great '70s R&R cannot be without. It's cohesive but covers an eclectic range of styles and stands as perhaps the powerhouse group's most introspective and emotional work, made all the better by Freddie's phenomenally strong vocals. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

1977, the year that punk rock exploded in the UK, saw Queen produce its third blockbusting album in a row. The band's two previous "companion" albums, A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races, had confirmed the four piece as one of the best "pomp" rock acts around, but News Of The World, which reached Number Four in the UK and the third slot in the US, took Queen to the next level, powering them to become one of the world's premier stadium acts. And what better to play in a stadium than an anthem? The album possessed two such epics, in the form of "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions," both of which featured on one single released in the UK and US, hitting Numbers Two and Four respectively in these countries' charts. The single gave Elektra records their first 2,000,000 selling single, while the album spent 37 weeks in the charts.

News Of The World, despite being the band's quickest album to record, is no two-track wonder. It also contains brooding numbers such asd "Spread Your Wings" and the jazz-like "My Melancholy Blues," together with full-speed rock tracks such as "Sheer Heart Attack," seen by many fans the band's riposte to the burgeoning punk movement, which saw in Queen everything that was overblown in rock. The album cover is by the renowned sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas.

As of 2004, News Of The World was the #52 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

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