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Queen
Elektra EKS-75064
Released: September 1973
Chart Peak: #83
Weeks Charted: 22
Certified Gold: 3/29/77

John DeaconRoger TaylorBrian MayFreddie MercuryRumor has it that Queen shall soon be crowned "the new Led Zeppelin," which is an event that would certainly suit this observer fine. There's no doubt that this funky, energetic English quartet has all the tools they'll need to lay claim to Zep's abdicated heavy-metal throne, and beyond that to become a truly influential force in the rock world. Their debut album is superb.

The Zeppelin analogy is not meant to imply that Queen's music is anywhere near as blues-based as the content of Led Zep I & II. No, their songs are more in the Who vein, straight-ahead rock with slashing, hard-driving arrangements that rate with the finest moments of Who's Next and Quadrophenia. Yet there's a certain level of intelligence with which the show is presented, a structured sanity that coexists alongside the maniacal fury that gives me the impression that the band must have had a lot of Yessongs on their turntables in the three years this album was taking shape.

Queen - Queen
Original album advertising art.
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"Great King Rat" and "Doing All Right" are most indicative of Queen's product, each a lengthy piece composed of several vignettes. The contrasting moods of the latter are stark, at opposite moments calm and thunderous, summoning up memories of a thing called "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You." The group does direct, three-chord rock just as well, though, with "Keep Yourself Alive" displaying a truly awesome move for the jugular.

Personnel: Brian May plays guitar, and if it seems as though he really knows the ins and outs of his instrument it's for good reason. He made it himself, from wood he found in a 100-year-old fireplace, a bizarre creation with rollers where you'd normally expect to find a nut. And where you'd normally expect to find holes in a three-piece band's sound you'll instead find May making excellent use of his instrument's attributes. A master of fuzz, wah and sustain, his solos are persistent, hard-hitting and to the point.

Vocalist Freddie Mercury has a strong, steady voice that never lacks for power and authority. Through the storms of "Liar" to the artsy, choir-boy innocence of "My Fairy King" he handles a wide range of vocal chores, never once losing his air of cocky, regal arrogance.

Let's just say that the product of drummer Roger Medows Taylor and bassist John Deacon is explosive, a colossal sonic volcano whose eruption maketh the earth tremble.

There's a song on the album (remarkably reminiscent of "Communication Breakdown") called "Modern Times Rock 'N' Roll," and that's exactly what Queen's music is. They're the first of a whole new wave of English rockers, and you'd best learn to love 'em now 'cause they're here to stay. Regal bearings aside, Queen is a monster.

- Gordon Fletcher, Rolling Stone, 12/6/73.

Bonus Reviews!

Far above-average rock set from British band, featuring powerful lead vocals from Freddie Mercury and superb guitar work, acoustic and electric, from Brian May. Best cuts: "Doing All Right," "Great King Rat."

- Billboard, 1973.

Roaring and stomping with all the high pitched power of the old Led Zeppelin, Queen shows promise of becoming one of the most exciting bands in the British rock pile. The songs start up slowly, build power, until they have you sprawled across the room wondering what happened. Freddie Mercury's vocals are Plantish enough, but show a unique exhuberance all their own. The rest of the band sounds like World War II in progress and Brian May plays guitar like a kamakazee pilot. What more could you ask for?

- Ed Naha, Circus, 1/74.

Queen had already staked out a distinct identity by the time of their debut album, led by Freddie Mercury's big-voiced flamboyance and Brian May's slabs of hard rock guitar, all in the service of surprisingly poppy tunes. The most memorable track is the lead-off song, "Keep Yourself Alive." * *

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

(2011 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) When Queen debuted in 1973, their mix of hammering jams and folksy asides was closer to Zeppelin than to the stadium-killing theatricality they would later perfect. This revelatory reissue -- one of five Queen albums being rereleased with BBC sessions, live cuts, B sides and more -- highlights the band's raw roots, particularly on a series of 1971 demos. On those tracks Freddie Mercury already belts like the superstar he'd become, but the instrumental intensity nearly upstages him: Brian May's guitar screams through bolder and longer versions of "Jesus" and "Liar" while the rhythm section gallops in tight formation. Later LPs are more refined, but this two-disc set is a compelling portrait of vehement and nearly violent art.

- Barry Walters, Rolling Stone, 6/9/11. * * * *

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