By Gillian G. Gaar
News of the World
Hollywood Records (D001410102)
Hollywood Records (D001410402)
Hollywood Records (D001410702)
Flash Gordon original soundtrack
Hollywood Records (D001411002)
Hollywood Records (D001411302)
With “News Of The World,” released in 1977, Queen left behind the fey foppery of the band’s earlier releases in favor of unabashed arena rock — a point the opening tracks on this album, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” make abundantly clear.
In this batch of five reissues, it’s the most successful as a complete album; the low point (the hackneyed “Spread Your Wings”) is more than made up for by Roger Taylor’s punishing “Sheer Heart Attack,” the sizzling funk of “Get Down, Make Love,” and the salsa kiss-off “Who Needs You.” Of the five bonus tracks (each CD has five), the most interesting is “Feelings Feelings,” a song from the band’s pre-John Deacon days.
“Jazz” is Queen’s most idiosyncratic album. In the fuss over the naked women used in the “Bicycle Race” promo film, the album’s other tracks were overlooked — like sheer oddity of the Middle Eastern flavored opening, “Mustapha.” Though an inconsistent album (“If You Can’t Beat Them” is surprisingly unimaginative) “Fat Bottomed Girls” is deliciously silly, Taylor has another strong moment in “More of That Jazz,” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” is one of Freddie Mercury’s best pop rockers. The best bonus tracks are alternate versions of “Bicycle Race” and “Dreamers Ball.”
The record is more like a loose collection of songs than a cohesive album, with too many forgettable numbers (like the strangely upbeat “Don’t Try Suicide”). The most interesting bonus track is an early version of “It’s A Beautiful Day,” a song that later appeared on the posthumous “Made In Heaven.”
The “Flash Gordon” soundtrack is a record only the fans will want, as there are only two complete songs; while the remaining musical themes are well crafted, they’re also fairly short.
The album decides to use the pieces as linking tracks between snatches of the film’s dialogue, creating a storybook effect. The bonus tracks offer interesting early versions of the material.
“Hot Space” was lambasted for its dance rock groove on first release. But it’s actually aged rather nicely, especially since hip-hop, funk and dance rock are now so much a part of the musical landscape. Of course, if you prefer your Queen to rock hard, “Hot Space” will be unsatisfying (though it does include the classic “Under Pressure”). But there’s a welcome energy to the album, and Mercury’s vocals, on songs like “Staying Power,” are bracingly taut. No outtakes among the bonus material; just a B-side, single remix and live tracks. All the reissues are worth buying for the improved sound alone.