Anniversary edition expands Queensrÿche ‘Empire’

Empire
(20th Anniversary Edition)
Capitol Records (509999 06686 23)
Grade: ****

By Michael Popke

“Empire” remains the pivotal album in Queensrÿche’s expansive catalog. Not only did the 1990 album sustain the momentum of 1988’s “Operation: Mindcrime,” it also proved that an American band could take smart metal to the masses with heady and heavy songs. “Empire” went triple platinum, peaking at No. 7 on Billboard’s Top 200 and spawning six singles.

Remastered once again for this two-disc anniversary edition, “Empire” sounds almost as good as it did in the pre-“Nevermind” era. “The Thin Line” and “Della Brown” still pale compared to the other nine tracks, but Queensrÿche never again swaggered as it did on the defiant “Best I Can,” the politically bold title track and the lover’s bravado of “One and Only.”

Three bonus cuts include the overlooked “Last Time in Paris” from “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” soundtrack and a haunting version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair,” both previously available on the 2003 reissue of “Empire.” A second disc contains an unreleased warts-and-all 10-song set recorded in 1990 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, featuring seven “Empire” cuts.

But an essay on this classic album’s place in rock history would have been more welcome than five useless photo cards and a fold-out cartoon poster.

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