My Fairy King

One of my favorite Queen albums is Queen at the BBC. It’s eight tracks, presumably with some overdubs, of a live performance on the BBC radio. It’s from right after Queen II came out, and contains a bunch of their awesome, early classic rock/prog-ish songs.

The album was recorded around 1974 but never released until the early 1990s, on compact disc. The funny thing is, you never hear Freddie Mercury sing much falsetto after this mid-70s period. And they never played many of these songs live once they hit their stride with A Night at the Opera.

I have friends who can’t really get into Queen because, although some of the music rocks really hard, and the guitars are always amazingly gorgeous, the lyrics are sometimes just so goofy or flamboyantor obnoxiously upbeat or something. I personally find the words to often be kinda charming, but I guess if you have a preference for grim, “hard” lyrics you should look elsewhere.

The lyrics certainly can be kinda silly, but at the same time they’re incredibly poignant. The lyrics to “My Fairy King” or “Great King Rat” sound cheesy but yet so perfectly in-line with the subject matter; they’re totally honest and vivid songs, lyrically. The fantastical lyrics actually evoke hardcore fantasy locales much more than any modern D&D power metal or prog band can; and these are bands which use such themes endlessly as running schticks. That’s an admirable thing when you consider that Queen only did the prog-fantasy thing on a few albums at the beginning of their career.

Additionally, many elements found here clearly inspired later musicians. For example, the harmonized lead guitar break in “Liar” brings to mind the Japanese-influenced shredding leads of Marty Friedman (Marty has said before that Brian May is his favorite guitarist), not to mention it sounds far superior to the supremely embarrassing Yngwie song of the same title. Certain songs from this era had a clear influence on Rob Halford and Judas Priest. Just listen to the track “Epitaph” from Sad Wings of Destiny and tell me that isn’t completely fueled by the song “Nevermore” off of Queen II. Amusingly, I have always have thought of Freddie Mercury’s early stuff as being like what King Diamond or Ihsahn would do if they were more upbeat. Uh, or Rob Halford. Duh!

And Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian wouldn’t be the same singer at all without Freddie Mercury’s influence. Blind Guardian even did an album called A Night at the Opera in obvious reference to the seminal Queen album of the same title. The final track on Blind Guardian’s album is one of the most ambitious works of multi-tracked vocals in existence, referencing the same pinnacle Queen achieved with several songs off their own A Night at the Opera back in 1977.

So get this one. It’s only 8 tracks, but most of them are around 5-6 minutes and have an impressive sense of composition. The versions of “Great King Rat” and “Keep Yourself Alive” are particularly inspired (better than the album versions), from back when Queen was a young band and had a more frenetic energy. The guitars and drums are thicker here and there’s a smoky vibe reminiscent of rock music from this era. Oh mein gott, it rocks with so much pizazz!

Queen – “My Fairy King” – Queen at the BBC

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on September 2, 2008.

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