The Queen album Brian May struggled to listen to

Brian May

Typically, bands require some time to iron out the kinks before committing to a specific sound. With very few exceptions, anybody who has ever attempted to break into the industry ends up making something more than mildly embarrassing on their first record or spending the entire time trying to figure out what the hell they want to sound like to gain some experience in the music business. Brian May still feels that listening to Queen’s debut album now is a little difficult on the ears. However, the band came into the world fully formed on that record.

On their debut, however, Queen had the sheer force behind their music down to a tee compared to their peers. Even though ‘Keep Yourself Alive‘ was as straightforward as they would ever get, the strength of the guitars was instantly apparent. More importantly, the vocal harmonies were also immediately noticeable. It sounded almost like they were attempting to use their voices to form a rock and roll choir.

Even a few hints of their future direction can be found later in the album. While a song like “Great King Rat” was too much for some listeners to take in at once, ballads like “Doing All Right” and “The Night Comes Down” gave listeners their first taste of their softer side. A song that big and expansive was also enough to lay the groundwork for what “Bohemian Rhapsody” would accomplish a few albums later.

Brian May told Guitar World that although the band was capable of covering a lot of ground, they weren’t quite masters of any of them yet. “Our major frustration was the sound of that first album, which we were never happy with,” May said. We were thrust into a system that considered itself to be state-of-the-art and thrown into a studio, but they would all be down and dead. I distinctly recall telling Roy Thomas Baker, “This isn’t the sound we want.” “Don’t worry, we can fix it all in the mix,” he said. This is not the ideal approach, is it?

Still, by the standards of most other rock bands, this rough-and-tumble Queen hardly sounds like a downgrade. A few disjointed moments, such as Roger Taylor’s ‘Modern Times Rock and Roll’. Other sporadic sections, such as the instrumental rendition of ‘Seven Seas of Rhye,’ practically act as a preview. This preview showcases what they would accomplish just one album later.

Not that Brian May didn’t already have his act together. He exhibits a remarkable sense of harmony right from the opening bars of ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. He nearly transforms his guitar into a symphony during the solo section. And he achieves this by overdubbing different harmony lines in the final bars.

Queen II was probably a better representation of the group’s goals than Queen. Queen served as a respectable way to showcase the group at its best. Tracks like ‘Father to Son‘ and ‘Ogre Battle‘ offered fans their first glimpse of the musical behemoth they were about to become. The vocals became much more pronounced, and the guitars punchier.

Queen might have been constrained by the circumstances surrounding the group’s formation, but listening to it would hardly make you aware of it. If anything, this demonstrated that Queen, despite being a gritty rock and roll group, was a unique breed. They could take their songs in any direction they pleased.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Like