Monday, February 9, 2009

Queen - Queen II

10/10

This is kind of an important album for me. You see, up until a few years ago, I really couldn't have cared less about music. You see, I was a video game fan. I was a Nintendo fanboy, and I was also a JRPG fan. This caused problems during the N64 era, as I refused to buy systems made by other companies, and there were a grand total of two decent RPGs produced for the N64. One of them was Paper Mario, and the other was a game called Ogre Battle 64. I had enjoyed the SNES game, the first in the series (an SNES sequel had gone unreleased in the States until it was released in an extremely laggy port for the PSX).
In my senior year of high school, I found out that the Ogre Battle series was named after a Queen song. I wasn't too familiar with Queen (knowing little beyond their most famous hits), so I decided to pick up the album which had Ogre Battle on it, and I was blown away. I had Queen's entire discography within months. And my video game obsession eventually dwindled; today all I own is a DS and a few games for it.
Queen II is kinda sorta vaguely a concept album. Instead of being divided into "Side A" and "Side B", the sides are called "White" and "Black," with most of the "White" songs written by Brian May and all of the "Black" songs written by Freddie Mercury. There's a pretty heavy medieval theme running throughout most of the songs, which is surprising since most of the material isn't that folky. The production is creative, with lots of awesome vocal harmonies and creative tricks (for example, the end of "Ogre Battle" is the beginning played backwards)
This album exists on a grandiose scale. From tales of father-son relationships ("Father to Son"), beautiful romantic ballads ("White Queen," "Some Day One Day" and the too-brief "Nevermore") and awesome battle epics ("Ogre Battle," and "The March of the Black Queen,") this album has it all. The one blemish is "The Loser in the End," the token Roger song which closes out the first side; it's one of his better efforts, but it just does not fit in with the rest of the album at all.
It's a crying shame that that the single "Seven Seas of Rhye" was the only song on the album that remotely resembled a hit; while the majority of their later work is great, I would've been perfectly fine with Queen recording a few more albums just like this one. Oh well. Since I got more into music and amassed an impressive album collection, this album doesn't blow me away nearly as much as it used to. Still, it's one of my favorites, and easily gets the 10. It's just as well that this album caused me to be more of a music fan that a gaming fan, since Square/Enix bought up the company that made the Ogre Battle games and have done nothing but sit on the franchise.
One last note: The current releases of Queen albums all come with bonus tracks. I generally don't include bonus tracks in my score, but the B-side "See What a Fool I've Been" may well be the gayest thing ever recorded, which is weird because I don't think even Freddie was sure he was gay when this album was recorded. There are also two remixes. The "Ogre Battle" remix isn't that bad, but the "Seven Seas of Rhye" remix is an abomination which stretches the song out to twice its original length and fills the excess time with oom-tiss dance music. Ugh.

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