Album Of The Week - Queen - The Works
We continue a theme of classic albums this week by stopping off once again in the 1980s, but this time for Queen's eleventh studio album, The Works.
The Works would see Queen return to a more rock-driven sound following 1981's Hot Space LP, but their signature sound would become infused with notes from the future and funk from the past. Tracks like the trademark Radio Ga Ga exemplify the first part perfectly, with Mercury's vocal satirising technology. Specifically, his lyrics talk about the advent of television overtaking radio as the main means of receiving music viewing and how the works of MTV are changing the ways people consume the medium. It's got a brilliant music video too, incorporating pieces from Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis, which is also meant to be rather good.
Tear It Up harks back to the days of proper hard rock with Brian May's seething guitar riff and Roger Taylor's wonderfully hard drumming that complements Freddie's vocal perfectly. In-keeping with throwbacks also, Man On The Prowl is fantastically reminiscent of the rock 'n' roll of the late fifties and early sixties, with Mercury's vocal taking on characteristics of the great rockers of the time, like Elvis Presley. As with all good rock 'n' roll tunes, this song is made by its frantic piano towards the end that's a reminder of the times of Jerry Lee Lewis and artists of that ilk.
The futuristic sounds continue on Machines (Or 'Back to Humans') with its synth-driven 'demolition' sound and robotic voice provided by Roger Taylor through a voice changer. It describes this idea of a computer-owned world and the inevitable idea that machines will take over in this Machine World that the track describes. There's more hard rock on the back-end of the LP with Hammer To Fall giving us more of the classic Queen sound from the mid-to-late seventies that would continue right up to and past The Works. It's four minutes of pure grunt, with some guitar-based attitude from Brian May, as well as a fantastic solo around halfway through the song.
One song I'll give a little more time to is the tremendous Is This The World We Created...?. The best version that exists of this incredible song has to be from Live Aid back in 1985, with the pure emotion that comes from the wonderful combination of Freddie's vocal and the delicate notes of Brian May's acoustic guitar. It's written to condemn all the poverty and suffering that people in Africa were going through then and still are now. There's no finer song to close an album with than that and indeed, it was a perfect song for that now infamous Live Aid set.
The Works is one of Queen's more overlooked albums when put with News Of The World or A Day At The Races, but that doesn't make it any less brilliant than those others. It's an eclectic mix of tunes right from fifties rock 'n' roll up to properly futuristic synth-driven magic. If you're going to listen to one album this year, make it The Works. You can't find many better.
More musical magnificence to come next week!