by / September 15th, 2011 /

Queen – News Of The World / Jazz / The Game / Hot Space

 3/5 Rating

(Universal)

While they still remain reasonably high in the public conciousness (as seen by last week’s celebration of Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday), it’s safe to say that most people’s knowledge of Queen is limited to the singles, Live Aid and a few key points. New label Universal, though, are trying to refocus attention on their history as an albums band, working their way through a 15 record career. While the first set of releases pushed at an open door with some genuine classics, this next four are perhaps a tougher sell. It all starts off so well with 1977’s News Of The World. Prompted – if not actively influenced by – the onset of punk, it saw the band at the rawest since their first record. It suited them, showcasing a different sound after the audio excess of A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races. Not that it was without ambition, taking in blues (‘Sleeping On The Sidewalk’), hard edged funk (the NIN covered ‘Get Down Make Love’) and even bossa nova (‘Who Needs You’). And was there ever a hit single quite as out there as ‘We Will Rock You’? Stunning from start to finish, if you get one Queen album from this selection – no, even one Queen album period – make it this one. The shame is that they would be this good again.

From here they began to slide, creatively if not commercially. Jazz (their seventh album in sixth years) was a mess, propelled as ever by some great singles (you can’t go wrong with ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ to be fair) but despite this, the amount of filler suggested that something had to change. It did too. After the great double album Live Killers – omitted from this process unfortunately – they returned in 1980 with The Game, their first record not to bare the up till then trademark ‘no synths!’ boast. Queen had finally allowed the modern day into the world, although it was the Elvis tinged ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ that gave the album a flagship. Like its predecessor, it’s no great shakes either – with ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ setting the tone for a record that saw them settle into one style rather than their usual magpie approach.

Such a development took a more focused, yet far less successful, turn on 1982’s Hot Space. Driven by Mercury and bassist John Deacon, it would be nice to say that the record is a misunderstood classic that shows itself to be a gem after all these years. But no, it really does stink. The songs are poor (the already recorded ‘Under Pressure’ aside), the band’s performance disinterested and it’s no wonder that the public responded by keeping their money firmly in their wallets. Having released the massive Greatest Hits album less than a year earlier, Queen were facing up to the harsh reality of life in the ’80s. It would take a call from a grumpy Irishman to save them…

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  • Toot

    The Works came out before that “grumpy call from an Irishman” … which had Radio Gaga, I want to Break Free, Hammer to fall etc on it. Basically, a hit machine album. They headlined the Rock in Rio tour in 85 – before Live Aid and played to the biggest audiences. 

    So, I don’t think it was a phone-call that saved them somehow.

  • Toot

    (Not to mention the greatest hits album you mentioned coming out before Hot Space which is now the UK’s top selling album of all time!)