Here’s the first in a series of entries dedicated to exploring songs from my favorite groups that don’t get a lot of attention. These represent the ten best songs (in no special order) from an act’s catalog that were never released as singles, don’t get radio play, and are typically appreciated only by hardcore fans. Up first is Queen, for no other reason than they showed up on my iPod today.
- “In the Lap of the Gods” (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974) – What makes this song great is the completely over-the-top opening and some of Queen’s sweetest vocal harmonies ever. Listen to the super-high part – that’s drummer Roger Taylor, a key element of the band’s vocal presentation.
- “Football Fight” (Flash Gordon, 1980) – Although not fully fleshed out, this is still a gem of a tune. It features a crunching guitar riff and some tasty early-’80s synth lines. And it’s got an undeniable groove.
- “Action This Day” (Hot Space, 1982) – Although Hot Space is probably Queen’s most vilified album, it really is quite good. It’s one of the more straightforward songs on the record, with a rather insistent beat. The synthesized sax solo is rather dated but still appealing to my ears.
- “Doing All Right” (Queen, 1973) – This dates to Brian May’s pre-Queen band, Smile. Despite being an early song, it sports a pretty advanced arrangement. Brian May carries the song with some delicate guitar work (acoustic and electric).
- “The Prophet’s Song” (A Night at the Opera, 1975) – A prime example of the delicious bombast that highlighted Queen’s mid-’70s heyday. The vocal canon (which makes liberal use of tape delays and loops) punctuates the harder and more progressive parts of the song.
- “My Melancholy Blues” (News of the World, 1977) – A tasteful jazz-inspired song that is unique in the Queen catalog. John Deacon contributes some especially tasty bass work.
- “You Take My Breath Away” (A Day at the Races, 1976) – This one is all about Freddie Mercury. Gorgeous piano work and a wall of trademark Queen vocals.
- “Dragon Attack” (The Game, 1980) – This song proves that Queen could not only bring in da noise, they could bring in da funk. Successive solos by Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Brian May highlight this propulsive jam, and segue beautifully into the next track, “Another One Bites the Dust.”
- “White Queen (As It Began)” (Queen II, 1974) – Although Freddie was the star of the band, true fans know that it really was a four-man effort. This is an early example of Brian May’s skilled songwriting, and highlights the “White” side of the second queen LP.
- “All Dead, All Dead” (News of the World, 1977) – Yet another gem from Brian May, this low-key lamentation starts off as a piano-driven ballad and features a wall-of-guitar bridge section.
- “The March of the Black Queen” (Queen II, 1974) – In retrospect, it’s nearly impossible to listen to this and not hear it as a foretaste of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Most of the elements of “Rhapsody” are present here, although this is not as polished as the latter.
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