I just heard Queen for the first time. Not literally. I’ve been listening to Queen my whole life. I used to move around my bedroom like Freddie Mercury. I once burst in on someone’s 21st birthday with a towel around my waist singing I Want To Break Free. I know Queen. But I’ve never actually heard them. Not until now.
I got the 2015 Queen vinyl record box set for my 50th last year. Thanks honey. But then it sat on the shelf, waiting for a new turntable. Seeing it there day after day was like finding the leftovers of an awesome roast dinner in the fridge, only to remember you’ve been told not to touch it because it’s your daughter’s school lunch.
Anyway, last night I finally slapped on Queen II. It was always one of my favourite Queen albums. It belonged to the pre-Bohemian Rhapsody trilogy of albums that also included the eponymous debut record and Sheer Heart Attack. It had a Zeppelin-esque mystique about it that fell away as Queen produced more albums full of radio-friendly tunes. But I seriously have never heard it like it was meant to be heard. My goodness, how good it sounds on vinyl after 40 years. Specific sounds that I haven’t ever heard on CD or mp3 … thunderous drums and crunching guitar, a dynamic range that years of digital reproduction have compressed the hell out of. March of the Black Queen, one of the best prog-rock tracks early Queen ever did, always sounded distorted on CD when the track maxed out. I just assumed it was an in-studio problem. It isn’t there on vinyl. The sound is perfect.
The beautiful sound may have a lot to do with the remastering of this new set. I don’t know enough about remastering and can’t be bothered googling it to know for sure. So, let’s say yes, the tampering has helped. I’m not complaining. The whole Queen studio collection has been reproduced on heavyweight, coloured vinyl and remastered. The album artwork is identical to the original versions but in the case of Queen II, what was a single LP is now a double album. Which means there are two single-sided discs, the first white, the second black. On the flipside of each record is an embossed Queen crest. It’s a thing of beauty.
So yes, helping out with dinner last night I was in full Freddie mode again, extremely close to going upstairs and slipping into the leotard. Mercifully, I held back. Some things may have improved with age—alas, other things have not.