Queen: Freddie Mercury (vocals, piano); Brian May (guitar, harp, ukulele,
background vocals); John Deacon (electric piano, acoustic & electric
basses); Roger Taylor (percussion, background vocals).
Recorded at Sarm Studios, Roundhouse Studios, Olympic Studios, Scorpio Studios, Landsdowne Studios, London, England and Rockfield Studios, Wales.
Though they began their career practicing an artier, more theatrical variant on the Led Zeppelin heavy rock sound, Queen was always capable of much more. Ultimately, Freddie and the boys were popsters at heart, and capable ones to boot. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is where they begin to show their eclecticism and compositional facility. The album title is probably a reference to the FM rock anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which begins as an existential ballad before moving into a mock-operatic section featuring scores of overdubbed Freddie Mercurys.
“Rhapsody” is just the tip of the iceberg here. “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” is a music hall ditty that owes a debt to the Kinks. “‘39” is a surprisingly poignant folk-rocker written and sung by Brian May. “You're My Best Friend” is pure '70s AM melodic pop. Queen even ventures into vaudeville territory (given Mercury's show biz leanings, not as much of a stretch as one might think) on the fatalistic, old-timey “Good Company.” There are several souped-up rockers here as well, but it's A NIGHT AT THE OPERA's winning stylistic experimentation that makes it a milestone in Queen history.
What the critics say…
Q (6/00, p.72) – Ranked #41 in Q's “100 Greatest British Albums”
Q (12/93, p.143) – 3 Stars – Good – “…Even 'Bohemian Rhapsody’ pales into significance next to the epic eight-minute toss of ‘The Prophet Song’…”
Mojo (Publisher) (7/02, p.27) – “…An imperial extravaganza, a cornucopia; a band of hungrily competitive individualists on a big roll of friendship and delight…”