29 September 2014

Queen - Live At The Rainbow '74

A while ago, we did a blog about the Best Live Album that was available at the time.  At the time, the Queen album that made the list was 'Live Killers' which was picked by Mr Chaney (the biggest Queen fan on the blog team).  He has always said that Queen live were one of the best acts, especially during their early period and that it was criminal that there was not an album from their early period.  Well, his wishes have granted in 2014 with the release of 'Live At The Rainbow '74'.  This album is the recording of shows that took place defunct live venue The Rainbow Theatre (which is not a Pentecostal Church) in London.  The main set (recorded in November of 1974) was from a show that was part of their Sheer Heart Attack tour (the other set which forms part of the deluxe set) is from the previous Queen II tour recorded in the March of the same year.  For this blog I will just being reviewing the November show (and asking Mr Richardson to review the March one under a separate blog).  Now, at this point there was no Bohemian Rhapsody, the ballads were few and far between, they were a full on rock band and they were getting an incredible reputation on the live circuit.  Will this album be a brilliant representation of that period for them?

Starting the show is "Procession" which is the general introduction track building to the band starting the show, which gives way to the first proper track "Now I'm Here".  This was off the 'Sheer Heart Attack' and is now considered to be one of their classic songs.  The band sounds as if they were on fire at this point of their career, you cannot fake that sort of confidence and it comes across in their performance.  "Ogre Battle" is the next song, a Mercury penned number which was off 'Queen II' and starts with a brilliant riff that just keeps giving.  The lyrics are typical Mercury fantasy with a touch of flair that was his signature to any piece he created.  Following on "Father To Son" which is another 'Queen II' number which was written by Mr B May, it has a much more melodic feeling than "Ogre Battle".  Another May number is "White Queen (As It Began)" that follows on and takes the mood down another notch, but not the performance.  The stunning craftsmanship of the number is beautiful on this song and is up there with any of Mercury's fantasy numbers. It is a big fantasy number for me and a great performance of one of my favourite early Queen numbers.  "Flick Of The Wrist" is next and brings the hard rock numbers and I am sure the innuendo of the title is on purpose.  Another fantastic number that would have had the faithful in raptor, the song was taken from their latest album of the time 'Sheer Heart Attack".

Next is a melody of four songs which starts with "In The Lap Of The Gods", followed by "Killer Queen", "The March Of The Black Queen" and "Bring Back The Leroy Brown".  Three of the tracks - "In The Lap Of The Gods", "Killer Queen" and "Bring Back The Leroy Brown" were all off 'Sheer Heart Attack' and "The March Of The Black Queen" is from 'Queen II'.  All the songs are played incredibly well and it is a quick way to get as many of your songs on the set as possible.  The best of the sections is "The March Of The Black Queen" for me, Queen when they are in full rock mode were a band that were hard to beat, it was not all the radio hits and it just goes to show what a powerful unit they once were.  Next is "Son & Daughter" from their eponymous debut album, again you sometimes forget that Queen were this full on rock band, but with shows like this (plus the early albums) you get a feel to what they used to be.  As part of the song (but billed as a separate track)  you also get this huge guitar solo from Mr May that showcases the talent that he has when he is not making songs about badgers (sorry Brian, I know your heart is there for your cause; but that song to stop the badger cull was awful).

Next is "Keep Yourself Alive" which is split into three sections - the main song, a Rodger Taylor solo and then a reprise of "Keep Yourself Alive".  When the song (which had Son & Daughter as the b-side) was first released in to the world, it was largely ignored.  But with the heavy bass feeling and the power of the number, it is surprising that it was ignored at the time.  I will admit that I tuned out a bit during the drum solo - I always do when a band starts one at shows that I got to see now.  But no matter what you feeling towards the solo are, you would be hard pushed to deny that Mr Taylor was not a fantastic drummer.  Next is "Seven Seas Of Rhye" from their first album again, it is a song which I always thought hinted towards some of their future numbers.  Not a personal favourite of mine, but it is one that most of the Queen faithful seem to love.  But the next song, oh the next song which was taken from 'Sheer Heart Attack' is called "Stone Cold Crazy".  This song is one of the heaviest in Queen's back catalogue and this version is particularly stunning.  

"Liar" is the next song on the album which is another of the tracks from "Queen"; it has one of those riffs and solos that go on forever.  The song is also much longer on this version then the single or album versions that were released by the band beforehand.  Ending the main set is "In The Lap Of The Gods.....Revisited" and it is brilliant to hear one of my most favourite songs in such a fashion.  When it was a new number and the crowd were still getting used to it.  After this, the band leaves the stage to come back on to do some covers and one original - "Big Spender", "Modern Times Rock 'N' Roll", "Jail House Rock" and ending with the traditional "God Save The Queen".  The quartet of numbers makes for a fast pace and energetic ending to the set.

As a live documentary of a band at the height of their live powers, this is a really good release.  Three albums into their career, they were just about to start that roll which would have 'A Night At The Opera', 'A Day At The Races' and 'News Of The World' coming after 'Sheer Heart Attack'.  The confidence from shows like this would make those albums the classic releases.  Without spoiling the next part of this review, the show from early in the year also showed a lot of promise as well.  If you are going to get any version of this album, I would go for the deluxe addition to be honest.  However, he is the crux of the matter - is it better than 'Killer Queen' which was taken from the 'Jazz' period of the band's history?  For me, I would have to say....maybe.  I've not lived with 'Live At The Rainbow '74' long enough to make that decision right away.  I'll say this though; if initial impressions are anything to go by, it just might end up being THE Queen live album.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - In The Lap Of The Gods....Revisited

You can purchase one of the versions of the album from Amazon via this link

You can visit the Queen website here

You can listen to the November show here on Spotify (but you can also find the version with the show from earlier in the year on Spotify as well)

For our Deezer users, here is a link to the album as well

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