on 10 April 2008
The 1970's was undoubtedly Queen's most prolific creative period and the Quadrilogy I refer to is of course virtual - from Sheer Heart Attack, A Night At The Opera, A Day At the Races and News Of The World - although the second and third albums were destined to be closely linked.
Sheer Heart Attack represented a major change in step for Queen - from the highly progressive and experimental Queen and Queen II with their very limited commercially viability in terms of self-promotion (singles).
The change in step still featured an incredibly diverse mix of styles and songs - together with a number of clearly linked songs (Tenement Funster, Flick of The Wrist, Lily Of The Valley) - but with considerably more scope for singles. Queen chose but two - Killer Queen (an obvious and hugely successful choice) and Now I'm Here - but scope remained - with the very catchy John Deacon penned-pop number 'Misfire' Roger Taylor penned and vocalled 'Tenement Funster' and dare I say the pastiche 'Bring Back That Leroy Brown' (had the record companies been ready to take a chance...)
What remains is an album that feels like a worthy predeccessor to Queen's 'Sgt Pepper' - A Night At The Opera. And in terms of success - it marked a major change in step for the next 3 (yes 4 albums in just 3) years output which was of course supported by Queen's highly polished and prolific touring schedule. Again - it defined 'Album' for me - in that it was not merely a collection of singles or songs - but a marvelous emotional journey through a cascade of different flavours - from the hard but very technical Brighton Rock, the classic Killer Queen, warm blues-rock Tenement Funster through the highly futuristic and bizarre In The Lap Of The Gods, the ultra modern (for it's time) Misfire and more Gods(revisited...)with the it's hugely anthemic 'Wo Wo La La La!'
If you are to own only 4 Queen Albums - Sheer Heart Attack should definitely be included.
Musically Queen II was an album of genius, and in terms of hard rock an album Queen would never really better, but apparently sales were not particularly good, so 3rd album Sheer Heart Attack marks something of a commercialisation of the band, (this is only relatively speaking of course, and compared to the bands ‘80’s output there is still a phenomenal amount of intelligent experimental material on display). Where Queen II was mostly all either incredibly hard progressive rock or very gentle ballads however, Sheer Heart Attack sees the band stretching their range to all areas in between, and with touches of opera, calypso and ragtime (to name a few) this marks the first time that Queen would really start genre-hopping. From this album on the one thing you would be guaranteed with every Queen album (at least until they jumped on the synthesizer bandwagon in the early 80’s) was a huge amount of variety. In short, Queen II may be the better rock album, but Sheer Heart Attack is a much more rounded work. Queen would really perfect this template with their next album A Night At The Opera, and it’s very easy to listen to Sheer Heart Attack as an early attempt at this sound.
Taking the songs by author:
Freddie Mercury’s songs are noticeably more commercial this time round, particularly in the playful lead-off single ‘Killer Queen’. ‘Flick of the Wrist’ is a harder rock song, and features a great chorus and some wild swirling Eastern sounding guitar lines from Brian May in the background, while lyrically with it’s railing against the music business this a clear forerunner to A Night At The Opera’s ‘Death On Two Legs’. This segues seamlessly into Mercury’s next track ‘Lily Of The Valley’, one of two short but beautiful piano ballads on the album. Side Two opener ‘In The Lap Of The Gods’ is probably the most insane song on the album, starting with a minutes worth of over the top vocal operatics before drifting into some weird vocal FX’d lounge song – wonderfully bizarre. ‘Bring Back That Leroy Brown’ is another wildly experimental song, as Brian May plays ukulele and John Deacon plays upright bass for this comedy ragtime number – if you don’t like this you have a serious problem with your sense of humour! Finally finishing off the album is ‘In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited’ which is really nothing like the earlier version of the song, but is instead the first of those Queen songs that seem to be designed specifically for huge audience participation singalongs (such as ‘We Are The Champions’ or ‘Friends Will Be Friends’) – another great song, and one that must have been a close contender for a single release.
Brian May still covers the bands rock epics, holding the three songs with the longest running time on the album. With opening track ‘Brighton Rock’ it’s easy to see how, as the song contains a massive middle guitar solo where May firsts starts experimenting with the effects he can gain by using a delay pedal to accompany himself. May follows up on the delay experiments on single ‘Now I’m Here’, only this time on Freddie’s vocals, while ‘Dear Friends’ is a departure, being a short sweet piano based lullaby. Finally May provides the vocals himself to ‘She Makes Me’, a long slow strum along where the very weakness of May’s voice just adds to it’s fragile nature – a lovely song, though due to it’s plodding length probably one of the albums lesser tracks.
Roger Taylor’s sole contribution ‘Tenement Funster’ is again a departure from his previous songs, as he ditches the hard rock for a more laid back style. Some great chords and squealing car guitars (again foreshadowing ‘I’m In Love With My Car’) make this a great song.
John Deacon also makes his songwriting debut, and comes out of the blocks with ‘Misfire’, a song so good I’d rank it as the best on the album. A lovely calypso rhythm, great melody, intricately layered bass and guitar lines – a perfect pop record in under 2 minutes.
This album also gives us one of only a couple of instances (at least, before the bands final 2 albums) of a song co-written by all the band – ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, a real manic up-tempo rock song, and after ‘Ogre Battle’ probably one of the heaviest they ever recorded.
Yes – A Night At The Opera is indisputably Queen’s masterpiece, but with both Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack released in the same year 1974 sure was a good year for Queen.
on 18 December 2011
Queen certainly shifted well away from their early proggish/fantasy dalliances with 1974's Sheer Heart Attack, which showcased an eclectic mix of guitar-led rock (Brighton Rock, Now I'm Here), elegant chart pop (Killer Queen), brief whimsy (Lily of the Valley), a jazzy/vaudeville(?) interlude (Leroy Brown) and the near rock-operatic In the Lap of the Gods, driven on by Brian May's crunching power chords. True, a couple of tracks are pretty inconsequential (Dear Friends and Misfire spring to mind) but the overall package is varied and entertaining, and the band members sound like they're enjoying the change of scenery.
on 3 June 2011
I really enjoyed this remaster and I am very happy for it.
The album has always sounded a little harsh but to my ears this is the best version I've heard so far.
The bonus disc, however, is a little weak due to lack of interesting material:
1. Now I'm Here - Nice early live version.
2. Flick Of The Wrist - Nice BBC recording which sounds pretty close to the studio version but it is definitely worth having.
3. Tenement Funster - Same as above
4. Bring Back That Leroy Brown - New 2011 acappella mix. Interesting study of the vocals but a track I will only listen to once. If it was suddenly erased from the bonus disc I wouldn't miss it.
5. In The Lap Of The Gods...Revisited - Live At Wembley, July 1986. A complete waste of space as it's been out on the 2CD set from Wembley '86 for ages. Pointless.
on 28 July 2004
The albums from 'Queen II' through to 'News of the World' were undoubtedly the best that they ever recorded, but this one gets somewhat forgotten as it sits between the groundbreaking rock music of 'Queen II' and the awesomely unique 'Night at the Opera'. It has been unfairly referred to as a rehearsal for 'Night at the Opera', but this album can stand on its own merits as a great Queen album.
It opens with live favourite 'Brighton Rock', which Brian used as a showcase for his solo delayed guitar spot and developed over the years into a showcase for this technique. It moves to the song that won Freddie Mercury an Ivor Novello songwriting award - 'Killer Queen' - their first big hit in the UK. It just seems to be one great song after another, with a breathtaking range of styles.
Not all of the songs are going to appeal to everyone, and 'Bring Back that Leroy Brown' seems to be singled out, but it fits well with the rest of the album and makes me smile every time I hear it. 'In the Lap of the Gods' is probably the most underrated track here though. It was played near the beginning of the set on their last world tour, but they didn't play it the same way as either version here - from Roger Taylor's amazing vocal at the start to the singalong ending, it's one of the classic Queen songs.
This one really does rate up there with the best!
on 28 March 2015
This is an amazing album. Totally underrated, and certainly in the shadow of "A Night At The Opera". A shame really, as this album has loads of experimentation, soothing melody, thumping rock, and musical inventiveness. On the back of Queen and Queen II, both superb albums, Sheer Heart Attack signified a subtle evolution in musical direction. The dramatic fantasy of Queen II was replaced by songs which touched upon the realities of life. My personal favourites are Tenement funster and Flick of the Wrist. These two tracks merge into one another. Tenement funster uses the beautifully course yet smooth shrill voice of Roger Taylor to tell the story of a young chap in a mundane environment, but with a taste for the high life. It has an element of "drowse" from the later album, "A Day at the races", aspiration and dreams above the current situation. This track then merges almost seamlessly into "Flick of the Wrist". This track, apparently about a former acquaintance (legal !!!) is amazing. For me, the interplay of the high, whining, wailing, almost middle eastern melodies alongside the bassy, thumping rhythmic undertones is genius.
But there's plenty more on here. John Deacon hits the mark with "misfire". Call it hippie, call it camp, call it just jolly...It's a celebration of love and happiness, and full volume it makes you smile. Following this is "bring back Leroy Brown', a truly lovely Freddie showtime special with ragtime jazz and a sense of fun. The 'Lap of the Gods' duo are also Freddie at his most creative, and with Roger's unmistakable shrill melodic wailing in the background there is a real sense of drama. Bundle in the known hits of "Killer Queen" and "Now I'm Here", and you have a truly memorable album. I've been a fan for more than 35 years, and I STILL give this album a regular listen! Enjoy!
on 5 December 2013
This one reaches the majestic heights of Mozart,Tchaikovsky et al of previous centuries.It is tragic that only Killer Queen is well known to the general public of these songs.Because ther energetic Brighton Rock,the inditement of the corrupt materialism of modern time-Flick of the Wrist (with it's beautifully psychedelic overtures),the sheer poetry of Lily of the Valley (which any struggling genius can relate to),the opera rock masterpice Lap of the Gods and the fast paced rocker Misfire should have been hits of the century. the hard rock beaut Stone Cold Crazy was redone years later by metallica , a tribute to Queen's pioneering work in rock!
Very Very little from the 20 th century compares to them What a pity Queen became so commercialised later and churned out so much mediocre rubbish in the 1980's Carve the names of these songs in gold!
on 13 November 2015
I really like this album. I am especially fond of the progressive rock on the 2nd side of the album. It opens and closes with 'in the lap of the Gods' which sounds just like 10cc to my ears. It is mostly soft rock - with the balladry of the piano led 'dear friends' and the acoustic driven 'she makes me', which has some nice chord changes and is a really strange song. 'Bring back that Leroy Brown' is also a nod to the music of the 1920's, which Mercury would focus on more on the next two Queen albums. 'Misfire' is a great acoustic driven song by Deacon, that shows his pop sensibilities. The side ends with 'the lap of the Gods' revisited, which is a completely different song. It, as with most songs on the second side, is a ballad, driven by piano and strident electric guitar parts. It is not far removed from 'we are the champions', very anthem-like, and a very good close to the record. Typical of Queen to have their softest side of music, but amongst all that, have 'stone cold crazy', their heaviest rock piece, save perhaps, 'sheer heart attack' (the song itself). Even this, is done with a slight sarcasm. It reminds me of 10cc again, rather than the metal bands that were influenced by this. I can hear 'the second sitting for the last supper' in the beginning riff. Every single one of these songs on the second side is either quite short, or very short, but it holds together like a prog rock epic.
The first side is six songs that rocks far harder than the second side, with May's two tracks 'Brighton Rock' and 'Now I'm here'. Both are good, but don't do much for me particularly. 'Killer Queen' is such a relief and extremely melodic after the guitar-fest of the previous track. I like the interplay between bass and piano here. It's unusual for Taylor's song to begin so acoustically, 'tenement funster' is a great track with some excellent chord changes and tracked acoustic and electric guitars. The backwards guitars on this are incredible. This song is a ballad and rock song at the same time. One of the best tracks on the album. It seagues into 'flick of the wrist', which has a quirky, slow tempo to it. It is full of character and inventiveness. It moves excellently into 'lily of the valley', a beautiful piano ballad, accentuated by lovely bass playing. Mercury excels at these types of ballads.
This is without a doubt one of the best Queen albums. It has a variety of styles, all accessible and melodic and is one of the best prog rock albums ever. Highly recommended.
on 10 April 2013
Queen's Sheer Heart Attack was the first album I ever bought after seeing Killer Queen on ToTP, best part of 40 years ago now!
It was my gateway to the World of ROCK and I am forever grateful for that. When I saw that I could pick up a copy for a fiver I decided to partake, I still have my vinyl copy and still have the means to play it, but alas my current motor lacks a built in radiogram, so a CD copy was needed.
I won't bother with a track by track breakdown as I'm sure you all know the score by now. It ay not be the best Queen album (That's Queen II) but it's in their top 3 and should be in your collection.
So, if you don't have it: BUY, don't DILLY-DALLY!!!!
This was the groups third album, in fact it was the first Queen album I purchased(on vinyl)...although replacing my collection onto the CD format, I still have my 33's.
being honest it is possibly my favourite, though I'd be hard pushed to choose, for me they
never released a bad one.
With the great instrumentals and vocals, it's an early of example of just how good the group
were......as is the case on all their releases the group members wrote the material on board.
This album includes two of the chart -hits prior to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' they of course were
'Now I'm Here' 'Killer Queen' the others not on board this release were 'Seven Seas of
Rhye' and 'Keep yourself Alive'
Like with all of their album releases there are numbers on-board that would easily have charted
if released as a single.....for me, this was the measure of the groups quality.
Some of the stand-out numbers on board include ( the two listed earlier aside) ....'Brighton Rock'
'Flick of the Wrist' ....'In the Lap of the Gods'.....'Misfire'.....and....'She Makes Me(Stormtrooper in
Stilletos) among an album full of gems.
They were quite simply one of 'The all Time Greats'