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Taken from WhatCulture (Nov 21, 2020)

10 Most Underrated Queen Songs

The Royal Diamonds in the Rough.

by Tim Coffman


Queen A Day At The Races Cover. EMI
Queen A Day At The Races Cover. EMI


It's pretty much impossible for any casual fan of music to ignore Queen. Whether or not you're actually a fan of rock music, the booming tones of something like We Will Rock You or Bohemian Rhapsody are so classic that they practically feel like they've existed since the dawn of time. On the other hand, there have been many Queen tunes that never really saw the same time of success that they deserved.


Across their discography, plenty of Queen tracks have not been able to stack up against the more classic material of their early days. Even though it sometimes comes down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it's practically a crime that these tracks were left out to dry in lieu of the more notable singles. Granted, it's fair to say that some of these don't live up to something like Bohemian Rhapsody, but the fact that these songs didn't deserve to be hits and anything off of Hot Space did shows that something went wrong.


The best of these tracks also show Freddie Mercury taking a bit of a back seat, with the other band members taking the reigns and turning in some truly awe-inspiring performances. So next time you want to take a peek into Queen's back catalog, give these a spin and see what you've been missing out on.


10. Doing All Right - Queen



Queen's self titled debut is a perfect jewel of an album from back to front. Despite not having too many hits outside of Keep Yourself Alive, this record shows these rock royals on their way to becoming some of the most advanced players in the business, with production that was already miles better than most debuts. Even when the intensity was scaled back on this outing, there was still some merit to be found in Doing All Right.


Written before Freddie Mercury joined, this original Brian May composition with vocalist Tim Staffell is still one of the meatiest cuts on the record, which has just as many heavy riffs as it does heart-grabbing moments. In all honesty, you can still see why something like this wasn't quite up to snuff yet, what with the transitions into the heavy sections sounding like they come out of nowhere. On the other hand, removing these sudden switchups may have turned the song into a lethargic mess in the long run.


With all due credit to Staffell, Mercury is clearly coming into his element on this track, as he makes his way across the melody with the greatest of ease. While this might be considered baby steps for Queen, this showed colossal signs of what was to come.


9. Is This The World We Created...? - The Works



It was not the best time to be Queen coming out of the early '80s. Even with the more adventurous turns they would take on albums like the Game, the disco style production had worn itself paper thin. Determined to give the fans the return the form they really wanted to hear, The Works was just the kind of music these guys thrive in, with roaring guitars and Freddie back to his strutting rock and roll self.


Aside from the massive singles like Hammer to Fall and I Want to Break Free, one of the greatest highlights of the record comes at the very end. Serving as a look back on the rest of the album, Is This the World We Created? is almost like one final glimpse of beauty from the band, with Brian May resorting to nothing more than an acoustic guitar to pad Mercury's melody.


The song may not have gotten released as a full-on single, but Mercury did think highly enough of the tune to play it as the encore at Live Aid, having already decimated the crowd earlier in the day with their original performance. Ending on one of the more ominous notes to be put on a Queen album, Is this the World we Created...? showed that even when rising back to full form, Queen were still unafraid to throw a few curveballs when they wanted to.


8. Sheer Heart Attack - News Of The World



Queen's album News of the World practically had an ace in the hole with We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. Even if the rest of the album sucked, having those two sonic juggernauts to kick everything off was well worth the price of admission. On the other hand, the arrival of Sheer Heart Attack as the very next song showed that these guys were just getting started.


While it was originally written for the album of the same name, Sheer Heart Attack is one of the heavier tracks these guys have ever laid down. Given that it was written by Queen's resident rocker Roger Taylor, most of the song chugs along at a relentless pace, almost as if things could fly off the hinges if it gets too out of control. Despite not having any hand in the genre's creation, the amount of attitude and speed on this tune almost sounds like these guys are trying on the genre of punk rock to see if it sticks.


Even though this worked like gangbusters, it didn't end up suiting the group later down the line, with albums like the Game putting them on full pop mode for the most part. However, if we were to imagine Queen's future based upon this song alone, just think of the amazing metallic tunes we could have heard.


7. Life Is Real (Song For Lennon) - Hot Space



Look...I'm probably going to be the last one to tell you that Hot Space is a great Queen record. Aside from the one saving grace with the duet Under Pressure, this is by far Queen's most uninspired outing, complete with songs that would have been laughed out of the room if they were presented during their glorious run in the '70s. Despite Queen being on autopilot for most of this record, there is at least one other song that will tug at your heartstrings.


Towards the midpoint of the record, we get one slowburn that is indebted to one of the titans of the rock genre. Written after John Lennon was murdered, Freddie Mercury wrote this as a eulogy to the Beatle before eventually setting it to music. In comparison to the rest of the album, this shows Freddie with his heart on his sleeve, ready to pay a musical debt to the man whose message of peace and love touched the lives of so many people.


Even with some of the band members expressing their distaste for Hot Space, this is probably the one thing that they would be the most proud of from that record. It's not exactly an album savior...but as a loving tribute, you can certainly do a lot worse than this.


6. In The Lap Of The Gods...Revisited - Sheer Heart Attack



It tends to look uninspired when bands have two songs named the exact same thing. While it may be excusable to redo a song from your past or just forget the more lackluster parts of your catalog, having two completely different songs with the same name might send off some alarm bells with fans. But, again, we're talking about Queen here.


When assembling the tracks for Sheer Heart Attack, there were two In the Lap of the Gods's that the boys couldn't really decide on for the final cut. Instead of just melding them together, both of these songs serve as bookends for the second side of the record, with the last offering being the stronger of the two. Even with the Revisited title, this feels more like a reimagining of the same song, with Freddie reaching deep into his soul to hit some of the more forceful notes on the chorus.


Once you get that final release that comes with the song title being sung, Brian May picks up right where Freddie left off, as the guitars cascade across the speakers to create one of the first true symphonic endings that the band had ever done. A lot more theatrical music was bound to follow, but this final victory lap of a track shows that Queen were ready to progress to the big leagues.


5. The March Of The Black Queen - Queen II



Queen II marked the beginning of some real growth in the band. While not having too many major hits outside of the amazing closer Seven Seas of Rhye, the album cuts show them going in a harder direction, taking influences from everything from hard rock to folk to classical music. On the other hand, March of the Black Queen was the culmination of every ambitious style that they'd taken on.


Giving acts like Genesis a run for their money, this is the prog rock masterpiece that signalled the ambition of future projects like Bohemian Rhapsody. Unlike the pure classical stylings of their later work, March of the Black Queen is down and dirty, with brutal licks from Brian May that sound like they could have been leftovers from a Black Sabbath session. That's before you even get to Freddie's vocals, which takes you on a journey into a strange land, as we see the titular black queen laying waste upon the earth.


Even with the more outlandish moments from Mercury, the real muscle behind this tune belongs to the rhythm section, with Roger Taylor having just the right kind of power to almost creep into metal territory. Despite being able to make virtual rock concertos, this is the one prog metal hybrid that no one really knew they needed from Queen.


4. 39 - A Night At The Opera



When you think of the music of Queen, subtle is probably the very last word that comes to mind. Across their discography, most of the music coming from these rock royals has always been about going as far over the top as possible, regardless of genre. Then again, when you have someone not named Freddie Mercury up front, you'd be amazed at what you can achieve.


Even though Freddie embodies every Queen song so well, this little bit of folky pop from a Night at the Opera shows Brian May at the helm, as he tells a wayward tale of a traveler journeying to find new lands. Folk music has certainly not been a stranger to stories like this, but May plays with the narrative by having the quest for travel take place on a spaceship rather than a boat or a wagon.


Though the acoustic guitar is dominant throughout the mix, there is also that subtle bit of Queen magic in between the verses, with May's electric almost in a sonic duel with Roger Taylor's falsetto as they try to simulate the feeling of being taken into space. Even for a standard pop song, this is also one of the more tragic tales in Queen's catalog, as our protagonist gets into a bit of an Interstellar situation when he arrives after a year only to find that it's been a century on Earth. While there is a lot more robust songs in the Queen catalog, you can never say that they didn't keep things interesting even in the quieter moments.


3. You Take My Breath Away - A Day At The Races



There's always a bit of apprehension when trying to follow up a hit record. With a practical hit parade coming off of a Night at the Opera, how the hell were Queen supposed to match that? As opposed to trying to go bigger and better on their next release, A Day at the Races showed them refining their tone as songwriters, with You Take My Breath Away being the most daring turn.


After the amazing opening shot of Tie Your Mother Down, this delicate piano ballad from Freddie is drenched in melancholy, as he sings about the torture that comes with being in love with your significant other. Despite the more dramatic performances he's given on his other tunes, Mercury's sad tone actually feels like it's coming from a genuine place, as if he's pleading with his own psyche in between the notes.


Whereas a song like Love of My Life was one of the most heartfelt things that Freddie had ever written, this song goes a bit too far and ends up showing the darker side of love that many of us wouldn't want to admit to seeing. Whether it was a comment on his own sexuality or just a simple love song, You Take My Breath Away is another example of the fact that no one really tackles romance in the same way that Freddie Mercury does.


2. Great King Rat - Queen



There have been plenty of rock aficionados who have claimed that Queen were one of the greatest musicians of their generation. Whether or not the audiences were listening every time, each record has at least a spark of the initial magic that made Queen the sonic wrecking ball that they were known for. Even though many acts have tried to cultivate that kind of playing ability from the beginning, these guys were up to the challenge from the very start of their career.


Coming right in the middle of their stunning debut release, Great King Rat is another one of the group's episodic tunes, as Mercury tells the tale of a dirty tyrant who will bend the rules to suit his whim. In what can only be described as genre bending, the crux of this tune fits somewhere between Queen's classical ambition and the prog rock stylings that you would see in later era Led Zeppelin tunes.


Granted, one could argue that the execution of something like this is a bit haphazard for the fledgling group, but that actually ends up becoming one of the songs' greatest strengths, as Brian May turns in the most beautiful guitar work of his career depending on what part of the song you're in at the time. While many would save an epic like this for their later records, the fact that Queen were able to get away with this on their debut showed that they were ready to become superstars.


1. Innuendo - Innuendo



There's been enough said about Bohemian Rhapsody at this point. From being featured in Wayne's World to being the backdrop of the entire cinematic history of the group, the 6-minute epic tune will eventually transcend the confines of rock music and become one of the greatest creations in 20th century music. However, there is one song in the Queen's catalog that was almost able to match it.


On the surface, many artists thought that the band wouldn't see an album like Innuendo rising to prominence, with Freddie still struggling with his AIDs diagnosis without much time left. Once you throw the title track on though, it's some of the most forceful rock and roll these guys have ever done. As opposed to the plodding schlock you'd express from a group this far into their career, this song feels colossal from the first few seconds, as Freddie commands his performance about persisting in the face of adversity.


Whether it's about his own struggles with his diagnosis or their relationship with the press, the end results still feels potent just the same. Adding even more textures to the mix, we also see everything from a classical section to a rock and roll breakdown to even a flamenco style guitar solo contributed by Steve Howe of Yes. Rather than their typical rockers, this is the one Queen song that feels like an event, with the band bringing together every single element that made them great and combining it into six glorious minutes.



 
 

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