Cheap appearances aside, Queen under Review makes for an enjoyable and educational viewing experience. For a band with such a sprawling — and often frustratingly uneven — catalog, the critics' analysis provides some valuable and varied perspective. Given its broad fan base, Queen was many things to many people — seminal heavy-metal masters, stadium-rock hitmakers, and subversive genre-hopping chameleons — a diversity that's reflected by the range of commentators. There's Kerrang!'s Malcolm Dome, a pudgy bloke from Guitarist magazine who demonstrates Brian May's guitar setup, and a scholarly BBC DJ who casually uses words such as fortissimo and stadia. They're a surprisingly likable bunch; fans won't agree with everything they say, but won't want to strangle them, either.
My only criticism here relates to an emphasis on singles over album tracks. We get in-depth analyses of nearly every single, from Queen's overlooked "Keep Yourself Alive" through The Game's anomalous "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Another One Bites the Dust," but there's scarcely a mention of complex, theatrical rock epics like "Death on Two Legs," "Flick of the Wrist," and "March of the Black Queen" — which, to me, have more to do with the real Queen than with their one-off, late-'70s megahits. Brian May's giddy, symphonic guitar leads; Freddie Mercury's octave-spanning vocals; and the entire band's feel for epic, borderline-preposterous song structures and arrangements — that's what made Queen great. Monster hits like "We Will Rock You" and "Crazy Little Thing," however, had nothing to do with that sound — just one anomaly that makes analyzing Queen based on their singles inherently limiting.
Quibbles aside, it will be interesting to see how far the folks at Chrome Dreams take the Under Review idea. The only other DVD of this sort that I've seen is Inside Thin Lizzy: A Critical Review, 1971–1983, which is on a different label (Castle Rock) but is similar in concept. Which '70s hard-rockers, I wonder, will be next to get the treatment? Blue Öyster Cult? Budgie? Uriah Heep? The possibilities are promising — and also a bit frightening. (Will York)
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