on May 20, 2011
I recieved my Box Set Yesterday and spent most of the night listening to everything. Today, I listened to all 3 versions of Queen II that I have. The '91 Hollywood Records release, the Crown Jewels release, and the 2011 Remastered release. There is a slight increase in volume, but not overly done. I felt that the '91 version was slightly flat compared to the 2011 release. I can only compare the versions that have been officially released here by Hollywood Records. With that being said, I found that the changes made by Bob Ludwig to be very subtle and unobtrusive.
After reading one review, I was a little concerned about the audio compression. So, I compared several songs throughout this box set with their '91 counterparts through audacity. The "Loudness" of the 2011 releases have been raised, but not as much as I would have expected. There appears to be plenty of dynamic range left with these releases. The sound quality is impeccable and have never sounded any better on a U.S. release.
Unfortunately, I feel that the bonus E.P.'s are lacking. There is so much unreleased material that could have been used to fill out the rest of these discs. For this reason, and the fact that the albums were not released in surround sound, I did not give this set 5 stars.
on May 18, 2011
If you've been listening to the original late-1980s EMI imports of the first five Queen albums on cd, this is the ultimate remaster or reissue to get.
It's obvious the band & the label have gone all out on this edition of these classic Queen albums. The audio is crisp and deep - the quiet passages are actually QUIET instead of being filled with hiss and digital noise like on the original EMI imports. More to their credit, they didn't mess with the mixes, song lengths, or do any of the other shenanigans that bands/labes often do when they do this kind of comprehensive update of their back catalog.
Each album comes with a second disc of extras - this is where the real gold is once you get used to how phenomenal these new remastered albums sound. "Queen" includes the ORIGINAL Queen demo songs - all of which made the first album (one of them more so that you ever imagined); it's very interesting to hear the subtle differences between the first demo of "Keep Yourself Alive" and the vast change made between the demo of "Jesus" and the final album version (it's easily sped up 10 bpm or more).
The other albums' extra discs contain gems culled from BBC sessions and concerts throughout Queen's halcyon days in the 1970s & 80s. One of the definite highlights is the a capella version of the operatic section in their hit "Bohemian Rhapsody" - no auto-tuning here, and the vocal abilities of Freddie, Brian & Roger shine right through. John gets his own spotlight, too, with a stripped-down version of "You're My Best Friend" that highlights his musical skills.
All in all, if you're still listening to very old Queen cd's, this is the set to upgrade to. Simply amazing audio quality.
on May 18, 2011
Being the 2nd reviewer for this set, and having read T. Fleming's enthusiastic post, I will now ministrate to my respective side of the hydrant.
Ten years ago, I opted for the Queen catalog in Japan mini-sleeves, which I believe had Japan-dedicated remasters. I never heard any of the artifacting in the Toshiba discs that Mr. Fleming speaks of in the European releases. So, please remember as you are reading this, I do not have the domestic Hollywood or European releases, only the Japan discs: If you do not own those, you will probably not reach the same conclusions as I did.
On the heels of those recent, terrible Rolling Stones "remasters", Universal has applied the same odious loudness compression method to another high profile catalog: Queen. If you're not familiar with term, the technical explanation is the application of an increasingly high ratio of compression to the dynamic range of a particular recording, and then increasing the gain of the recording, until the peaks have reached maximum.
In layman's terms: There are no longer any quiet or loud passages in the recording, EVERYTHING is at the same volume. Go to Wikipedia and search "loudness wars". In that article, there is also a link to an excellent You Tube audio/video demonstration.
Basically, the ubiquity of the iPod is the culprit in this plague: When music is played back thru earbuds in any environment with ambient noise present, by having the volume artificially jacked across the entire music spectrum, you can hear the content more clearly.
When you listen to these new Queen editions in a home system, however, it's just a sheer wall of high volume sound; there is no dynamic range remaining. The vocals, instrumentation and orchestrations are all now in competition, rather than being in harmony, with each other, and the overall volume of each album is much louder than the previous versions. There is also a noticeable loss of clarity in the cymbals on the 2011 releases; they sound much sharper on the Japan discs.
All of this adds up to a real heartbreaker, because a lot of the bonus material is excellent, and Queen fans have been waiting for a long time for this kind of look under the hood.
There was also no reason to split the bonus material to a 2nd disc on any of these releases, other than to charge a higher price for each title. None of these albums with their respective bonus material approach the full capacity of a CD. There was even room on each album disc to include not only the new bonus material, but also the bonus tracks from the earlier editions. So, especially with the addition of a 2nd CD in each set, making each title more expensive, Universal's choice not to do so borders on the egregious.
NOVEMBER 2011 UPDATE: Amazon has lowered the price on this set by nearly half. I was already regretting buying this set; now I'm just downright pissed, since it's "an Amazon Exclusive". As for the next three boxes (#2 is already out as of this writing), you might not want to buy them until they've also been discounted!
on December 5, 2011
First off - it must be said that Queen is one of my all time favorite bands. While there were some less than stellar albums along the way, on the whole, this band managed to transcend time and continue to release top shelf material right to the unfortunate end.
Per the title, I will not focus on the remastering/overall sound of these reissues. (I think they sound fabulous). There are others here who are far more qualified than I to tackle that. I am solely going to focus on the bonus material.
Overall, I am extremely disappointed in the selection, (or perhaps better said - lack thereof).
The total running times on the 5 bonus discs are as follows:
Queen I - 31 minutes
Queen II - 19 minutes
Sheer Heart Attack - 15 minutes
Night at the Opera - 19 minutes
Day At the Races - 22 minutues
So all in we get 106 minutes worth of music on five discs that could hold approximately 400 minutes worth of music.
So what about the material that is on there?
For me Queen I is by far and away the best of the bunch. Hearing the raw demos of 5 of the album tracks with Roger's drums higher and rougher in the mix than usual Queen productions was beyond fantastic. But where are the BBC sessions? Where is the song Hangman (constantly played at early shows)?
Queen II has a KILLER version of White Queen from the Odeon concert and a very cool instrumental mix of Seven Seas of Rhye where we get to hear the original natural ending. There are also two versions of See What I've Fool I've Been. A song that I've never been super crazy about, but it's cool to hear Freddie's different approaches. But with 60 minutes of space left on the disc, I am left to wonder - why not include more songs from Odeon or the BBC shows? Why not continue to use your imagination and give us alternate mixes of some of the other songs? So frustrating.
Sheer Heart Attack
Another track from the Odeon show (Now I'm Here) which sounds great. Two more BBC songs which are actually just studio mixes with a different lead vocal. (Great to hear the natural begining to Flick of the Wrist). A very cool acapella of Leroy Brown and then an extremely insulting live song from a previously released CD. (Taking a song from another available album is hardly a bonus track).
See above. SIXTY FIVE MINUTES of unused space..... SO MUCH material could have been used here. Outside the obvious BBC and concert material, how about letting us hear Lap of the Gods without Freddie's distorted voice? That would have been a real treat. Or how about letting us hear how Now I'M Here naturally ended in the studio. They were still rocking it out during the fade. Grrrr....
Night At the Opera
Previously available Keep yourself retake. Utterly useless acapella version of the Bohemian Rhapsody opera. (It pretty much was already acapella). Two very cool alternate mixes of You're My Best Friend and I'm In Love with my car. And two VERy cool live tracks from 1977 and 1979. See above. How hard would it have been to include an additional 8 to 10 songs from each show on the bonus disc?
Day At The Races
Very fun instrumental version of Tie Your Mother Down. Another insulting inclusion from available live album. And then for me, the hands down best track of the five discs. Freddie solo playing You Take My Breath Away. Beyond gorgeous....
Two more alternate mixes that are nice, but not vital.
At the end of the day this was a massively missed opportunity to cater to die hard fans who still buy CDs.
on October 31, 2015
Few rock bands have had the same ability to span multiple styles of music quite like Queen, or quite the same concentration of raw talent. Each of Queen's 4 members not only could play more than one instrument, each had formidable songwriting skills on their own, and 3 out of 4 of them were vocalists of a caliber where each could've fronted their own band with great success. This first collection is the strongest of the 3 "Queen 4" remaster groupings, and reflects their first 5 albums where they were consistently on spot with every release. In terms of the quality of the remastering, there is a noticeable increase in volume, but without "brickwalling" or excessive levels causing unwanted distortion. I've seen someone claim that these remasters are "too loud", but this is yet another situation where people spout out audiophile clichés like "smiley-face EQs" or "the original 1980s CD releases were the best", in an attempt to somehow sound more discerning than everyone else. While the original 1991 remasters weren't awful, they were a tad flat and thin. These remasters feel more "solid" for lack of a better word, the EQ is balanced to avoid muddiness, mid-honkiness, and gritchy high end as much as possible, and the various parts on each song are definitely more distinct. In terms of the bonuses, as others have said, the appended EP disks tend to be a tad underwhelming. For example, while there may have been issues regarding who had the rights to the songs, the long lost Smile studio sessions (this being the band that was Queen's predecessor) would have been a superb addition, as would demos such as Silver Salmon. Those alone might've generated even more sales. But alas, at least we still get a few decent bonuses, including early demo versions, and live performances.
Over the course of the 5 albums included, we see Queen burst out of the gate as an entity that stood out from other heavy rock/proto/early metal outfits of the early 70s. While Uriah Heep is often cited as the archetype for the "over-the-top" approach that later metal bands would use (and critics would loathe), Queen easily put them to shame with their incredibly energetic and joyful delivery. While Uriah Heep would perform their material with an almost grimly determined aura in an attempt to reinforce the "epic nature" of what they were trying to do, Queen very much seemed to achieve the goal almost offhandedly, recognizing that being an entertainer trying to convey a sense of fantasy is by nature somewhat ridiculous, but never making fun of the audience or the material in the process of retaining that sense of humor and joy. Queen were very obviously influenced by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and the Who, but also seemed to have a spiritual link to Black Sabbath, and their trailblazing heavy metal. Another major ingredient in the mix, which would more clearly emerge after the first two albums, was a definite love of traditional, non-rock music, such as jazz, classical, 1920s dancehall music, and Broadway.
But the first album did clearly focus more on heavy rock, with classical influences and a touch of the Who's wide-open sound. It was here where you can find the roots of power metal, with the gallop of "Great King Rat" and "Keep Yourself Alive", and the epic rave-up of "Liar". The air of fantasy and whimsy is also present throughout the album, with the almost foppish, delicate approach of "My Fairy King". However, this is counterbalanced by such red-blooded tracks as Roger Taylor's "Modern Times Rock 'n Roll", and the grinding "Son and Daughter". One thing for certain is that the band already established extensive and impressive guitar and vocal harmonies as a central pivot for their music. By the time they were ready to record "Queen II", the band's ambitions had become even greater, as did their confidence. The resulting album was nothing short of insanely atmospheric and over the top (ironically "Over the Top" was to be the original name for it). The amount of layered tracks present is almost absurd, and solidified their role as one of the main inspirations for power metal. Just listen to Blind Guardian's "And Then There Was Silence" back to back with "March of the Black Queen", and you'll see what I mean. "Father to Son", the crushing "Ogre Battle", and "Seven Seas of Rhye" all break new ground in the metal genre, even if dainty fare (littered with glittering harpsichords and delicate acoustic guitars) such as "White Queen", "Funny How Love Is" and "The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke" all subvert any characterization of Queen as a metal band. I can't overemphasize what an achievement "Queen II" is, as it nails the medievalisms other heavy bands aspired to invoke, but never sounded turgid or stiff in the process.
"Sheer Heart Attack" saw the band decide to dial back things a bit, and replace much of the medieval atmosphere with influences closer to their own time. Of course, "closer" was a relative term, and meant nods to ragtime (notably in "Bring Back That Leroy Brown") and European theatrical music ("Flick of the Wrist", "Killer Queen"). There was a greater emphasis on advancing both pop and heavy rock elements further. "Killer Queen" gave the band the hit single they needed to break through, "Stone Cold Crazy" prefigured speed/thrash metal with its distorted, syncopated and speedy riffing, while the stately "In the Lap of the Gods...Revisited" was custom-built to close a stadium rock event. A fan of power metal band "Gamma Ray" could easily see how Queen influenced them by listening to some of the guitar pyrotechnics in "Brighton Rock". But Queen's true breakthrough was the oft-lauded "A Night at the Opera". In between snippets of Great Gatsby-esque numbers such as "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon", "Seaside Rendezvous" and "Good Company" (complete with a big band section that was actually Brian May's multi-tracked, processed guitar playing), the band landed musical knockout blows with Taylor's powerful "I'm In Love With My Car", Brian May's sci-fi folk song "'39", John Deacon's earnest pop love song "You're My Best Friend", and Freddie Mercury's vindicative "Death on Two Legs". The epic "The Prophet's Song" is no slouch, providing a vocal tour-de-force midway through. Of course, there's also a little song called "Bohemian Rhapsody", which you may have heard of.
After the constantly shifting approaches of their first 4 albums, the relatively familiar "A Day at the Races" may have felt like a bit of a letdown. It doesn't deviate too much from its predecessor, plumbing old-timey musical motifs in songs such as "The Millionaire's Waltz" and "Good Old Fashioned Loverboy", providing torch song balladry with "You Take My Breath Away", and refining stadium-rock anthem-making with "Teo Torriate". There's also the requisite sensitive Brian May moment with "Long Away", as well as the band's take on gospel with "Somebody to Love". And just in case you were worried they couldn't rock anymore, "Tie Your Mother Down" says otherwise. Even if none of this feels as surprising as their prior albums, it's still all...damn...good. In fact, I'd call this one of their more underrated albums, as you don't hear many people singing its praises. And so this first set closes with the band still on the rise overall. Due to the incredible consistency of each of the albums, this is the best of the 3 sets, as the band would later go through some ups and downs. While all 3 sets are worth buying, if you have to buy only one, this is the best choice. But then again, after you get this one..........how can you resist completing the story of Queen?
on June 21, 2011
IMO, these first five releases from Queen represent their best work. It's possible to listen to how the signature Queen sound was created, and how the members individully developed. I have the original lp's, in addition to the 20th Anniversary releases. Thanks to technology, the sound has been cleaned up and enchanced. This is particularly noticable on the first two albums, Queen and Queen II. One needs to remember that even though original masters were used, back in the day, multiple tracks were layered, meaning you can't change one thing without changing everything on the track, however things may have progressed in cleaning and enchancing the sound. I especially loved hearing how Freddie's voice grew with age and experience. The extras included on the extra disc's were a great treat. Since I don't especially want to hear them each time I listen, I appreciate that they were seperate. Well worth the mon3ey. Long live Queen!
on May 20, 2015
( REVIEW ON QUEEN 40th VOL. 1 BLACK )
First Of All, I'm A Big QUEEN Fan Since The Early 1970's. In fact I grew up with and still have their Vinyl LP'S. As for me these are about the best U.S. CD releases I have ever owned. As for the sound quality, Even though these are a tiny bit louder then THE CROWN JEWELS CD's I think these have a fuller and are truer to the Original sound that I remember. Also, Although THE CROWN JEWELS was a nice box set, I like this series much better. In the first place "Although it was a cool idea at the time", I did not like the CD'S in THE CROWN JEWELS being stored in those cardboard "LP Cover Replica" Type Sleeves.
If it's going to be CD Form, I Prefer The Hard Jewel Cases such as they did with these. As for the Bonus EP CD included with each of these, It's kinda skimpy and they could have put much more bonus material "I Think". On a Positive note, I'm glad they put the bonus tracks on a separate disc. And the way I Look at it, I still would have wanted this remastered series even if they did not have the bonus tracks/discs. This series is a Must for any QUEEN fan that wants to own their complete studio albums "Sets Vol. 1 BLACK, Vol. 2 WHITE & Vol. 3 RED = Their 15 Original Studio Albums".
Now as for each of the five Albums/CD's of this set Vol.1 Black,
QUEEN 3.5 (A strong debut album stating off with a strong track KEEP YOURSELF ALIVE. I also think LIAR is a Great track as well.)
QUEEN II 5.0 (Although little or no commercial success in the U.S. , I feel it's one of their must artistic albums the ever produced. But you be the judge.)
SHEER HEAT ATTACK 4.5 (Another great album featuring their first U.S. breakthrough hit KILLER QUEEN. This album stats off with a great track by Brian May "Brighton Rock")
NIGHT AT THE OPERA 5.0 (This album shows how Versatile this band really is. Contains 2 solid hits BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY & YOUR MY BEST FRIEND. And many great album tracks as well.)
DAY AT THE RACES 5.0 (Another album showing how Versatile Queen is. Among many other great songs, this album includes one of my personal favorites SOMEBODY TO LOVE.)
One Word of CAUTION if you decide to buy this series, The CD Discs fit very tightly onto the jewel cases disc holders. Be very careful when removing the disc not to crack the center of disc trying to get it loose. Kinda turn the CD Clockwise and gently twist it off.
on June 20, 2011
Queen has been my favorite group since 1976. I saw them live in 1982 and own pretty much every recording of theirs that's been put on the market. So, of course, I had to have this collection. The sound quality of this package is excellent. (There have been some releases in the past (Nuce) that weren't up to par.)
I find the instrumental only tracks and live tracks interesting, but believe that there's a limited number of us for whom this is true. If you have most every Queen album, including Pre Ordained, you have everything you need. This set is excellent for Completists, but most others will find it redundant, because it's a collection of alternative and live versions.
I hate to rate anything that Queen produced lower than five stars, but I realize that everyone isn't as big of a fan as I am, so this rating is with the general public in mind. After all, what value is a rating of five stars if it only applies the the uber-fan? They already own a copy.
This package was released in the UK slightly before it appeared on Amazon, but I believe that the poster is an Amazon exclusive. If not, it was definitely less expensive through Amazon.
on January 7, 2016
Any fan of Queen knows these albums or at least has heard them. There's literally not a bad song or dull moment and that's quite an accomplishment over a five album span. Add to that each album has a bonus disc of hard to find cuts, demos, or BBC recordings and you can't really complain... about anything. It had been a while since I sat and just let these albums drawl me in but it was worth the wait... I'm a die-hard fan all over again. What an amazing band so ahead of their time. Definitely worth the price their asking too. Highly recommended for any fan casual or lifelong. *****
on June 21, 2011
Too many people are eager to cry "Compression!" or "Loud!" when a remastered recording doesn't sound like their favorite version from the past. While I'm not prepared to say there is NO compression here or that I was prepared for the *slight* trebliness (?), the truth is there is plenty of dynamic range (especially considering the original tape source).
And I don't conflate "loudness" and increased detail. These remasters sound clean and crisp with good attention to nuance.
But, as with all these other armchair engineers, that's just my opinion.