Queen/ Live At The Rainbow '74 (Hollywood, 2014)
This is the holy grail, two soundboard recordings from 40 years ago. I bought the standard consumer edition 2 CD set, although there are a number of other configurations available (single CD, 4 LP set, Blu-Ray, DVD, etc.) Disc One is taken from the Queen II tour stop at the Rainbow in London, England in March of 1974. The band was on fire, with everything played punchier and rocking much harder than the recorded versions of those songs. While Queen thrived with studio magic they could cut the mustard live and go toe to toe with any heavyweight band of the era, even Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.
The track Guitar Solo would come to be known as part of Brighton Rock, as it is the guitar break from that song. It was already nearly fully formed here and would be recorded for the Sheer Heart Attack album later that summer. Why they broke up Son And Daughter into three separate tracks makes no sense. This solo fits neatly into the middle, but I guess if you really hate two and a half minute guitar solos you could hit skip and go right back into the song. They did the same thing with the song Drum Solo, splitting Keep Yourself Alive into three tracks. That one is even more asinine, as the drum part is merely a more fleshed out version of the fill toward the end of the recorded version and clocks in at around 30 seconds. This is repeated for both of these songs on Disc Two.
There are some non-album songs here, the encore Jailhouse Rock/ Stupid Cupid/ Be Bop A Lula medley and the B-side/1991 Queen II reissue bonus track See What A Fool I've Been. While the solos and reprises are given individual track numbers there are in reality only 12 songs here not counting recorded intro Procession. The set is split neatly with five songs off of each of their albums, the cover medley, and a B-side.
I have never seen Queen live and would have killed to be at this show, or any Queen show for that matter. Freddie Mercury was brilliantly playful with the way that he worked the crowd, all wink and no machismo like so many bands of the era. Roger Taylor kills it on drums and is criminally underrated. His and Brain May's backing vocals rule. This is an absolutely brilliant performance.
Disc Two was from their triumphant homecoming show at the same venue some eight months later. The band seemed more cocksure and seemed to put slightly less effort into impressing the audience, with their place in their hearts seemingly assured by this point. Tempos were slowed a pinch, being closer to the albums, while the then-new material off of Sheer Heart Attack was so different from the first two albums that the set didn't seem to flow quite as well. If I had to pick one show of the two I would go with the one on Disc One. Having said that, I would have been thrilled to witness the show captured live on Disc Two (Sides 5-8 for you vinyl people following at home). This era was the beginning of the shift that would turn Queen into a worldwide household name. One can only hope that this is the beginning of more archival live sets. I know that I would buy them all.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- For those of you who just walked in, this is the part where I dissect the packaging of a product. Those who buy mp3s and eBooks may be scratching their heads and thinking who cares, but to those of us who still value physical media this has some merit. The digipak has a trifold with a full hub for each disc. The booklet slides into the middle. This is a really nice package at this price point.