Jazz (1978)


 
1. Mustapha 2. Fat Bottomed Girls 3. Jealousy 4. Bicycle Race 5. If You Can't Beat Them 6. Let Me Entertain You 7. Dead on Time 8. In Only Seven Days 9. Dreamer's Ball 10.Fun It 11.Leaving Home Ain't Easy 12.Don't Stop Me Now 13.More of That Jazz

 

Fortunately for Queen, they never really put out a bad album. There might be a few that would fall into that "mediocre" category, but only a few. They seem to be at their best from the mid seventies through the early eighties - putting this album smack dab in the middle of that period, and it fits perfectly. This album is everything that an excellent Queen album should be. Yes, it's missing that one trademark song that would grace many of its counterparts that were released a few years around it, but that shouldn't be a deterrent. The music here is mostly top notch.

Contrary to what one might think, this is not a jazz album. Not in the musical sense anyway. When you think of "jazz" in this case, think of enthusiastic and/or energetic - as in "all that jazz". In that case, it serves as a perfect title, really, for any Queen album. Like its predecessor, News of the World, this album has a more lean sound, and shows off the hard, rock side of Queen more frequently, and the songs of this style resonate much better. The theatrical sound of the band is toned down, or as toned down as it could possibly be on a Queen album - for there will always be melodious harmonies, theatrical interludes, and semi-strange snippets throughout. Witness the somewhat peculiar opening song Mustapha with its Eastern like influence as Freddie Mercury wails what sounds like an Arab prayer throughout. Although to be fair, the song does rock out a minute or so in the track. In other words, a perfect Queen song.

They again go for a "double" single (is that an oxymoron?), probably since they arguably released the best one ever in the history of popular music on the last album with We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions. This time, they don't try to replicate the anthem at the risk of coming off as cheesy, rather they tackle the chore with the somewhat humorous, but just as powerful Fat Bottomed Girls and Bicycle Race. It's a little strange that the songs aren't back to back on the album. The fact that Freddie Mercury's touching, heart-filled Jealousy is sandwiched between the two, takes a bit away from the bite of the particular pair.

They're also getting a bit funky on tracks such as Let Me Entertain You the almost disco-ish Fun It and the aptly titled closer More of That Jazz. All of this is a bit of new ground for Queen, but they prove they can handle the style just as well as anything else they would try to tackle. The album does feel as though it's running out of gas during the last part of the album. They wisely end the album with the above mentioned More of That Jazz, and, wisely Don't Stop Me Now right before. A few songs prior to those two, they sound a bit like they're going on auto pilot, and those tracks, although all good, seem to lose a bit of focus. And, yes, sadly they do blow it by throwing in a montage of most of the songs at the very end of More of That Jazz. Not only does it ruin a very good song, but it just seems unnecessary and quite hoaky. An edit of this track would be nice.

This would be the last "seventies" album by Queen, and whereas the eighties would be mostly kind to them as well, it does seem that this record sort of "ends" a period in the band's history. They would never let the synthesized eighties sounds swallow them up, thankfully, but they seem to be at their most raw and focused during this period. And although their changes in style were always mostly well-received, it's always nice to revisit this particular period in the band's history. Critics be damned. These guys were perfect for seventies arena rock.

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