QUEEN A Night At The Opera (Parlophone)

Concerted listening to Queen’s fourth album for the first time in years, if not decades, reveals how intricate a work it is. Admittedly, it’s not too difficult to discern how the grand gestures of “The Prophet’s Song” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” earned “A Night At The Opera” the distinction of being the most expensive album ever made at the time of its 1975 release. Hear its less overblown moments again, though, such as “You’re My Best Friend” and “Love Of My Life”, and they also seem infused with the same melodic convolutions, even though they might seem superficially straightforward. It’s also a reminder of how Queen used to gorge and splurge on genres back in the day, peppering the album with eccentric character studies of an almost Kinksian nature (“Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”, “Seaside Rendezvous” and, erm, “I’m In Love With my Car”), the sci-fi shanty “’39”, which only appears to become more poignant with age, and the ragtime guitar orchestra of “Good Company”, not forgetting the rendition of the national anthem, probably the only correct conclusion to an album as flamboyant as this.

There’s something telling in how time has treated the album’s two most epic creations. “Bohemian Rhapsody” seems destined to be terrific for as long as people have ears, perhaps because it gleefully embraces its own ridiculousness. “The Prophet’s Song”, in contrast, hasn’t fared nearly so well, sounding like a lumbering and humourless Sabbath / Zep / prog parody.

Reissued on vinyl as a 30th anniversary edition, this “A Night At The Opera” has been half-speed mastered and arrives in a somewhat pointless paper envelope that at least keeps the barcode off the sleeve proper. It’s no great revelation sonically: it sounds good enough, but no better than that, perhaps due to the extensive overdubbing that must’ve been used in the album’s creation. Still, given the critical opprobrium heaped upon a more recent series of Queen vinyl reissues initiated last year, it might be the best bet as far as new copies of the album are concerned.