Box sets as catalog ghetto
Reviewed by Richard Whittaker, Fri., Dec. 23, 2011
QueenLimited Edition Collector's Box Set Volume 2 (Hollywood)
QueenLimited Edition Collector's Box Set Volume 3 (Hollywood)
Six months ago, Hollywood Records reissued the first five Queen albums, mapping the UK quartet's trip from traditional jazz-loving prog rockers to stadium-rock powerhouse. Now two boxes complete their 15-album studio career. "We Will Rock You" became News of the World in 1977, a sleazy rocker in which Queen screamed "We are the champions." Jazz strides from the profound to the profane as vocal rainbow Freddie Mercury pays homage to his Arabic roots with "Mustapha," then leers lovingly at "Fat Bottomed Girls." Its bonus EP is a treasure trove for Queen's most loyal subjects, as the lost mix of cosmic party stomper "Don't Stop Me Now" resurrects Brian May's full-throated solo. The Game (1980) could've been another Night at the Opera, but only the street-beat fury of "Another One Bites the Dust" screamed for vengeance. Credit Mercury's days of Studio 54 and roses for the sample-and-synth wonder of 1980's Flash Gordon soundtrack; blame them for Hot Space's horrible jazz-funk workouts. Only David Bowie's blessing on "Under Pressure" hints back to the dramatic beauty of earlier days while presaging 1984's return to stadium-rock glory on The Works. That AOR masterpiece opens Volume 3, its heart in "I Want To Break Free," while A Kind of Magic escapes its pigeonhole as a Highlander soundtrack in the peerless mingling of Mercury and May and asks "Who Wants To Live Forever." Mercury's demise hangs over Innuendo even as he laughed in the face of death, but at least the posthumously completed Made in Heaven balanced his tragedy and joyfulness.