After taking the world by storm on their last album A Night At The Opera, Queen released the similarly Marx Bros titled A Day At The Races the following year. It is alike in scope and style to Opera as well. Beginning with a straight-ahead rocker like Opera’s “Death On Two Legs” with “Tie Your Mother Down,” Races also features and covers many different types of music just like Opera. From waltz, to gospel, to dancehall… It’s all covered on A Day At The Races.
“You Take My Breath Away” is one of Queen’s most pure and lovely ballads. The song also treats us to Queen’s unmistakably unique and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The band has the delightful Freddie Mercury as lead vocalist, but also includes two other talented lead singers in guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Each takes only one lead a piece on Races (I seem to recall a more even distribution on the past four albums), and neither are among their better works unfortunately. Songs like “I’m In Love With My Car” and “’39” from Opera are much better representation of these two talents than “Drowse” and “Long Away” here.
There is less of an emphasis on British musichall-type ditties on this than the last album. That’s actually good, because it’s replaced by a much larger palette of musical inspiration. “The Millionaire Waltz” takes its title to heart as May’s effects laden guitar approximates a violin playing a minuet for the solo. It’s important to remember that during this period, they were still touting No Synthesizers. ”White Man” features a riff that recalls American Indian music. The megahit “Somebody To Love” is about as close to Gospel as British white-bread Mercury was likely to get. They made forays into R&B and soul music on later records with mixed results to be sure.
The anthemic “Teo Torriatte” is an excellent way to close the record, and then the opening section of “Tie Your Mother Down” brings it all back around to the beginning. Queen have made better records and were in the midst of their biggest bout of popularity at this time. A Day At The Races is not as good as some past works (I prefer the first two discs to anything else in Queen’s catalog), but well worth getting if only for the fantastically over the top “Somebody To Love” the delicate “You Take My Breath Away” and May’s incredible solo on “Millionaire Waltz.”
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on July 19th, 2011