05/05/2003 3:00p ET
Marco Passarelli - Reviewer
If you made a list of the 5 artists whose music would best exemplify the sonic possibilities of DVD-Audio, no doubt, Queen would be in your findings. The over-the-top aural bombast of the band's 15 studio albums; massively overdubbed vocal 'extravaganzas' and guitar 'orchestras', are the perfect match for 5.1 audio. Having released the hugely successful DVD-A of Queen's opus "A Night At The Opera" last year, DTS Entertainment now brings us a surround version of 1980's "The Game".
"The Game" represented the shift towards a leaner, less cluttered sound which began on their previous release, 1978's "Jazz". The band used a drier, more organic drum sound, a heavier bass prescence and surprisingly, less reliance on guitarist Brian May's orchestrated guitar style. While the album starts and ends with classic sounding Queen ballads, the remaining 8 songs in between reveal a band that was trying to move beyond their established sound. This was also the first Queen album to feature synthesizers.
"Play The Game" is everything a Queen ballad should be: gorgeous vocal harmonies, an anthemic chorus, lovely lead guitar and a moving vocal performance from Freddie Mercury. "Dragon Attack" is a stripped down rocker featuring a nasty, grooving bassline and wicked stabs of loud guitar along with a rude solo by May. The vocal overdubs come in fullforce on the breakdown and sound glorious in 5.1 surround. "Need Your Loving Tonight", "Rock It (Prime Jive)" and "Coming Soon" have a definite new wave guitar pop vibe running through them, almost sounding like The Knack at times; not that this is a bad thing, they are great pop tunes however not essential to Queen's legacy. One of the album's two massive hits, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", is a spirited ode to 50's rockabilly that Freddie Mercury wrote while in the bathtub! Aside from Freddie's doo-woop backing vocals, this song hardly sounds like the Queen of yore with it's sparse production and uncharacteristicly twangy guitar from Brian May. The album's weakest track is "Don't Try Suicide" with it's overly simple lyrics about a serious topic. "Don't try suicide, you're just gonna hate it" is not a very life affirming message. Returning to the classic ballad once again "Sail Away Sweet Sister", a song sung by Brian May, is a beautiful, melancholy song of lost love featuring a rare acoustic guitar solo. "Save Me" (a song by Brian May about the dissolution of his marriage) is one of Queen's top ballads with an impassioned vocal from Freddie Mercury that ranks with one of his best.
The second enormous single to be lifted from The Game is, of course, "Another One Bites The Dust" and like "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", it sounds like nothing the band had done before. Written by bassist John Deacon, this song was a gigantic worldwide smash that topped not only the Rock charts but the R&B charts as well. Possessing one of the catchiest bass hooks ever commited to tape (paraphrased from Chic's disco standard "Good Times"), "Another One Bites The Dust" is a slab of funk/rock that shows the band at their stripped down best - it proved that they didn't need outrageous amounts of studio overdubs to make great singles; the talent was in the band not the production techniques.
The 5.1surround mixes compliment the music perfectly without distracting the listener from the amazing vocal clarity eminating from the front speakers. The majority of the songs use the front left and right for lead vocals but the front center is used for Freddie Mercury's voice on "Play The Game" to breathtaking effect; you can hear every breath he takes in between the words. Stunning. As previously mentioned, "The Game" was a drier sounding record for Queen and the surround mixes are respectful of that fact by not being too aggressive with placement of instruments. When the harmony vocals or guitar leads enter from the surrounds, the effect feels natural, as if that was the way it was intended and not a gimmick. Overall, the surround is used for room ambience and makes you feel as if you are sitting in with the band; until the choir vocals come in that is! Nicely Done.
DTS Entertainment did an excellent job with this treatment of "The Game" as well as the previously issued "A Night At The Opera"; having the band involved makes all the difference in the final product - one gets the feeling that if 5.1 audio was available at the time, these albums would have sounded like this. May this Queen continue their reign!
Copyright © 2002-2003 Matthew Rowe. All rights reserved.
Released: April 22 2003