Q-Burns Abstract Message
Willie's comments: This singles compilation is the first full-length offering from Q-Burns Abstract Message, a breakbeat DJ from Orlando who, like Fatboy Slim and DJ Shadow, mixes and matches all sorts of seemingly incongruous musical snippets and samples together in a way that's both enjoyably weird and groove-ridden. Q-Burns doesn't really occupy a territory that's been claimed by either of those luminaries, however. Instead, he focuses mainly on electro-funk, pillaging great basslines and breakbeats from other sources and succoring them with ghostly synth noises- as well as any other sounds that might be handy, whether they're ringing IDM pings, random flute lines, trancey sequencers, or whatnot. (The echoing guitar sample four minutes into "Puff the Magic" and the guitar sample that shows up three minutes into "Pools in Eyes" are both so naggingly familiar that it's going to drive me insane.) That might not sound like much to read about, but trust me when I say it's more eclectic than you're used to with this genre. "Touchin' on Something" and "Flava Lamp" are perfect examples of this: each song keeps adding and subtracting elements to and from the pot, expertly retaining a particular, danceable mood without lapsing into housey repetitiveness. Even with all the energetic rhythms involved, though, Oeuvre is a pretty laid-back album on the whole- "Toast" almost sounds like The Orb- which makes it well-suited to driving home after a party, or at least throwing on once the party has ridden into the wee hours of the morning. Grade: A-
THIS ARTIST HAS TENUOUS CONNECTIONS TO: JIM WHITE
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Willie's comments: Queen's music often straddled the line between beautifully campy and irritatingly grandiose. They melded classical music's stylistic elements (particularly noticeable in the operatic backing vocals) with rock's sensibilities, but played up the irony of it all in a way that prevents them from being pigeonholed as a straight prog-rock band. They undeniably wrote more than a few classics in their time, but Greatest Hits fails because of the cynicism behind its inception. See, at the same time this compilation came out, Queen released another compilation called Classic Queen. The problem was, the band didn't have enough true hits to warrant two simultaneous compilations, so they split the big hits up among the two albums, and then padded each with unrecognizable filler. Greatest Hits wound up with most of Queen's hit singles- "We Will Rock You," "We are the Champions," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," et al- but it doesn't contain "Bohemian Rhapsody," which is most people's favorite Queen number, I think it's safe to say. (Just for the record, that song and the Queen/Bowie collaboration "Under Pressure" are the sole assets of Classic Queen.)
But how does Greatest Hits fare on its own merits? Reasonably well. If nothing else, it demonstrates that when Queen was at their best, no one could write a better anthemic chorus. Take the Lynard Skynard-esque "Fat Bottomed Girls" or the bizarre sweep of "Killer Queen," for example. And "You're My Best Friend" demonstrates that Freddie Mercury could actually write a heart-tugging admission of love if he wanted to. Halfway through the chronologically-organized album, though, Queen takes a nosedive into grating synth-funk ("Body Language") and cheesy, pseudo-inspirational bombast ("Don't Stop Me Now," "I Want to Break Free"). I personally could do without the overrated "Another One Bites the Dust," too. It was well within Queen's powers to release one great compilation, but since they seem loath to do so, I'd recommend assembling your own Queen retrospective on Napster. Grade: C+
Cole Bozman writes: just one slight correction - "You're My Best Friend" was written by John Deacon, not Mercury.
firstname.lastname@example.org writes: When are these records released? There is a Greatest Hits in UK/Europe, released 1981, which includes Bohemian Rhapsody and excludes the then non-written numbers Body Language and I Want To Break Free, but....?
Some damn American idea, of course, they (you?) never do anything smart, no let's not have any prejudices now, but the idea seems freaky!
John Schlegel writes: When I first came across your luke-warm grade for Queen's Greatest Hits, I was slightly off-put. But once I read your review, I found myself pretty much in agreement. The compilation does fair well on its own--quite well in my opinion, and I personally may reward it a B-. But it is weak for a greatest hits package, especially coming from such talented and inventive popsters as Queen. Yes, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is very much missed, and one would probably be compelled to own the album that features that masterpiece, Phantom of the Opera (which I have not heard, but it's supposed to be their best), as a complement to Queen's Greatest Hits. As for Classic Queen, it is definitely not worth owning by itself, although it does feature the highlights "Radio Ga-Ga" and "I Want It All" in addition to the aforementioned orchestral gem. BTW, "Rhapsody" is probably tied with "Killer Queen" for my personal all-time favorite Queen song (I just never can seem to get tired of those two songs). But Queen's Greatest Hits is still a decent collection of many of the band's better moments, including greats like "Killer Queen," "We Are the Champions," "Fat-Bottomed Girls," and "Bicycle Race" (yes, I like that cheesy bicycle song!).
email@example.com writes: The best Queen greatest-hits album, in my opinion, was the US version released in 1981 on Elektra Records. (The simultaneous UK/European release has a slightly different song selection, with 17 songs.) This version had 14 songs:
1. Another One Bites The Dust
2. Bohemian Rhapsody
3. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
4. Killer Queen
5. Fat Bottomed Girls
6. Bicycle Race
7. Under Pressure
8. We Will Rock You
9. We Are The Champions
11. Somebody To Love
12. You're My Best Friend
13. Keep Yourself Alive
14. Play The Game
For me, that's an excellent and concise song selection, and it isn't missing any songs that get played on classic rock radio. Unfortunately, it was only available on vinyl and, as far as I know, never got a CD release. Hollywood Records then took over Queen's catalogue and replaced it with two compilations which both mix earlier hits with later hits, so anyone who wants the early hits has to buy both volumes. I'm not a huge Queen fan, and I'm just not interested in hearing their post-1981 stuff. Your second-best choice for a hits collection is the European/UK 1981 Greatest Hits, but it's missing "Under Pressure" (it was later included on Greatest Hits II in 1991) and "Keep Yourself Alive." And songs like "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Now I'm Here," while good, seem like filler compared with the other classics on that compilation. So if you have a record player and don't mind listening to LPs, that US Greatest Hits LP on Elektra Records is the ideal choice for casual fans, like me.
firstname.lastname@example.org writes: Yeah, it is kind of a ripoff how they threw "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the 75% unneccesary Classic Queen and acted as though crap like "Body Language" actually qualified as a "hit", and there are some really puzzling choices of later stuff that just smack of filler, but there's still enough strong material around to make it worth getting if you're not up to considering buying an actual Queen album, nor do you particularly feel like putting together your own Queen best of via internet piracy. If you get this album and feel incomplete without "Bohemian Rhapsody", rather than moving on to Classic Queen, get its mostly great parent album A Night At The Opera, which shows you the breadths of the band's talent far more than either compilation. If you miss "Under Pressure" too, go buy the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack I guess.
MBob467236@aol.com writes: There was a cd that contained all 14 hits just as the vinyl had. Nothing more, nothing less. A friend borrowed it many years ago and lost it. I have never seen another copy. The cd cover looked just like the album, all four picture busts on the front, but had the picture level and with no red lines depicting an album edge.
email@example.com writes: Most of the songs on Queen's greatest hits are quite average.Of course Bo rap,Killer Queen,Somebody to love and We will rock you are classics.The albums Sheer heart attack,A night at the opera and A day at the races contain 80% of Queen's best music.I would recommend to add those albums to your record collection.
firstname.lastname@example.org writes: The '81 Greatest Hits album was released on cassette tape also, because my Dad made us listen to it all the time in the car. So if anyone knows how i can get a copy of the '81 release please let me know. I think it was the best compilation of Queen's work, and I am not into downloading, so i would like to have that tape.
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Willie's comments: It's thoroughly depressing to listen to the slick, calculated sort of pseudo-rock that adult contemporary radio stations consider "edgy"- that is, disgustingly safe bands like Third Eye Blind or the recent, Glen Ballard-penned output of the Dave Matthews Band. For the purposes of this review, we'll refer to this sort of music as I Can't Believe It's Not Rock 'n' Roll. So what can we say about musicians who feel content to filch from the collective bag of tricks of these already hackneyed acts? That is the question answered by Joyride, the second release from Kansas songwriter Terry Quiett. In his defense, it doesn't seem as though Quiett is cynically exploiting a mainstream trend so much as he is simply emulating his musical heroes (there's no intrinsic shame in that- look at Nirvana), but Joyride is still another notch removed from respectability by his unoriginality. Listening to these 12 constructions, it's impossible to hear Terry Quiett performing and not just the musical formula (say, the chorus from Matchbox 20's "3 A.M." mixed with the vulcanized guitar line from the Barenaked Ladies' "Pinch Me"). Joyride is I Can't Believe It's Not I Can't Believe It's Not Rock 'n' Roll, and it'll have you itching to throw an album like Matthew Sweet's 100% Fun on the stereo. Grade: D-
Elizabeth Zellner writes: Terry Quiett is an incredible singer and songwriter...Not only that, but a wonderful person and I have been blessed to know him. His music isn't about writing what will make him famous or pleasing music critics. It comes from his heart and soul and that makes it mean more then anything that you could ever say.
email@example.com writes: Such a freaking snob. Jeez. You diss a record because it ... isn't discordant enough? Because it acknowledges a structure? Because it permits access? The inherent problem with an unskilled music reviewer is a constant: They can't tell the difference between "I don't like this" and "This is no damn good." So the record ain't your bag ... fair enough. That doesn't make it bad, Einstein. I urge you to develop a template that expands beyond your tastes, and begins to comprise such factors as author's intent, emotional content, skill and plain ol' groove. (By the way, "Joyride" is a kickass indie record. I'll give it an A.)
firstname.lastname@example.org writes: remarkably clueless review ... reminds me of a reviewer sent to review an exhibition of black-and-white photos ... "I hate black-and-white photos," he rants. "I only like colorful paintings!" Yet he submits his review, blissfully mistaking that opinion for sufficient criticism. Dude, they're black-and white photos ... deal with it.
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Daniel Patrick Quinn
The Winter Hills
Willie's comments: It's really inspiring to hear an album like this. Daniel Patrick Quinn is a British guy who borrows liberally from the folk traditions of the British Isles and avant-garde rock deconstructivists like Can and Brian Eno, swirling them all together in a uniquely haunting stew that he's released on his own Suilven Recordings imprint. (You can check him out at the link above.) His debut album, The Winter Hills, is a satisfying puzzle box of musical patterns and synth-soaked atmosphere, with four of the nine tracks brightened by mysterious, bittersweet melodies. (The album is somewhat unnecessarily packaged as a two-disc set, with one disc for the vocal tracks and one for instrumentals. Personally, I think it works better if you shuffle the two discs together, but it really doesn't matter that much.) Quinn's Eno-esque voice works wonders when it's around, in fact, whether he's simply contributing wordless moaning to the ambient gem "Red Roads" or providing a vocal path through the masterful, dirgelike title track. However, the main attraction mostly lies in the ethereal, slow repetition of the arrangements, which don't really build so much as keep burrowing deeper and deeper into your mind. There are moments where the keyboards sound pretty cheap, and some of the instrumental tracks like "For Her Atoms" and "Towards the Sun" suffer a bit for it: well-constructed though the songs are, the intentionally discordant tones don't quite have the majestic sweep they should. Nitpicking aside, though, this is an impressive and engaging journey where the patient will be rewarded. Grade: B+
Willie's comments: A few years ago, during an entertaining and lengthy bout of insomnia that had lasted nearly a week, I broke down and purchased a cassette tape that promised to play sounds that would change your brainwave patterns in such a way that sleep would result. Or something. Really, I don't know how it was supposed to work, and it was a big rip-off in any event. If anything, it kept me awake longer. The point is, when I popped the cassette into my tape deck, all I heard was one long drone that lasted for about 45 minutes, and even though the tape was basically useless, I thought it at least sounded interesting. For awhile. And now Quinn has fine-tuned the experience I had with the sleep tape, releasing Jura: a 61-minute ambient drone that's meant to suggest the experience of looking down at an island from the clouds. Jura is obviously a tip of the hat to Eno's ambient excursions in much the same way that Radiohead's "Treefingers" was, but even though there's practically nothing going on throughout this disc (i.e., a keyboard drone with just the right amount of dissonance to keep from fading into the ether and a muted church bell figure that keeps recurring every couple minutes), Daniel has obviously paid a great deal of attention to getting the mood just right. Anyone can just tape down the keys on a synth for an hour, but Jura's specific, evocative sound clearly has some thought behind it. It's a hard album to give a grade to (as Cole Bozman noted before me), because its effectiveness depends more on your particular state of mind and surroundings than on the sounds of the CD itself. If you live in a thin-walled apartment next to a karaoke bar, for instance, Jura's mixing-with-the-sounds-of-your-life efficacy will probably be significantly reduced. However, if you're feeling meditative or exhausted, you should dig this. So let's be generous: Grade: B+
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