Queen: Greatest Video Hits Volume 1 Review
Even though Freddie Mercury died of AIDS at the start of the nineties, the popularity of the rock band Queen seems to increase with age. The musical We Will Rock You, based on the band's songbook, is proving to be a sell-out in West End theatres, and the epic single Bohemian Rhapsody frequently tops various ultimate singles polls.
Queen, in hindsight, are seen to be the ultimate stadium rock band, with Mercury the ultimate rock showman. Swirling, almost orchestral power chords cut effortlessly from lead guitarist Brian May; thick, foundation-basing bass-lines from John Deacon and thumping drums from Roger Taylor have joined to create an immensely powerful sound that still manages to possess a distinct musical quality that refuses to be compromised. Harmonies were soaring, and the songs were as diverse as they were startling. Perhaps this is down to the fact that each of the four band members were capable of writing hit songs. Although Mercury and May had the lion's share of Queen hits, Deacon and Taylor could also provide worthy efforts, from Deacon's You're My Best Friend and Another One Bites The Dust to Taylor's Radio Ga-Ga and A Kind Of Magic.
The band are seen as pioneers of the art of music video promotion, and whilst Bohemian Rhapsody was certainly not the first time a band was filmed miming to one of their songs, it certainly opened the eyes of the music industry. This DVD collection spans the music videos of the first wave of Queen hits, starting from their early seventies' output and ending with their very early eighties' cuts. Comparing the videos, it's interesting to note the various image guises that Mercury embraces and then so quickly abandons. The extroverted lead singer was often ridiculed by the press for such showy displays and antics, and yet Mercury permanently lives on the edge both in terms of performance and presentation that it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the energy he gives the band.
Like all music video collections, some choices are better than others. Bohemian Rhapsody is cheap, low-budget video-making and yet perfectly demonstrates how fruitful a marriage between music and video can be. Bicycle Race splices controversial footage of naked woman that was initially feared lost forever with a band performance, and is collectable for any Queen enthusiast. Flash is the perfect movie theme song, and certainly more memorable than the film itself. If anything, the biggest disappointment about seeing a collection of music videos so early in the development of the promotional era is that most of Queen's efforts are little more than footage of the band performing to camera. This suggests that the second volume of their music videos might be more of a visual treat than the first. Despite this, many rare performances have been culled from the vaults, such as an excellent live acoustic rendering of Love Of My Life and a pounding live version of We Will Rock You that ups the pace of the recorded version.
Even so, for Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are The Champions, Flash, We Will Rock You, Save Me, You're My Best Friend, Somebody To Love and Another One Bites The Dust, not to mention the fourteen other performances featured in this collection, it's hard not to recommend this collection to Queen fans or indeed rock fans.
Each of the videos are presented in anamorphic 16:9 widescreen and for the majority this means a slight cropping, considering most were constructed for television viewing in mind. The age of these performances means that quality is variable on the videos, even if they are all very watchable and presented in the best available quality. Certain slight blemishes can also be noticed, such as traces of artefacting on Bohemian Rhapsody, in particular on the smoke sequences, and many visual bleeds on any of the studio based videos. In terms of visual presentation, the quality mark is still high, and certainly is as good as one can expect for performances over twenty years old.
Presented in PCM stereo or a remastered DTS 5.1 surround mix, including two performances (Bohemian Rhapsody and You're My Best Friend) that utilise DTS 96/24 technology and were extracted from the DVD-Audio release. These new DTS sound mixes are spectacular, with the band's lush harmony orchestrations and instrumentation filling the room on every channel and sending shivers down your spine. If anything it adds another dimension to the already classic recordings, and renders the PCM mix tame by comparison.
A nicely animated menu that maintains a minimalist décor whilst providing a nice rock instrumental ambience.
Presented in a single amaray with black cover-art in keeping with the early iconic images of Queen. The two discs are housed in separate slots in the single amaray and a twenty-page guide is included which provides invaluable information on each video.
Audio Commentary By Queen
The four members of the band provide audio commentaries on each of the initial sixteen tracks featured on this release. Mercury and Deacon's commentaries are extracted from previous recorded interviews, whilst Taylor and May have recorded a new commentary specifically for this release. Each of the four participants occupy a separate portion of the mix, which helps distinguish each of them from each other. The commentary is a hit-and-miss affair, with comments rarely flowing and the cut-and-paste style of the four participants doesn't help the pacing, but still some valuable insights can be learned, and it's funny to hear Roger Taylor slate the process of recording for Top Of The Pops.
Inside The Rhapsody (45 Mins)
This is an interesting four-part series of featurettes designed to explore the legacy of what many people claim to be the greatest single of all time. The Bohemian Rhapsody Story is a nine minute guide to how the song was created, featuring new interviews with Brian May and Roger Taylor. Making The Video is a six minute guide to how the video was filmed and the reasons behind its conception. Creating The Rhapsody is a fascinating guide by Brian May who deconstructs the song at a mixing deck and explores how the song was constructed, lasting at a lengthy twenty-seven minutes. The Greatest Song? is a three minute clip of the song being awarded the title of Greatest Single Ever by the British Hit Singles guide.
Gallery (3 Mins)
This is a reel of still images backed with music by the band, and features many rare and previously unseen photographs.
This is essentially a textual guide to the range of features the queenonline.com website has to offer.
Hidden Extra (6 Mins)
A rare, alternative video version of Bohemian Rhapsody can be found on Disc 2. Go to the Inside The Rhapsody section, titled 'Rhapsody', and highlight without selecting 'Back To Main'. Now select UP, RIGHT, RIGHT and LEFT on the remote and the alternative version will play automatically.
Queen: Greatest Video Hits 1 certainly suggests that a lot of time and thought has gone into the finished product, and even though extras are slightly sparse it is still a fine package, that fans of Queen will no doubt rush to buy and casual on-lookers might wish to take a look at. Given the frenzy surrounding West End musical We Will Rock You, the release of this DVD couldn't have come any timelier.