The most conventional of the band’s early albums, Queen’s 1973 debut nevertheless mixes glam metal anthems, folky balladry, a proggy gospel tune that might’ve fit in then-recent Jesus Christ Superstar (but not your average church), an ease with melody that doesn’t yet approach pure pop, and enough ear-grabbing guitar flash and tra-la-la to announce that this was a group not interested in building a fanbase slowly with a realistic, road-tested sound. Judging from its earliest output, Queen aimed to be Sgt. Pepper’s Heavy Rock Club Band, and wanted the popularity that goes with it — right away.
This debut’s mix of ballast and light, darkness and luster shows an unmistakable Led Zeppelin influence: Vinyl side openers “Keep Yourself Alive” and “Liar” bring unabashed heavy metal riffs tempered by Zep’s command of dynamics and structure, while “Son and Daughter” cops that foursome’s trick of doubling a nasty guitar melody on the bass for added heft. Yet there’s nothing remotely bluesy about Freddie Mercury’s performance, no concern for rootsy authenticity or keeping every element as corpulent as possible. Instead there’s inexhaustible exuberance and glorious excess. Where other groups would put one or two ear-catching riffs or memorable guitar sounds, Queen spit out several.
Mercury yields his lead vocal position only once — not to guitarist Brian May, who’ll soon become a steady vocal presence, but to Roger Taylor on the drummer’s brief but ballsy rave-up “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll.” But there are already hints of the overdubbed choirs to come in the multi-tracked vocals of “My Fairy King,” a piano-pounding Mercury extravaganza that in sound and sentiment points the way to the over-the-top splendor of Queen II.