Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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Good Apothecary Man
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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

Post by Good Apothecary Man »

Kes wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 1:14 pm It's funny how some things appeal to some people, and not to others.

Personally, I'd rate both Fun It, and More Of That Jazz as two of Roger's better Queen songs.

I would agree that the montage at the end of More Of That Jazz is unneccessary, though. A bit like the one at the end of the 12" mix of I Want To Break Free.
Am I right that, earlier in this thread, you quoted someone saying that More of that Jazz is Queen's best riff? It's a good 'un, that's for sure.

Neither of them are rubbish songs but, like I said, I can't get away from the overall sound. I just don't like the drums on the whole album. Someone was praising Dead On Time above. I agree, but the drums sound awful. And Roger's songs, in particular, feel austere, cold and bone dry. It doesn't help that More of That Jazz is such a downbeat way to close the album — the lyrics so full of disillusionment and cynicism — after the exuberance of Don't Stop Me Now. I can't help but associate the album with those feelings. It's like they applied the Berlin Wall/Cold War mentality to their music.

I finally bought myself a half-decent pair of headphones for Christmas. Last night I sat and properly listened to A Night at the Opera, something I haven't done for way too long. Now maybe it was the effect of a 40-minute rush of nostalgia at the end of a truly shit year, but I was close to tears. It was exhilarating and sounded wonderful — full, warm, lush, alive ... even Death on Two Legs seemed almost joyful. Let's see what the headphones can do for Jazz.
Last edited by Good Apothecary Man on Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kes
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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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Yeah, I think it was fd who said he was shocked to find out that his favourite Queen riff was neither played nor written by the band's guitarist, and was referring to that song.

On the other song, if "I" was to rate "Fun It" up against "Another One Bites The Dust", I'd at least put it on a par, because to me, often the pioneers are more important than those who come along and refine a "first", and in terms of Queen doing a funk based disco song, Fun It was about 18 months ahead of AOBTB.

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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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Kes wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 4:01 pm On the other song, if "I" was to rate "Fun It" up against "Another One Bites The Dust", I'd at least put it on a par, because to me, often the pioneers are more important than those who come along and refine a "first", and in terms of Queen doing a funk based disco song, Fun It was about 18 months ahead of AOBTB.
Yes, I very much agree with that.

I actually draw a line back from Another One Bites the Dust to Get Down Make Love — not for the funky groove but in terms of the overall economy of sound. Its sparseness, including the use of space almost as an instrument, is there on Fun It and More of That Jazz as well, and it's an approach they obviously went on to explore much more on The Game. I hear its influence on Dragon Attack, Crazy Little Thing and Don't Try Suicide, in particular, as well as most obviously on Another One Bites the Dust.

They were a band whose whole sound was built around multilayering up to that point. We Will Rock You and Get Down Make Love (the original side one and two openers) both represent a significant change of direction, to my mind. I can only immediately think of You Take My Breath Away and Dear Friends as earlier songs that adopt a similar minimalist approach.

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MyHumanZoo
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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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Kes wrote: Fri Jan 01, 2021 4:01 pm Yeah, I think it was fd who said he was shocked to find out that his favourite Queen riff was neither played nor written by the band's guitarist, and was referring to that song.

On the other song, if "I" was to rate "Fun It" up against "Another One Bites The Dust", I'd at least put it on a par, because to me, often the pioneers are more important than those who come along and refine a "first", and in terms of Queen doing a funk based disco song, Fun It was about 18 months ahead of AOBTB.
I much prefer Fun It to AOBTD....but I have such a problem actually evaluating the quality of AOBTD. I think it is because it was so overplayed on the radio that I came to hate it. I wish I could go back to hearing it with fresh ears so that I could give a better critique of it and know how I really feel. I know I just loved it at first when I heard it, but it’s hard to remember exactly why. Even when I play the album now though, my first instinct is to skip it because I have heard it so much and dislike it.

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Sir Didymus
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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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YAFF wrote: Thu Dec 31, 2020 2:56 pm I love the album but, honestly, Roger's tracks are shit.

Balls. More of That Jazz is in my top ten Queen songs. Its fucking ace.

I think Roger's best ever recorded and released vocals are on the verse: "Bring out the dogs, get on your feet, lie on the floor! Can't help thinkin' I've heard that line before..." then breaks out that incredible falsetto of his.

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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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I have just listened to Jazz — with headphones — about ten times in as many days. I haven't focused on the album this intently or intensely for probably forty years. For a lot of that time I relied on a copy of the 1994 reissue played on a cheap CD player that is itself now twenty years old. This time I am listening to the 2011 reissue streamed from Amazon Music via my iPhone and using some fairly decent (£120-ish) Sony headphones I have just bought. I also had my copy of the official Complete Illustrated Lyrics book to hand.

A few random thoughts, then, one or two of which pick up on things said earlier in this thread.

I always thought of Jazz as a 'cold' album — and still do. That is obviously to do with how I respond to the music and the lyrics, but maybe the packaging has something to do with it too. Consider News of the World: the artwork is bold and dramatic, and Queen fans are literally part of the spectacle. Now Jazz: the concentric circles motif itself is completely abstract and the album's dominant colours are black and white — there's no warmth or immediate connection there for the listener. The wide-angle photo across the gatefold adds to the sense of distance and apartness. Have I been linking this in my mind to the fact that Jazz was their first album recorded abroad?

And then there's the bicycle race poster, which couldn't be more different — brightly coloured on cheeky pink paper. That jarring juxtaposition is reflected in the music too. Thirteen songs — at least one too many — and a smorgasbord of styles. Yes, it shows the band's range and musical dexterity, but there's no common or unifying theme to hold it all together. You can argue that Sheer Heart Attack is no different. Agreed. But it was somehow perfect back in 1974, after the sound and fury of Queen II. And A Night at the Opera was their Sgt Pepper. Jazz is more like the White Album, the sound of four individuals heading in different directions. Freddie, for example, is only really present for one and a bit songs on the second half of the original side two.

Roger's two contributions sound like home demos, as do his two songs on News of the World. Earlier Roger tracks like Drowse and I'm In Love With My Car sound much more like collective band efforts — and are better for it. Fun It, in particular, is sparse and austere, like much of the electronic music that became popular a year or two later, replacing 'real' instruments with synths, drum machines and the like.

Ending an album called Jazz with "Gimme no more of that jazz" is a bit of an own goal. Don't Stop Me Now should have closed the album, with Freddie's vocal soaring away into the ether. My favourite lyrics on Queen albums are often ones written by Brian, but the standout lines on Jazz are mainly to be found in Freddie's songs. There's nothing like the elegance of Lily of the Valley or the passionate intensity of Death on Two Legs, but Bicycle Race (the banal chorus apart), Let Me Entertain You and Don't Stop Me Now fizz with the same tongue-in-cheek humour as Bring Back That Leroy Brown and Seaside Rendezvous. And Mustapha is just a delicious slice of left-field nonsense.

I realise that over the years I have been mishearing one or two lines — "We got the best chairs" rather than "We got the pleasure chest", for instance. The original vinyl album didn't include lyrics, of course, though fan club members were sent a poster with the lyrics on them. I think those same lyrics are used in the official book — complete with errors. The handwritten/typed lyrics reproduced in the book usually reflect the actual words sung. I'm still not sure whether Freddie sings "across the wire" or "across the water" during Fat Bottomed Girls. And is it "funks for free" or "fun's for free" in Fun It?

Dreamers Ball, Dreamer's Ball or Dreamers' Ball? Whichever, I'd have left it off the album and used it as the b-side of Don't Stop Me Now.

My headphones are advertised as 'Extra Bass'. The sound definitely seems fuller, and I can hear a lot more of what John and Roger are up to in the background. Jealousy, in particular, sounds like a completely new mix to my ears. I'm still not convinced that Brian's guitar suits the song, though. On the other hand, the multitracked guitars in If You Can't Beat Them and Dead On Time are terrific. Dead On Time, in particular, is just crying out for better production: the initial guitar after the opening flourish is too quiet (there's a similar problem in Fat Bottomed Girls — the bass drum and handclaps are louder than the guitar in the right-hand channel), the drums sound tinny and the ending is a bit of a mess.

As much of the above sounds critical, I should be clear that I don't dislike Jazz. It was the first Queen album I bought on day of release, and so I have many fond memories of it. Nevertheless, it was easily the weakest of their albums to that point. It also confirmed that News of the World wasn't a one-off and that the era of 'Classic Queen' — the extravagant production, layers of harmonies and instruments etc — was over.

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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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I think the album is very much a product of it's time and place.

For years they'd been criticised for over production, and being bombastic, predictable, pretentious and a few other adjectives.

The placement of the guitar to the far left on FBG was intentional, so that it was obvious when the second one joined in. The little square dance bit on the album, was probably the main reason why that song became the band's first official single edit.

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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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Kes wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 5:09 pm I think the album is very much a product of it's time and place.

For years they'd been criticised for over production, and being bombastic, predictable, pretentious and a few other adjectives.

The placement of the guitar to the far left on FBG was intentional, so that it was obvious when the second one joined in. The little square dance bit on the album, was probably the main reason why that song became the band's first official single edit.
Absolutely. And I think the placement of songs is deliberately designed to shake up expectations. Especially opening with Mustapha, which is about as risky as Queen could get in the aftermath of punk.

I do think that 77-82 was a phenomenal time in UK music, with punk, Two-Tone, new wave, the ska revival, the New Romantics, the goths, all while disco rolled in and out of fashion on enormous vibrant rollerskates. And slap bang in the middle of this are the a batch of Queen albums which all sound very different to one another, and shake up what people think the band is about. It backfired a bit on Hot Space, for sure, but the sheer audacity of the band repeatedly discarding winning formulas to do something new should never be underestimated.

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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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By News Of The World, Freddie had given up painting his nails, and wearing the Zandra Rhodes costumes, they were never going back to the arty multi-tracking stuff, like Queen II. The audiences were bigger, and I guess they were also looking for stuff that was easier for people to access, and might stand a chance of getting radio play.

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Re: Jazz - Queen's Most Underrated Album?

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Kes wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 6:44 pm By News Of The World, Freddie had given up painting his nails, and wearing the Zandra Rhodes costumes, they were never going back to the arty multi-tracking stuff, like Queen II. The audiences were bigger, and I guess they were also looking for stuff that was easier for people to access, and might stand a chance of getting radio play.
And if they hadn't made those changes, they probably wouldn't have become the giant, stadium-conquering band they became.

One only has to look across the way at Slade - who were the biggest band of the early 1970s in the UK, but who were so broke by the late 70s that they couldn't even afford to release singles with proper sleeves. Sure, they had a bit of a career resurgence thanks to Donnington and then a couple of hit singles, but then spent most of the 1980s in obscurity and called it a day in 1991.

Queen could have so easily have gone down a similar path, playing to ever smaller, increasingly disinterested audiences, only really being known for a few big hits and that 'novelty' one where they yell BISMALAH a lot.

The material they recorded for NOTW, Jazz and The Game stopped that happening. And yes, they had the stumble of Hot Space, and their later 80s albums don't hold a torch to the 70s work, but I doubt any of it would've happened quite the same way without that trio in the late 70s/early 80s.

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