Queen II doesn’t have any signature hits, but it’s much more representative of the Queen sound than the debut; the big stacked harmonies and studio wizardry are much more in evidence here. It’s their most pretentious and self-indulgent effort, but in this case that isn’t an insult – they’re playing to their strengths, and this album captures them at the height of their creativity.
Queen II is a concept album with May and Mercury having an album side each, with May’s known as the “White Queen” and Mercury’s as the “Black Queen”. The highlight from May’s side is ‘White Queen (As It Began)’, meandering through the most gorgeous melody that Queen ever wrote. ‘Some Day One Day’ is another gorgeous piece, while the opening overture ‘Procession’ is also surprisingly effective.
It’s Mercury’s material that’s the highlight – all of his tracks are linked into a single medley, and most of the songs are multi-part – so the overall effect is like a dazzling operetta. The closing ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ (the full version, rather than the sample on the debut) sounds like a hit despite its eccentricities, with a frenetic piano riff and huge chorus hook and ‘Nevermore’ is a gorgeous short piano ballad. ‘The March of the Black Queen’, ‘Ogre Battle’ and The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’ are all multi-part magnum opuses – they’re all vastly entertaining, calling in Queen trademarks like operatic vocals and searing guitars into full effect. This second half is fantastic, and if the whole album was of this calibre this would be an easy 10/10 record.
As it is, the first side isn’t nearly as striking and Taylor’s contribution is enough to disrupt the continuity of the rest of the album. Even so, Queen II beats out A Night At The Opera as Queen’s best album in my opinion, and if you’ve started with a compilation and want to look further this is a great place to start an exploration of Queen’s deep discography.