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Reviews > Queen Music Reviews > 02-01-1991 - Innuendo - The Orange County Register

Queen aims to reclaim its throne

If nothing succeeds like excess, then Queen, the British group for whom pomp and circumstance are as vital as air and water, is one of the most successful bands ever.

The band's big mid-'70s hit "Bohemian Rhapsody," an orgy of overdubs and overkill undergirding singer Freddie Mercury's light-operatic pretensions, could be taken as a celebration of bombast or campy send-up of progressive rock's pseudo-classical posturings.

To the quartet's credit, it didn't keep recycling the same ideas. Queen tried its hand at dance music ("Another One Bites the Dust," in which the band royally ripped off Chic in the process), rockabilly ("Crazy Little Thing Called Love") and hard rock anthems ("We Will Rock You").

But with Mercury's vampish theatricality and Brian May's alternately orchestral and metal guitar style, Queen was always, well, Queen.

Although Queen was dethroned in terms of US popularity in the '80s, the group is still regarded as royalty overseas. The band was a smash at the 1985 Live-Aid show and the title track to its 1986 "A Kind of Magic" album went to No. 1 in 35 countries. In Sao Paolo, Brazil, the group played to the largest crowd ever gathered (250,000) for one band. In addition, Queen made the first full-length concert film to premiere in Eastern Europe.

With such a track record, it's no mystery why Disney's new record arm, Hollywood Records, went after Queen as its first big-name signing. On "Innuendo" (in stores Tuesday), Queen dispenses with any stylistic variations or flirtations with dance music and offers its basic sound: lots of Mercury vocal leaps, fuzzed-out May guitar, choral overdubs and a sense of orchestral importance mixed with straightforward hard rock.

Queen is best when it gives in to its campier instincts, whether it's Mercury meowing a love song to his cat ("Delilah"), wallowing in Broadway-bound dementia in "Slightly Mad" (an unofficial follow-up to Stephen Sondheim's "Losing My Mind") or May tossing off a nimble, flamenco-style guitar solo in the middle of the title track, a song with a touch of the old "Bohemian" bombast.

In true showbiz fashion, Mercury even offers a nod to the old Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney spirit in the over-the-top "The Show Must Go On." When he sings, "Inside my heart is breaking, my makeup may be flaking, but my smile still stays on," he can be envisioned preening in front of his vanity mirror before taking the stage.

Unfortunately, too much of "Innuendo" is given over to would-be arena roof-raisers such as "Headlong," "I Can't Live With You" and "Hitman," all ordinary rockers.

"Innuendo" is a mixed bag, but it's precisely the weaker, least quirky songs that will ensure Queen gets radio airplay. Queen is a figurehead these days -- its brand of progressive rock is hardly progressive anymore -- but it looks as if it will clamber back on the album-rock radio throne.