Record Store Day is a fantastic event for music lovers, but can we have too much of a good thing?
Even thinking such a thing would be blasphemous in many circles, but Black Friday Record Store Day (BFRSD) just seems to be capitalising on the limited edition runs that are released by many artists and studios. Don’t worry, I may criticise the Black Friday RSD, but I certainly picked up a couple of releases that are going to be exceptional additions to my vinyl collection.
Queen, as you may know, recently released the mammoth vinyl studio collection box set, while simultaneously reissuing the albums individually on black vinyl. The box set is presented on coloured vinyl that matches the album artwork. Nevertheless, it is an amazing collection that I will review and detail over the coming weeks and months.
However, today I want to take a look at Queen’s 40th Anniversary reissue of Bohemian Rhapsody. The collectable, but not numbered, 12” Bohemian Rhapsody BFRSD single is presented on black vinyl with the B-side, I’m In Love With My Car.
Interestingly, the artwork is reminiscent of Queen’s 1974 album, Queen II, yet both tracks were first released on the 1975 album A Night At The Opera. Perhaps what is most intriguing about this release is that artwork, while claimed to be a replica of the original release, isn’t. While I don’t have the original to provide an accurate comparison, if you look at the history of releases from Discogs, this release simply doesn’t fit into the category of replica artwork. This kind of discrepancy will drive me insane until I figure out what I am missing. If anyone knows, please put me out my misery. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic addition to my collection and will be cherished for many years to come.
So how does it sound?
Well, that’s a funny thing. While it is proclaimed that the record was produced from the recent half-speed masters at Abbey Road Studios, the record did play rather slow. Yes, it is a 45rpm edition on a 12” record. I don’t mind, as a quick belt change on my turntable solved the problem, but there is absolutely no information relating to playback speed on the packaging, or the label, and that irritates me. One reason I collect records is for the additional information presented in liner notes and via the label. When this information is missing, I can only assume that the production was rushed and quality control is not as stringent as I would like it to be.
Remind me to one day tell you about the Iron Maiden 7” single with 45rpm on Side A and 33.3rpm on Side B. That is a fun record to spin!
I digress, the sound quality is classic Queen. Dynamatic, bold, and you are the only guest in a private audience, that has been transported back to 1975, to listen to the band play live in the studio.
Comparing the songs on this edition, to other editions I own is difficult, but I feel this release is on par with the 2015 vinyl re-issue of A Night At The Opera, while surpassing the stereo edition found on my High Fidelity Pure Audio (HFPA) copy of the album, despite being presented in PCM and DTS HD Master Audio at 24bit/96kHz. In this case, I feel the difference is a direct result of the mastering. The mastering on the HFPA edition is from 2011, whereas the new vinyl releases were remastered uniquely from Abbey Road’s half-speed mastering process in 2015. It should be noted that these 2015 masters are not yet available on Apple Music, TIDAL, or CD, although iTunes has a 2014 version for purchase, but I assume that is a dedicated Mastered for iTunes release that likely would have been taken from the 2011 mastering sessions. That said, the 5.1, 24bit/96kHz, 2005 mastering on the HFPA release is a sonic wonderland that gives a different experience. If you’re a fan of multi-channel audio, you’ll love it!
Regardless of which version you have access to, Brian May’s guitar riff in Bohemian Rhapsody will have you reaching for that air guitar as you morph into Freddie Mercury’s lyrical odyssey.
Equally as stunning is the B-Side, I’m In Love With My Car. While I prefer Mercury’s vocals, I can’t falter the performance of Roger Taylor as his voice is gritty and perfectly suited to the song and instrumental accompaniment.
This re-issued single is certainly worth owning, especially for dedicated Queen fans and vinyl aficionados. For everyone else, purchase or stream a copy of A Night At The Opera.