Queen’s We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions have become
such ubiquitous anthems at sporting arenas that it’s no surprise to find them finally
crossing the fourth dimension to medieval tournaments.
In fact, there are more parallels between the hard rockers of the
late-sixties/early-seventies and the medieval jousters than one might at first suspect.
And beyond simply the bangs to the head, and head-banging respectively. No one could strut
the stage carrying a royal crown and heavenly tune with quite the poise of the late, great
Freddie Mercury. Like the knights of yore, with their chivalrous affectations and supreme
skill, he recognised the advantage in being both a poseur and a serious player.
Camp entertainer, magnificent balladeer and superb musician, Queen’s
frontman’s outrageous talent was complemented by the equally brilliant Brian May (who
gave up a career in astrophysics to become a guitar god; a pretty good move as it turned
out), and the underrated abilities of bassist John Deacon and drummer Roger Taylor.
It’s rare nowadays to find real bands like this; where each member made a vital
contribution. Mercury was undoubtedly the premier songwriter but each penned hits in
different styles, and each brought important musical elements to each other’s songs.
Not that you’ll find it on this disc, but take a listen to the operatic break of
Bohemian Rhapsody; that’s Taylor doing the highest harmonies.
All of this also meant a great deal of diversity. And while some of their songs were
actually influenced by medieval music (Love Of My Life, Hard Life, The Prophets Song and
so forth), it’s the hardcore rock anthems that have been exploited here. We Will Rock
you in the original; and an updated We Are The Champions, with Robbie Williams bringing
plenty of energy to a difficult assignment on lead vocals, and May still sounding in
scintillating form on the six-string axe.
An old, Anglo-Saxon folk influence also often underlaid the riffs of Led Zeppelin.
Stairway To Heaven being a prime example. Here again, it’s the full on machismo that
has been selected, however, with Train—an aptly named band to cover a song titled
Ramble On—doing impressive justice to the blistering rock-blues and mighty,
high-pitched vocal of the original. It is one of four "bonus" tracks on the CD
that you won’t actually find in the film.
The other three are offerings from Dan Powell, Third Eye Blind, and
Heart, the sometimes retired sometimes reformed glam-rock outfit fronted by Cameron
Crowe’s wife, Heart. Interestingly these rock harder than most of the tracks on
Crowe’s Absolutely Fabulous, which was all about the ethos of rock; and neither are
they disgraced among the older classics here. Which is really saying something with such
monumental hits of yore as Bowie’s Golden Years (as good for mine, as anything he
ever did), Thin Lizzy’s hook-laden The Boys Are Back In Town and Sly & The Family
Stone’s pungently funky I Want To Take You Higher.
Carter Burwell fans should be warned that there’s only a momentary nod to his
score here; but for those who remember hard rock at its best this is a peerless
compilation. Even the more recent tracks are a nod to an era when to be a rock star meant
glam and guitar skills in equal measures, when outrageous attitude met musical aptitude,
and above all there reigned a collective creed of "We Will Rock You".
Published September 6, 2001