Queen: A Night At The Opera (DVD-Audio)
Picture: C+ Sound: A Extras: B Album: A+
Try and forget everything
that you know about Queen and certainly everything that you remember about the
songs from their classic album A Night At The Opera. Not an easy task, but for amusement sakes it
is worth rediscovering this album all over again on DVD-Audio. This is the DVD-A that won for 2002 with
amazing results in terms of mixing, fidelity, quality, and just overall
presentation. It rightfully won, but
then again it had very little to compete with.
Too bad other bands are not allowing stuff like this to happen to their
material. Queen is certainly one of the
largest promoters of new technologies like DVD, DVD-A, and without a doubt
There are essentially four
different ways to playback this DVD-A depending on your equipment. While the disc plays fine on all DVD players
those who do not have a specific DVD-Audio player will not be able to access
the MLP tracks, which offer both multi-channel and stereo mixes. Oddly enough the MLP track lacks some of the
bass and punch offered by the DTS 96/24 mix.
Perhaps the best way to
explain this album would be to go track by track and highlight certain sections
within. Starting with Death on Two
Legs the listener becomes immediately attached as the song flares up with
that squealing guitar coming from all over the mix. Mostly prominent towards the front, but becomes more expansive
Lazing on a Sunday
Afternoon is one of the shorter,
more simple songs on this album and is able demonstrate the quality without
being as involved as some of the other tracks.
This song is a perfect example of some of the more creative things that
Queen pulled off, as this song does not fit into any certain genre of
styles. It’s a simple piano piece with
lyrics that sound distorted and is slightly reminiscent of older songs from the
beginning of the 1900’s such as ‘My Blue Heaven’.
I’m in Love With My Car
is one of the few songs featuring
drummer Roger Taylor on lyrics. He also
wrote this song as well and the song adds diversity as it is written and sung
in a different fashion than what some of the other members have contributed.
Although Mercury mostly sang all the songs, the other members were responsible for
writing a lot of the material as well, which only furthered Queen’s
You’re My Best Friend
returns the album back to the traditional Queen formula with a mix of piano,
guitars, and Freddy singing with his typical ‘tribute-esque’ style. It would seem that most of Queen’s songs are
directed towards someone as they are all written in a very casual manner with a
direct speaking voice especially using words like ‘you’ or ‘you’re’ makes this
song very intimate. The mix never gets
overly creative, but rather presents the song with nice separation that was
never heard even on one of the two Gold CDs issued for A Night at the Opera. In this case, I refer to the DCC version,
not the Mobile Fidelity edition.
By far one of the best
tracks on this album is ’39, which contains a very folksy beat, but the
highlight is the Brian May acoustic guitar intro that is a lesson on rhythm all
on its own. The bass drum beat is
identical to the one used off of Led Zeppelin III classic song Bron-Y-Aur
Stomp. ’39 is written in
storytelling fashion and is able to present the song like never before as the
beat is distinct and the listener can now hear a high and a low pitch on the
drum beat, where the CD track never was able to bring that drum beat out with
as much clarity in order to hear two different pitches. This is just yet another prime example of
all the benefits of multi-channel mixing especially when done here at the high
bit rate transfer of 96/24. When done
properly the results are amazing and as familiar as you may be with a
composition this reintroduces the listener to the song in the way it should
have been heard all along.
Sweet Lady kicks back into pure rock form with a cleverly
constructed song that uses some off-beats and various rhythmic patters in the
bass guitar department in order to give the song a slight shift during the
chorus to separate the versus and allow the song to have a bigger vocabulary in
its rock dictionary. Mixing this song
was probably tricky since most of the bass is managed through the sub-woofer,
but in this song some of that bass needed to be highlighted slightly different
by bringing in into the front speakers, but without taking away from vocals or
After such a rocking song
comes the melodic jazzed up tune Seaside Rendezvous, which is one of the
most complicated and dazzling mixes on this album with instruments and voices
traveling all over. This song was never
as impressive as it is now in this form simply because everything was so cluttered
before that instruments were never heard nor were they presented in an
interesting way to engulf the viewer as they are here.
The Prophets Song is another great highlight as the song covers a
lot of ground in its epic form as we begin with a lonely guitar and as the song
progresses more instruments come in to create a fuller more dynamic piece. The beginning with the lone guitar shows off
the clarity and dynamic range of the mix as each string of the guitar can be
heard. As the song moves forward the
mix becomes more engaged with the surrounds creating a wall of voices giving
the listener the illusion of being subdued by the people crying out.
One of the most beautiful
songs ever written by Queen is Love of My Life, which is never performed
live like it is here with various synthesizers and piano arrangements. Usually live Brian May plays the song on a
12-string guitar, which is effective as well, but the album cut of this song
presents the song in a more sonically embellishing way, which is captured more
eloquently here with the DVD-audio giving the song 5 channels to play
with. This song always had problems on
CD with Mercury’s vocals being able to pierce through the large array of
various instruments, but that problem has been alleviated here as his vocals
mostly penetrate out the center channel, while all the other material takes
over the left, right, and surround channels.
Good Company is similar in many ways to Lazing on a Sunday
Afternoon with a mix that is somewhat identical in its presentation. Nothing crazy going on here with the panning
of the sound.
Bohemian Rhapsody is of course the song that everyone knows from
this album and is the only song to also feature the music video on this
DVD-audio as well. The video plays back
in DTS 5.1 as well. The mix for this is
just as creative as one would imagine the song would be with the various vocals
going all over the place from rear to front and vise versa. There are a few moments of a 360-degree
circular effect used in the mix as well.
What else can be said about this song…classic?
Finishing up the album is
a bizarre use of God Save the Queen, which is always the ending of each
Queen concert. This song serves as a
reminder perhaps of the British roots of the band as well as their name and
serves more like a prayer than anything else.
If you are getting into
DVD-audio and need reassured of the differences that this format can offer
there should be a sign over this DVD-audio saying ‘start here’! The road to multi-channel mixing is starting
to get paved and with attempts like this it hopefully won’t be long before we
start hearing more music like this, whether it be older classic titles or newer
music. Hopefully artists today are
already preparing their music with the mindset that their music can be played
back with multi-channels. Queen was
ahead of the game as they already knew the potential for their music, but they
had to wait 25+ years for a format to handle their desires. Here it is…finally!
- Nate Goss