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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > Multi-Channel Music > Queen - A Night At The Opera (DVD-Audio)

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 DTS. 

 

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 throughout. 

 

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 diversity. 

 

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 guitar. 

 

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


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