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CD Reviews: Review of Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen by Various Artists
Medsker Home / CD Reviews Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen: Various Artists (Hollywood 2005)

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Ah, the tribute album. Treacherous ground, these things, since anyone who truly loves the band being honored will likely turn their nose up at any attempts to duplicate or re-imagine their favorite songs. This goes double when assembling a tribute to Queen, one of the most versatile and unique bands of all time. Simply put, it’s a far more daunting project than, say, that ill-conceived Fleetwood Mac tribute album from a years ago. Are the bands that are paying tribute better off creating note-for-note remakes, or taking the song in an entirely different direction?

Neither answer is 100% correct, but sadly, the former answer is more accurate, which somewhat undermines the purpose of a tribute album to begin with. Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen assembles artists from all over the pop music spectrum (smart), but most of them wind up showing the world why no one talks about them in the same breath as Queen. There are some notable performances here, though, and they’re from the artists you’d least suspect.

Their choice of opening track is a curious one, to say the least. Gavin DeGraw takes “We Are the Champions” and turns it into a bluesy confessional. Drawn out and rough around the edges, you can smell the whiskey and cigarettes just listening to it, and while it’s a little jarring, it works, in its own strange way. What doesn’t work is Joss Stone’s take on “Under Pressure,” also given a blues treatment that the song fights against viciously. Sum 41 does their best with “Killer Queen,” a near impossible song to cover in the first place, but they just don’t have the chops to do it justice. And then there’s Josh Kelly’s version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which is stripped of its Elvis rockabilly beat and remodeled as an early ‘80s pop rock song. Think Paul Davis’ “’65 Love Affair,” and you’re uncomfortably close.

Fortunately, there are some moments to behold. Ingram Hill knocks “’39” out of the park, nailing the harmonies, the guitar sounds (Brian May is a hard guy to replicate) and the spirit of the original. Likewise, Breaking Benjamin turns in a surprisingly effective emo slam version of “Who Wants To Live Forever,” while the all-female Antigone Rising seems tailor made to cover “Fat Bottom Girls,” and they don’t waste the opportunity. But Jason Mraz, Mr. Wordy Wordpecker himself, blows everyone out of the water with his dead perfect cover of “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy.” The vocals are uncanny, and Bill Bell’s guitar playing is spot on.

Does it seem like one massive Queen song is missing? Fear not, it’s actually on here twice. “Bohemian Rhapsody” gets two different makeovers, one from “American Idol” hopeful Constantine, backed by the cast of “We Will Rock You,” and an altogether different interpretation from the Flaming Lips. Constantine actually fares better than you would expect, but the cast of “We Will Rock You,” which sings this song for a living, fails him. Where Constantine is clearly going for it, knowing that an epic song needs an epic performance, the supporting cast is all technical precision and no soul. The Flaming Lips give it the old college try, but their version isn’t anywhere as weird as you would expect, to its detriment.

Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen isn’t as good or as bad as it could have been. They were at least smart enough to bring a lot of different artists to the table, but as is the case with these albums, a band or two always slips through the back door that you tried your damnedest to keep from hearing about the party (take Eleven’s slacker version of speed metal forefather “Stone Cold Crazy,” please). Still, your friends are at the party too, so that makes it easier to ignore the undesirables and still have some fun.

~David Medsker




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