ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, DEC. 17, 1998
By Steve Newton
Don’t let the oversized imitation-velvet box fool you—this cheaply designed collection is nothing more than a digitally remastered reissue of the band’s first eight studio albums. Unlike in most boxed sets, there’s nothing previously unreleased here, nothing rare, nothing live. Instead of paying dearly for The Crown Jewels, you could buy all these CDs at the regular “classic rock” price and still have enough left over for a tasty dinner out.
But then you wouldn’t have that pretty blue box.
The brainiacs at Hollywood Records must have thought it would be clever to package these eight discs like tiny LPs, re-creating the original album layouts and even using little paper envelopes to hold the CDs. Unfortunately, now you need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics for A Night at the Opera, and the lyrics for A Day at the Races are just a blur. You could look up the words of each song in the accompanying 90-page booklet, which sticks with the Crown Jewels program by not offering anything new or interesting in the way of Queen info and memorabilia.
As for the music itself, although I adored Queen’s early LPs, I gave up on the group when it released its sixth album, 1977’s News of the World. Unlike millions of others, I couldn’t stand the cheerleaderish hit “We Will Rock You”; I still dread watching hockey games in case this tedious chant erupts over the PA system. And “Bicycle Race”, the absurd hit from 1978’s Jazz, made me wonder how the group that had won me over with “Keep Yourself Alive” could be stooping to kooky vaudevillian bombast. The band redeemed itself somewhat with 1980’s The Game, which boasted better singles (“Another One Bites the Dust”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”) and less filler.
So the good news is, if you toss out the two real duds in this bunch, there’s plenty of room to keep your weed in there.