This weekend I went back to really critically listen to Bait & Switch, after I listened to Queen's "A Night At The Opera" released in 1975. (full album in video link)
After giving Queen a spin, I realized how much better their recording is than any of my recordings. There are a number of reasons for this.
One of them is because in 1975, bands made complete albums. While singles were desired (and pushed) for radio air time, albums were meant to take you on a sonic journey. Producers, engineers, and artists created that journey with details like panning harmonies, layering guitars, arranging and orchestrating the entire song. These details created texture, movement, and drama all geared to keep your brain's full attention.
Another reason is it took discipline to make an album like "A Night At The Opera". When you sit back and listen, you may take for granted 4 guys created an album that sounded like there were 20 guys in the band. Or, perhaps you realize just how talented they really were, discipline or not. But one thing is for sure for me. I realized how far I must go to accomplish anything similar.
To be fair, Freddy wasn't a perfect singer. But his theatrical talent was, as captured in this album, essential for the band's greatness. Every song was driven by his wild vibrato, and clobbering vocal attack. Brian May's guitar playing was never flashy. You can hear in his leads licks, which prelude "Bohemian Rhapsody". But all of his parts were so well put together. All this went on while Roger and John held the sonic foundation adding punch and velocity together. In conduction with Roy Thomas Baker, who produced the album, these gentlemen were disciplined and complimented one another as a team (and won a Grammy for Bohemian Rhapsody!). Everyone worked from their strengths, even if the record was the most expensively produced at the time.
If creating a superb album means working from strengths, I have to be honest with myself. While my vocals and guitar playing would never match Freddy Mercury or Brian May, and my bass playing would never match John Deacon, even my drums aren't worthy comparisons to Roger Taylor (Rolling Stone, Issue 147, 12 June 1973). And that's the truth. I must also admit that I'm no Roy Thomas Baker, too.
So, how does an ex-farmboy who makes music part-time, and never tours do something as great as Queen's incredibly talented team? Discipline and time. I believe my strength is song writing. And I've worked with folks like Stu Epps to know it's time to move on and do something than just adding layers of instruments. Indeed, I must reach a new goal. The only way to get there is to add a higher degree of quality by means of discipline.
I want to take you into each story in each song and make you feel it. Every frustration, every pain, every touch of tenderness, every flight of fantasy. I must give you everything I've got.
Never the less, I can't help but get inspired by the genius of Queen. If there are team mates out there willing to help me take things to the next level, I'm willing to work with them. And I think Lucky Kelson is a good addition.
Still, I must do a lot of heavy lifting myself, as a stand alone musician. And each part, each phrase, and each melody line must stand alone, too. Each part of the process takes talent, skill and study on its own to get right. That's a lot to ask from an old farm boy from New Jersey. Fortunately, my parents armed me with Beatles, Elvis, Johnny Rivers, 5th Dimension, Donovan, Peter Paul & Mary, Buddy Holly and many more. These influences never had the flair that Queen did, but I dare anyone one to say Freddy's crooning vocals weren't based on Elvis. If Freddy could lean on his influences, so can I. I'm pretty sure we listened to the same stuff.
My next CD, "Hook, Line & Sinker" shall no doubt lean on my influences. But it should no doubt take longer because I want to take the time (the discipline, if you will) to make it great. If you want just a small sample of where "Hook, Line, & Sinker" is going, click here.
If you'd like to hear Queen's "A Night At The Opera", listen to it, here. Then, go back and listen to Bait & Switch, and hear for yourself where improvements can be made.
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