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Live Killers

Elektra 702 [2]
Released: June 1979
Chart Peak: #16
Weeks Charted: 14
Certified Gold: 7/24/79

Queen"Live," they said. Pity the poor consumer who has to spend eight or nine dollars before he or she can read the self-congratulatory liner notes inside Queen's Live Killers and discover that the better part of "Bohemian Rhapsody" isn't live at all.

Because Queen is, according to the liner notes, "fiercely opposed to playing with any kind of backing tape" in concert, mostly of the band's hit operetta -- particularly lead singer Freddie Mercury's one-man choral climax -- is reproduced onstage simply by blasting the album version over the PA system while the musicians leave. The group flatters itself if it thinks this solves the problem in "typically uncompromising Queen manner." Fans deserve fair warning on the cover.

Anyone who already owns a substantial Queen collection will find Live Killers a redundant exercise anyway. Half of the double-LP's twenty-two tracks come from Night at the Opera and News of the World, and four more were on last year's Jazz. There are also two versions of their Aryan command, "We Will Rock You."

Queen - Live Killers
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
Of what's left, the tumultuous "Brighton Rock" is bogged down by Roger Taylor's overlong kettle-drum solo and Brian May's tedious technical display of how to play three-part-harmony guitar with a double echo. "Killer Queen" and "You're My Best Friend," two classy examples of the band's arty pomposity tempered by commercial savvy, are hastily performed as part of a disjointed medley that also includes a ponderous "Get Down Make Love" and Taylor's unconvincing "I'm in Love with My Car."

If Live Killers serves any purpose at all, it's to show that, stripped of their dazzling studio sound and Freddie Mercury's shimmering vocal harmonies, Queen is just another ersatz Led Zeppelin, combining cheap classical parody with heavy-metal bollocks. Using a recorded version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in their show may actually be Queen's "typically uncompromising" way of taking care of business.

- David Fricke, Rolling Stone, 9-6-79.

Bonus Reviews!

I've admired Queen for their crispness and attack. Though the band can seem technical, even surgical, they have a terrific ensemble sound, and their "Fat Bottomed Girls" album was a hilarious essay on the gullibility of the rock audience. But live albums, like this one, always make me uneasy. Few bands sound as good in front of the mob as they do in front of the control board. Queen, alas, is no exception. Their discipline falls apart in this two-record set, principally because they are now an established act and can muddle through their hits to enraptured audiences who bellow and moo predictably. It's all pointless, like a Saturday night at the bowling alley when the guys drink too much warm beer and don't score with Shirley, the zaftig cutie behind the popcorn machine. Maybe Queen will write a song about that for their next studio album.

- Joel Vance, Stereo Review, 10/79.

Given that all of this four-man group's albums have sold very well in the U.S. over the past four years, and that this is basically a collection of cuts from those LPs, one might wonder how much of a market there is for this set. But what makes this double live package valid in its own right are the new, and in several cases markedly different, versions of the songs given here. Tunes like "Death On 2 Legs," "Bicycle Race," "Dreamers Ball," "Love Of My Life" and "39" all take on a different feel from their original recordings. These four sides were culled from tapes of the band's European tour during the first three months of this year, and sound quality is excellent throughout. This set includes nine tunes each by Freddie Mercury and Brian May; two each by John Deacon and Roger Taylor. Best cuts: "Killer Queen," "You're My Best Friend," "We Are The Champions," "Bicycle Race," "Death On 2 Legs," "Bohemian Rhapsody."

- Billboard, 1979.

At an artistic and commercial crossroads, Queen paused to release a two-LP live album chronicling their first five years of music-making. Like most such efforts, it was basically redundant, although pleasant for fans. * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Live Killers features a feisty collection of performances and serves as a pleasant relic from one of rock's great live acts. * * * *

- Mike Joiner, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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