Cardiac Arrest

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Queen were just breaking through when the bulk of this 1974 live collection was recorded: "Seven Seas of Rhye" had given them their first major U.K. hit; Queen II was entrancing an entire generation of glam-hungry prog fans; and "Now I'm Here" was still a reliable diary of the band's recent tours with Mott the Hoople, and not just another oldie to be dragged out in the greatest-hits bit of the set. And it shows. Compared with many later Queen live shows, and despite the obviously piecemeal nature of the set, the band's enthusiasm is utterly contagious. Material from Queen II, adventurous far beyond the band's contemporary standards, is executed with a flair which often exceeds its studio counterpart, while "Keep Yourself Alive" and "Liar" (from the band's debut) completely overstep their metal margins, to reveal themselves as veritable glam/opera epics -- a feat which Queen wouldn't officially achieve until the advent of "Bohemian Rhapsody" two albums later. Two tracks post-date the heart of the collection, and suffer accordingly. Arguably, Queen lost a lot of their original live élan once they left the small theaters which nurtured them and, by 1975, a degree of rot was already setting in. So "Sweet Lady," which was never much more than a Brian May guitar workout, clearly revels in the applause of a later (bigger) audience than Queen had been playing to, while "Now I'm Here" is indeed greeted like a conquering hero, and creaks beneath the band's need to treat it as one. No disrespect, but do we really need an audience sing-along to drag the song out to eight minutes plus? There again, what would Queen have been without the unbearably overblown interludes, to remind us they weren't just another rock band? Just another rock band, probably.

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