Ghost of a Smile

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Primarily of interest to Queen fans, Ghost of a Smile contains Smile's one single, "Earth"/"Step on Me," and four other songs recorded in 1969, but never released. A great live band known for being quite innovative with their dynamics, Smile were not captured well on record, where poor production accentuated the trio's sometimes sloppy playing and immature lyrics. That said, the group could write fine melodies and lead singer Tim Staffel has a soulful voice that is heard best on the bouncy "Step on Me" and "Doin' Alright," played here in a gentler fashion than on Queen's debut record. Meanwhile on "Blag," the hard rock psychedelic influence of acts like Cream is evident with a heavy jam that showcases the talents of Brian May and Roger Taylor in a way that was not usually heard in Queen. Although most casual fans of Queen or '60s rock will not find this record enthralling, it nonetheless serves as an important document in the history of one of the world's most successful groups and proves that despite the group's shortcomings, Smile was capable of making some interesting music. [Note: In order to stretch out the running time of the CD, two versions of "Man from Manhattan," a late-'70s single by Eddie Howell that featured Freddie Mercury and Brian May, are included.]

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