Live at the Rainbow '74

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Allegedly planned for an official release back in 1974 or 1975 but scrapped by the creation of A Night at the Opera, Live at the Rainbow '74 fills in part of Queen's history: it is the first official live album to capture the band at their pre-Night at the Opera fury. The brief 1989 release, At the Beeb, touched upon the same territory, capturing their two sessions from 1973, but this is something else, a full concert -- and in the case of the double-CD, quadruple vinyl, two full concerts -- that showcases the band's rapidly increasing range, not to mention their brute force. Soon they'd trade winding, fantastical detours for sculpted pomp -- something evident both in composition and in Brian May's guitar solos, which are so lengthy here they're indexed as their own track within the middle of a song -- but here they still feel untrammeled, as if they could stray off the reservation at any second. That they remain relatively focused is a testament to their increasing musicality; they may not control all of their instincts but there's an appeal in hearing a band testing their limits on the verge of becoming great.