Forums > Queen - General Discussion > Jazz: What in the hell went wrong?

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steven 35638 user not visiting Queenzone.com
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Posted: 18 May 09, 23:58 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Dearly beloved Queenies,

I wish to bring to the forefront of this forum a discussion on my least favorite Queen album.  Even John Deacon, in 1984, said that "This (Jazz) is an album that I dislike."  I have always struggled to comprehend the reasons behind my distaste for this record.  After some careful research and speculation, I have determined several attributes that were, at least to this author's opinion, harmful to the overall success of the album. 


Ever since the band formed in 1971, Queen would record an album, then tour the bloody world, then record another album, and then tour the the bloody world again -- and this process continues up until at least 1978 when the band seemed to have lost much of its creative health and staying power.  I could imagine the band must have been tired and quite bored of the same repetitive formula over and over again.  I think this reflects in the production and overall design of Jazz.  Consider the following:

  1. The previous three albums (A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, and News of the World) each demonstrate a gradual improvement in the quality of sound.  Take out a good pair of headphones, and witness for yourself just how polished and clear the albums sound.  Now, compare this to Jazz's dull, shallow, and muffled sound.  One would have thought the album was going to sound great since Roy Thomas Baker, for the first time since 1975, joined the band in its production.  The album begs for a bigger, better sound -- much like that of News of the World!  So why is it that Roy Thomas Baker, and the rest of the band for that matter, allow for this album to sound so inferior to its predecessors?  Answer me this and I'll give you a cookie!  I have my own theories, but will share those later.
  2. In previous albums, the albums generally demonstrated a natural and flowing order of tracks.  Granted, News of the World was a little disjointed and unformulated since the band deliberately only allowed themselves ten weeks to record, rather than the typical four months, and even scheduled a North American tour as a deadline for recording.  Jazz, however, was recorded over the course of roughly four months and it would appear that the band had little regard for a natural and flowing running order.  For example, Fat Bottomed Girls and Bicycle Race should not have been separated and instead placed side-by-side.  Let Me Entertain You would probably have worked better as an opener instead of being placed at the end of side one.  In addition, Don't Stop Me Now would have been a far more powerful closer than More of that Jazz.
  3. There are 13 compositions on the album, which is the most since 1974's Sheer Heart Attack.  With this many songs, the band could probably have scrapped one or two of the more mediocre songs (Ex. 'Fun It' & 'More of that Jazz') and maybe (if there was additional material) have replaced those songs with stronger songs. 


    Granted, not all is bad with the album.  It features some notable gems, such as Mercury's delicate ballad Jealousy, Deacon's magnificent ballad In Only Seven Days, and May's underrated rocker Dead On Time.  I just feel this album could have been much stronger!



"Fuck today, it's tomorrow." - Freddie Mercury
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Posted: 19 May 09, 00:21 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

See that's weird, because while I love "Dead On Time", I think "Jealousy" wasn't a patch on his other piano ballads, and "In Only Seven Days" should've been canned.   

Interesting thread though.


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Posted: 19 May 09, 00:54 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Hi, Steven!

Amazing thread. Thanks for creating it.

Jazz is indeed a controversial album. So much so that a reviewer in(famously) went on to say that it was a fascist album. :op

What the reviewer was missing, and maybe what's most different about it in regard to the previous albums, is the degree of humor - I think humor plays a huge role in this recording and if one takes it for what it is, a tongue-in-cheek attempt at coming up with as many different kinds of songs as possible, it's a powerful album.

The opening is priceless: Mustapha would become one of Queen's most requested songs in live concerts. It was enough for Freddie to do the "iiiiiiiiiiiiii" that the audience already went mad. Hehehe.

Mustapha had to be the first song because it is for sure the most humorous. It sets the stage for what's to come: a pastiche full of some dirty language, sarcastic lines and different music styles.

Mustapha leads to Fat Bottomed Girls, a Queen classic, provided, and what's most important, an amazing achievement by Brian in sounding like he's driving Freddie to a rodeo (hehehe). The lyrics are priceless and its humor (again) is just right in our face. The song has an all too appealing groove and is very well thought out and structured.

Jealousy, as you noted, is a wonderful song, and there's a lot of creativity there in terms of instrumentation - it has at the same time a pop-love-song feeling and a more classical take. It's also a bit humorous in the way this more classical take is rendered - the intro is both beautiful and funny in its deliberate artificiality, for instance - Freddie does a very affected singing which is already a sign that things are not to be taken too seriously there. There are priceless lines as: "I wasn't man enough to let you hurt my pride". Hehe. And, see, his problem is not with jealousy, as it first seems: it's with falling in love and the other person involved in this. It's an elegant, humorous rant! : -)))

Bycicle Race - We had two rockers - Mustapha and FBG - and then a ballad. Something in-between was needed - a song which would gather all the elements from the tracks played so far - this is Bycicle Race. It has different tempos - it gets quicker, then slower, then quicker... :op - and it's simply a great tune. The composition is way too clever, Brian May's attack seems to quote his sudden attacks in Mustapha too. Freddie's vocals are great, the band is just tight and the song is a delight to listen to. Again, it's a song full of humor, but the humor is not done at the expense of the music quality.

If You Can't Beat Me - It's a great rocker again. The perfect song for a live setting. It's absolutely catchy and it proved to be a success among fans. Brian's guitar playing is amazing, the lyrics are amusing, and its rythm is absolutely contagious. And then there's a quite long soloing by Brian which is really great.
 
Let Me Entertain You - It's one of my favorite Queen's songs. ;-)))) The lyrics say it all - all that I like about Queen and Freddie in particular. Deacon's bass sounds like the strike of a hammer over Brian's distorted guitar in the beginning - it all creates a sense of menace and threat. Freddie begins his vocals as if he had really went mad - he sounds evil! The lyrics are fun, priceless, very clever and humorous, but a bit dark - it's a performer telling us in our face what he's about. It's arrogant, it's grand.

- This song has almost an imitative counterpoint. Technically speaking, it's a wonder - the chord pattern is replicated throughout by the whole band but the voices keep their autonomy.

Freddie's vocals are among the most difficult he ever committed to recording. The verses introducing the song, as well as those finishing it, are all to hard to pull off - he starts with a guttural tone and then he goes up until he reaches what's almost a countertenor C. It's wonderful - of course, because the song is played in a much slower pace in studio than live, he had the time to reach the note and sustain it. The song was obviously played faster live and, even when he did try to nail the notes, he had to adapt the highest one to the flattened B in the highest tenor range in order not to be out of tune: he does it beautifuly at Hammersmith Odeon, 1979. It's too fast for him to reach all the spectrum of a quite lengthy note.

Dead On Time - As you said, an underrated gem. It's an exciting rocker - it's very fast and raw, it's rock at its best. The lyrics are great and fun, and the "keep yourself alive" is even quoted - as it happens throughout the album as a humorous device.

In Only Seven Days - A great piece by Deacon. As good as If You Can't Beat Them, but in a diferent style. Again, good lyrics, as it's almost always the case with Deacon, and wonderful musicianship. John Deacon, just like in News of The World, is by now clearly contributing with tunes which are among Queen's very best. This is a great balance.

Dreamer's Ball - Hands down, Steven! It's a song of genius. It's actually pretty much in the line of other May's ventures into different styles - Good Company, FBG in the same recording, Sleeping on a Sidewalk, and so on. 

Fun it - Visionary! A lot of groove there and a quite clever compromise between a kind of funk and rock. It's a song I particularly adore, as pretty much most of the attempts by Queen at adapting the funk-disco sound to their catalogue. I like Hot Space a lot, so this is a kind of announcement. 

Leaving Home ain't easy - It's a great ballad, and May's vocals are so tender and beautiful. It adds to the diversity of the album, I guess. I like the lyrics a lot too.

More Of That Jazz - I thoroughly enjoy this song. The riff is wonderful, the lyrics are great and Roger singing is exciting - he sings with such power and attitude. It has all the elements of a good song and it's a nice way to finish the recording: it features the TITLE of the album, so it's natural that it'd end up with this song, and it wraps all up with a more serious comment on society and the music business - it's as if they were saying with the song: look how many different styles we can adapt to rock and still make it accessible. :-))) It's very cleverly done, I guess.

Hit: Don't Stop Me Now: Do I need to say something? ;-))))

-------------

Production: I like the way the album sounds, but I'd like to comment on it later, because I've already written too much, as always.

---------------

Deacon: His input in the album is so great that I can only think that he disliked the album because, maybe, his tunes ended up sounding differently from what he wanted; plus, it may also have to do with other aspects of the album - production, lyrics, who knows?

What I'd like to point out is that an artist view of his own work doesn't have to be ours - We know, after all, that Kafka almost burned his work - it seems a crime to us!!! - because he ended up hating his writtings. Thanks to his, hm, "friend" (hehehe), the work was saved from a tragic destiny. It's just an instance of how artists may work with very different standards, for various reasons, than ours!

----------------

You better start liking this album or I'll haunt you in your nightmares with my most unpleasant figure! :-)))

Take care, honey!

Great thread. I loved it.

So, why, why don't you like the album, hum?

[crossing my arms and frowning at Steven] hehehe

Bye!

Yara


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Posted: 19 May 09, 01:32 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I see no bad in this Album. It has up and downs obviously but overall to me it's still on that creativity path that includes the albums from Queen to The Game. Those were all gems.




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Posted: 19 May 09, 01:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Most bands wish they could record an album like Jazz, but I do consider it the most inconsistent album up to that point.  It's the production and two horrible songs "more of that Jazz" and "fun it." that bring it down a bit, but Jazz is still clearly better than hot space, the works, magic, and the miracle.  Mustapha rocks, Fat bottom girls, Jelousy, entertain you, dead on time, dreamers ball and don't stop me now are all gems.  I still think this could have been much stronger, and could have been as good as the first 6 or even better with stronger production, running order, why seperate FBG and bicycle races?...and the two roger songs should have been destroyed.   Overall, I love the album.

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Posted: 19 May 09, 02:06 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

One of the best albums of the seventies, not only by Queen


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Posted: 19 May 09, 03:37 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The only thing wrong with Jazz is the tracklisting. The running order leaves something to be desired. I could bore everyone with bollocks that no one would read anyway in an attempt to defend it but basically Jazz is the last real queen album until Innuendo in ´91.

So Jazz ? what the hell went wrong ? err..not too much really


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Posted: 19 May 09, 03:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Jazz, a bad album ???

What the fuck are you TALKING ABOUT ??!!!

Seek urgent medical attention straight away please.



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Posted: 19 May 09, 04:04 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



Bigfish wrote:

The only thing wrong with Jazz is the tracklisting. The running order leaves something to be desired. I could bore everyone with bollocks that no one would read anyway in an attempt to defend it but basically Jazz is the last real queen album until Innuendo in ´91.

So Jazz ? what the hell went wrong ? err..not too much really 






ha ha, the last real queen album?...the game was a real queen album I think, lol.

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Posted: 19 May 09, 04:20 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I really like Jazz...however I must agree here. I've always thought the entire album sounded like it was recorded in a tin can. Very metallic sounding and thin. It is crying for a 30th Anniversary (well...I guess '31st Anniversary') remastering.

I love the songs, but the overall album has this completely different sound.



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Posted: 19 May 09, 05:57 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



mike hunt wrote:



 



Bigfish wrote:



The only thing wrong with Jazz is the tracklisting. The running order leaves something to be desired. I could bore everyone with bollocks that no one would read anyway in an attempt to defend it but basically Jazz is the last real queen album until Innuendo in ´91.

So Jazz ? what the hell went wrong ? err..not too much really 







ha ha, the last real queen album?...the game was a real queen album I think, lol.

Oh noooo my friend! The Game ushered in the era for Queen as a singles band. Think about it - 4 singles for the first time, short album (under 35 mins), some strong short songs but lot´s of filler.  Fred´s 1980 interview in Melody Maker said it all ¨.....I think of my songs as disposable pop...you try it, you like it, you discard it...disposable pop yes! ´´I think he was being a little hard on himself but you get the idea.







Big Fish
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Posted: 19 May 09, 06:21 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote







My opinon of Jazz is every band starts a creative decline this was Queen's. I have never liked the drum sound very thin & I think the fact it was recorded in Europe possibly adds to whole sound.







1) Mustapha - never liked it has comic value for live situations for the crowd to sing along with but horrible really. 4/10







2) Fat Bottomed Girls - I prefer the album version to the single version as the band must have as that is what was performed sounds a little lightweight due to the production. 8/10







3) Jealousy - Not one of Freddie's better ballads sounds a bit like a demo & the acoustic guitar running through it I've never liked 4/10







4) Bicycle Race - Not my favourite not even Brian's solo saves it my opinion should have been elbowed entirely 5/10







5) If You Can't Beat Them - Works better live than on the album, the production once again lets down & I hate  the outro where it goes all "fuzzy" 6/10







6) Let Me Entertain You - Once again with a heavier production would been far stronger, it's well documented this should have been the opening track 7/10







7) Dead On Time - Underrated why it wasn't done live is still a mystery, but once again the drums are too thin 8/10







8) In Only Seven Days - I do like this one again this would have worked live with Freddie at the piano 7/10







9) Dreamer's Ball - The above wasn't performed live but this one was a bit of a stinker 4/10







10) Fun It - Awful the whole thin drum sound is really evident like Bicycle Race should have been elbowed 3/10







11) Leaving Home Ain't Easy - Again underrated really like it would have worked maybe with Brian on his own in the "quieter" bits of a gig 8/10







12) Don't Stop Me Now - Freddie's saving grace in terms of self penned compositions on this project possibly the strongest song on the whole album 9/10







13) No More Of That Jazz - The medley of the album doesn't help an already average track, I do like Roger's vocal with a heavier production could have been better 6/10







So overall it's hit & miss the strong tracks really stand out as does the fodder, but trim the whole track listing from 13 to say 9 (keep the ones I've marked 3-5 out of 10 for b-sides) you have a good album not brilliant at least a consistent one.















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Posted: 19 May 09, 07:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Having started following Queen religiously during "A Night At the Opera", I think that, the time you got into Queen, gives you different perspectives on albums.  For me, this was the first disappointing Queen album, because ultimately it seemed uninspired and not ground breaking (which every Queen album up to that time was)  I agree with the assessment that it seems disjointed with no real flow.

That being said, now I look back at "Jazz" as one of their better efforts, based on my opinion of some later recordings.  My mind set in 1978 was that for the first time they were sounding formulaic to me and (I hate to say this) boring at times.


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Posted: 19 May 09, 07:30 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote


pittrek wrote:

"One of the best albums of the seventies, not only by Queen"

Pittrek, pittrek what are you drinking  - or you´re a madman ? You just bought few of those japanese remasters and now this ....... !?

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Posted: 19 May 09, 07:38 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



jozef wrote:


pittrek wrote:

"One of the best albums of the seventies, not only by Queen"

Pittrek, pittrek what are you drinking  - or you´re a madman ? You just bought few of those japanese remasters and now this ....... !?

The thought has not struck you that this album may have a few merits you didn't notice?



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Posted: 19 May 09, 07:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I´m just waiting for someone to tell me AKOM is better than Jazz......


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Posted: 19 May 09, 07:48 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I like Jazz a lot, especially Roger's drumming in Let Me Entertain You and Dead On Time.

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Posted: 19 May 09, 07:55 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote



jozef wrote:


pittrek wrote:

"One of the best albums of the seventies, not only by Queen"

Pittrek, pittrek what are you drinking  - or you´re a madman ? You just bought few of those japanese remasters and now this ....... !?



Good point.

I correct my statement -

"I consider it one of the best albums of the seventies by Queen (together with SHA and Opera)"


I don't want to comment other bands


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Posted: 19 May 09, 09:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Steven: I beg to differ with the first part where you write that 'ever since the band formed in 1971, Queen would record an album, then tour the bloody world, then record another album, and then tour the bloody world again'. Let's see why:

Queen debut album was recorded and they went to some local dates. Hardly 'the whole bloody world' (I know you mean it metaphorically, not as in 'all 170+ countries', but still this is just mainland, not even Ireland).

Queen II is recorded, they tour (sometimes as supporting act) England, Luxembourg, West Germany, Scotland, Wales and the States (oh yeah and one private date in Oz). Hardly 'the bloody world'.

Sheer Heart Attack is recorded, they tour England, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Finland, West Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, Canada, the States and Japan. It may count as 'world tour' though there were no Australian, African or South American dates, but I suppose three continents are good enough.

Opera's recorded, and they tour UK, USA, Japan and Australia. Four countries (or six if you count England, Scotland and Wales separately) are hardly 'the bloody world'. Great, great, great tour, but not a 'world tour' per se.

A Day at the Races is recorded, and they tour the States, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, West Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, England and Scotland. Nine countries, two continents, no Oz, no Asia, no Africa, no South America... hardly a world tour.

News of the World: USA, Canada, nine countries in Europe. Again, a North American / European tour, not a world one.

So the whole 'record the album, then tour the bloody world' only had happened once (and it's still a 'streched out' case) before 'Jazz'. Of course, it's not very relevant for the thread itself but I think it's important not to mislead anybody, since many people could be reading your post (and they should - it's gr8), and it's excellent besides this detail.

Now, about the rest of the discussion so far:

- I disagree with the 'improvement in the quality of the sound' from Opera to News: White Man doesn't sound good, and 'News of the World' is sort of 'dry' (which is partly their own choice). But, for me, nothing compares to the sound of 'Opera', at least not until 'The Miracle' (shitty songwriting except for some tracks, but marvellous production).

- I suppose More of that Jazz was put at the end because of the 'medley'. I quite like the track, to be honest, just because of the vocals: they're brill!

- They probably had a compromise to include two of Roger's and two of John's, as they'd done for 'News' and as they'd do for 'The Game'. It's sad though that Mr Taylor didn't submit better material: Fun It is an OK song but when you think it's from the same bloke who wrote Drowse and who would write Days of Our Lives...

- I don't think humour played an important role on this record (as opposed to the previous ones). It was more a matter of bad mood, since reportedly there were loads of inner conflicts, and as a matter of fact Roy was asked to produce again not for musical but for personal reasons: they urgently needed a referee. 'News' was also a bit of a rowed record, and keep in mind that a third of the album doesn't feature the four band members (both of Roger's miss John, the closing track misses Brian, Sidewalk misses Freddie as well as the already mentioned Fight from the Inside).

- I think Mustapha was heavily requested because it's so ridiculous it's brilliant (i.e. entertaining). But it's not a masterpiece like Bo Rhap or Prophet's Song. It's simply silly.

- Brian, being such a perfectionist, didn't bother to repair the mistake he'd made on Fat Bottomed Girls break (causing a dissonant G/F which is not deliberate since live versions correct the error). Sure enough, it doesn't make him a bad musician, but certainly below his own standards.

- I don't think Jealousy is very 'classical' per se, although it may have some subtle ancient influences. I really don't see the humour here: it's more a matter of heartache. Great, great song.

- Yara: No way Mustapha's a rocker. It's barely got four bars of 'rocking' guitar and drums. It's as rocker as Great King Rat is salsa because of the cowbell.

- Bicycle Race does have some humour, but not a good one IMO. What a stupid lyric... but of course marvellous music.

- I don't think Rog was a visionary for writing a piece of shite like Fun It. I'd rather have him writing great songs in already-established styles (e.g. Days of Our Lives) than this.

- John probably disliked the album due to the problems the band were having inside. It may have brought some bad memories for them all. I know of a very tense moment by B&R too.

- I agree: the artists' view doesn't have to affect ours. If John hates it, maybe he'd like to give me his copy ;) And he'd better throw in some manuscripts for his songs too !

Myself, I like the album and I think it's great, and Don't Stop Me Now alone's better than a lot of the things they did in the 80's combined.



John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 19 May 09, 15:01 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote


1) I love Jazz

2) Its true, the sound of the whole thing changes between songs... and even in the middle of a song!! (Let me entertain you...)

3) After the album the best Queen tour was realised: 78/79!!

fijgiwufguywgf

Cheers!


Queen rocks!