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Style: experimental, hard rock
Members: Roger Taylor ~ vocals/drums/guitars/bass/keyboards
David Richards ~ keyboard/piano
Rick Parfitt ~ rhythm guitar
Guests: John Deacon ~ bass
Freddie Mercury ~ keyboards/b. vocals
Remember Queen's techno-disco-pop phase driven not by heart-breaking piano ballads but drum machines & keyboards? You don't? Well, they had one from about 1980 to 1984 with the weakest albums of their career: The Game, Hot Space & The Works with the Flash Gordon Movie Soundtrack as the only break, however odd, from the pop mess. This era ended with the mix-bag but far better A Kind Of Magic which ended up being their final tour with Mercury. There were lots of hits to come out of this era but the ratio of hit to bum song is greatly unbalanced & the hits are so strong they cause us to forget the flops. We remember "Under Pressure" but forget that the ten songs that preceeded it on Hot Space are horrible. If you don't believe me recall from the era "Don't Try Suicide", "Machines (Back To Humans)" or "Body Language." Drummer Roger Taylor obviously didn't read the critics or fan reviews as his solo album Strange Frontier immediately reminds me of these Queen albums. "Strange Frontier" even features a bit of "Radio Ga Ga" from The Works in it. Taylor's biggest dilemma, on all his albums & even with his solo band The Cross, is weak lyrics. They have such a weak emotional quality that even a few well-placed cliches would make them better. Taylor likes to write about social & political dilemmas, which is commendable, if not love songs but most of his lyrics are so maudlin the point is quickly lost. What's worse is that he tries to be Bruce Springsteen, even changing his vocal tone, in the Springsteen cover "Racing In The Streets" which includes the way too familiar line: "Summers here & the time is right for goin' racing in the streets" with a refrain that could be out of "American Pie". Under Springsteen's skill this song worked & was a stable of early set lists, but under Taylor the result is imitative & largely embarressing. Instead of a tribute to Motown & the Beach Boys, which it was for the Boss, it's a tribute to the art of poor cover tunes. This is followed by the Dylan cover "Masters Of War". At least he doesn't try to sound like Dylan on this one ... so the song just sounds like another bland Taylor song. Sometimes you just listen to an album wondering what the musician was thinking at the time & did the album come close? I get this feeling for many of Paul McCartney's solo albums. Did anyone hear this before it was released I ask? Obviously not. It's interesting to hear a talented musician away from their band. Queen was talent through the roof, albeit The Cosmos Rocks with Paul Rodgers should not have happened as a coda to their successful career. But, away from their bands ... some musicians should enjoy their time off & just cash royalty checks. Strange frontier is indeed the perfect title for this ... strange frontier. & what's even worse is that one of the great vocalists guests on backing vocals but it's hard to figure out on which song! It's that strange! Though, I will say, I love Roger Taylor's drumming in Queen ever since I first heard them as a boy & for years called him by favorite drummer (upsurped by Zeppelin's John Bonham), so I don't think he's an untalented hack & I even like the songs he sang for the band. But, a drummer featuring drum machines on his solo album is called not using one's talents. & I'm not saying that drum machines are bad. Bill Bruford has shown their value over his 40 year career, but he actually plays them not just programs them. Though, not to be too harsh, I do like the very simple cover art.