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Queen - Smile: Ghost Of A Smile CD (album) cover




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3.09 | 17 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars Doin' alright Proto-Prog

Smile was the name of the pre-Queen band that Brian May and Roger Taylor had together with Tim Staffell. This band never released an album back in the days but they did record these songs that were released many years later. There are different versions of these songs around and some versions have Freddie Mercury on vocals. But these particular versions with Tim Staffell, Brian May and Roger Taylor on vocals are clearly the best versions (the best version I have heard anyway). I must say that these songs are surprisingly good even if the sound quality is far from perfect.

This release has eight tracks in total, two of which are "bonus" tracks. These bonus tracks are best ignored, however, as they have strangely nothing to do with Smile. These two tracks, which are versions of the same song, are by someone named Eddie Howell with only minor contributions by Brian May and Freddie Mercury. It is hard to understand the reasoning behind putting these songs on this album.

Now on to the proper features of this release. What we have here are six good songs that foreshadow the style that Queen would develop for their debut album. One of the songs here, Doin' Alright, would later be part of that debut album - in a newly recorded version with Freddie Mercury on vocals, of course. The evolution of that particular song gives us strong hints of what could have happened to the other songs here. But these other songs are good in their own right. The style involved here is rooted in the sounds of late 60's/early 70's (Hard) Rock and Psychadelia, it could perhaps be characterised as Proto-Prog, or, at least, as Proto-Queen. There is, however, not much of the extravagant sound experimentations, virtuoso guitar play and operatic harmony vocals of Queen II and A Night At The Opera. But this was, of course, several years before that. These early songs are a bit more down to earth but with strong melodies. Influences probably include The Beatles, The Who, early Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Having this said, these early songs include some clear signs of what would become Brian May's signature guitar sound and Blag even includes a section that reminds of what would later become Brighton Rock several years later.

While the instrumental backbone of Smile would remain in Queen, we have here also some organ in addition to acoustic and electric guitars, strong bass lines, drums and piano. While Brian sings lead on Polar Bear, the lead vocals are primarily by Tim Staffell. Staffell is a very different type of vocalist compared to Freddie Mercury, but both Brian and Roger do backing vocals and this fact gives these songs a distinct Queen feeling.

No serious Queen fan should miss out on these pre-Queen songs!

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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