QUEEN 'Absolute Greatest' [Release Date 16/11/2009]
Queen. Someone ought to erect a monument to them. Think about it: they've ruled their game longer than many of our most famous leaders, their words can be repeated by many more than can recite our most celebrated writers, and despite more than three generations passing since they first blasted their way into our consciences, they're just as omnipresent today as they ever were. Just for starters (and more to follow): Queen are Britain's favourite band: the BPI [Britain's official recording body] records that the band's Greatest Hits 1 album is the biggest selling album since the charts were started over 50 years ago; Queen are the most successful act of all time on the British charts: research by the team behind the most popular music annual in the world, The Book of British Hit Singles & Albums, reveals that Queen have overtaken the Beatles as Official UK Album Chart champions, having spent more weeks on chart than the fab four.
Globally, that adds up to more than 300 million records sold. And let's not forget Queen's unmatched global dominance as live artists. There's not a continent in the world Queen's legendary tours haven't touched down in, in many cases arriving ahead of anyone else: think South America, Mexico, the Eastern Bloc. And who but the wisest would know that even somewhere down there in the desert of Antarctica sits a permanent plaque bearing Queen's name? Always ready to try something new, Queen broke rock convention and created a stage musical, 'We Will Rock You', and some eight years on it still sells out nightly in London and just recently their all-time worldwide audience crossed over the 10 million mark. Beyond that, Queen continue to sell out concerts, are ready to lend their celebrity power unreservedly when they see just causes – such as Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign; have quietly collected and distributed over $15 million dollars through their own charity the Mercury Phoenix Trust – fighting AIDS worldwide, and most telling of all, continue to be held in the highest esteem by the lead runners in today's Rock Pack who cite the band's influence over them in their founding years.
Let's face it: few other acts have so embedded themselves into our lives that we can't imagine a time when Queen weren't around, or can imagine such a time in the future. So what is it about Queen that makes it all so? You have to look no further than the forthcoming 'Absolute Greatest' hits package, released November 16th in four different CD and LP, compact and luxury sets, illustrated with some fine photos and videos, to see where it all comes from. Charting over 21 years of making people rock, feel, sense and celebrate, 'Absolute Greatest' reminds us just what fine, and smart, rock and pop writers and musicians Messrs Deacon, May, Mercury and Taylor were (are). Also that they had a sense of humour, which is perhaps another thing that made them so accessible. The earliest hit presented here, 'Seven Seas of Rhye'  reminds us of those days when we wondered about why they had chosen the name Queen, whether they really were just an arrogant bunch pushing their luck in Zandra Rhodes frocks and black nail varnish, or whether they really were the future of Progressive Rock?
To make us further wonder, they didn't stop there – they went on to defiantly title their next single 'Killer Queen'. Then they flashed the wit and made us all smile and feel good at the same time with those jaunty ditties like 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', 'Radio Ga Ga', and 'I Want To Break Free'. And hell, who would have thought that Roger Taylor would look so fetching in that pre-Britney schoolgirl outfit? And if you wanted a mass celebration, who better than Queen, who could bond tens of thousands of total strangers and get them chanting or arm-waving in unison to May's terse We Will Rock You or Mercury's more emotionally charged 'We Are The Champions'. They could at the drop of a hat be romantic, as Deacon proved with 'You're My Best Friend', or friends to heartbreak, as we saw in Mercury's 'Somebody to Love' or May's 'Who Wants to Live Forever'. Queen provided a mood and backdrop for every time and every occasion, and were often at their best when they went for almost breath-taking high drama: aided by David Bowie they gave us the brooding heart pounding rhythms of 'Under Pressure', the operatically ballistic 'Bohemian Rhapsody', and perhaps the ultimate curtain-call rock song, 'The Show Must Go On'.
A joyous celebration of Queen's – and many of our own – greatest moments, 'Absolute Greatest' also comes in very personalized versions in which band members Brian May and Roger Taylor share their own memories about the tracks chosen for this collection. In a limited-edition book version, the Queen photo archives are opened up with 52 pages of unseen and rare photos, and handwritten song lyrics by each member of the band (including corrections and rewrites). Certain versions provide exclusive access to online streaming of 20 of Queen's greatest live performances. OK – so it should not be expected we will see the likenesses of Queen carved into Mount Rushmore, or find their way to a Trafalgar Square plinth (now there's an idea), so for the moment let's accept that 'Absolute Greatest' will serve as a terrific tribute to a monumental music history. Ah, these are (indeed) the days of our lives.