- Queen’s killer 1974 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- This copy rocks like crazy with serious weight down low, huge size and space, and plenty of driving energy
- 4 1/2 stars: “. . . this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack the moment where they truly came into their own.”
This vintage EMI pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of Sheer Heart Attack Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The engineer for Sheer Heart Attack is none other than Mike Stone. He engineered all of Queen’s albums from the first through News of the World.
What We’re Listening For on Sheer Heart Attack
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Flick Of The Wrist
Lily Of The Valley
Now I’m Here
In The Lap Of The Gods
Stone Cold Crazy
Bring Back That Leroy Brown
She Makes Me (Stormtrooper In Stilettoes)
In The Lap Of The Gods… Revisited
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Queen II was a breakthrough in terms of power and ambition, but Queen’s third album Sheer Heart Attack was where the band started to gel. It followed quickly on the heels of the second record — just by a matter of months; it was the second album they released in 1974 — but it feels like it had a longer incubation period, so great is the progress here. Which isn’t quite to say that Sheer Heart Attack is flawless — it still has a tendency to meander, sometimes within a song itself, as when the killer opening “Brighton Rock” suddenly veers into long stretches of Brian May solo guitar — but all these detours do not distract from the overall album, they’re in many ways the key to the record itself: it’s the sound of Queen stretching their wings as they learn how to soar to the clouds.
There’s a genuine excitement in hearing all the elements to Queen’s sound fall into place here, as the music grows grander and catchier without sacrificing their brutal, hard attack. One of the great strengths of the album is how all four members find their voices as songwriters, penning hooks that are big, bold, and insistent and crafting them in songs that work as cohesive entities instead of flourishes of ideas. This is evident not just in “Killer Queen” — the first, best flourishing of Freddie Mercury’s vaudevillian camp — but also on the pummeling “Stone Cold Crazy,” a frenzied piece of jagged metal that’s all the more exciting because it has a real melodic hook. Those hooks are threaded throughout the record, on both the ballads and the other rockers, but it isn’t just that this is poppier, it’s that they’re able to execute their drama with flair and style.
There are still references to mystical worlds (“Lily of the Valley,” “In the Lap of Gods”) but the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records; the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own.