Under The Radar: Queen, The Works (1984)
Updated: Mar 25
Freddie Mercury – lead vocals (all tracks), backing vocals , keyboards
Brian May – electric guitar , backing vocals, acoustic guitar
Roger Taylor – electronic drums and Drums , backing vocals, vocoder , percussion, drum machine , synthesizer
John Deacon – bass, acoustic guitar
Songs / Track Listing
1. Radio Ga Ga 2. Tear It Up 3. It's A Hard Life
4. Man On The Prowl 5. Machines (Back To Humans)
6. I Want To Break Free 7. Keep Passing The Open Windows
8. Hammer To Fall 9. Is This The World We Created...?
I just saw the first trailer for the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody and it looks really good. This got me thinking, I haven’t reviewed many Queen albums. In all honesty, I could have gone back and reviewed their entire catalogue, but that has been to death. Truth be told, Queen gets a lot of praise for their albums from the 1970’s, but for whatever reason their material from the 1980’s and onward has become unjustly ignored and forgotten. So, I let’s go against the grain and look at some of the underappreciated or forgotten jewels from the Queen catalogue
Queen were in a bit of hot water when their, dance, disco, synth heavy Hot Space record failed to resonate with their fan base. So, Queen took some time off to regroup and get back on track. The group needed to redeem themselves on their follow-up record.
Well, redeem themselves, they did with their eleventh studio album, The Works. The album was released on February 27th, 1984 and was produced by Queen and Reinhold Mack (Meat Loaf, Billy Squier).
The album was met with mostly positive reviews by fans and critics alike, hailing it as a return to form for Queen. There were some minor quibbles that Queen played it too safe with the Works and the album lacked the punch of such earlier releases as News of the World and The Game. All in all however, the album was a success, with four hit singles (Radio Ga Ga, I Want to Break Free, It's a Hard Life, Hammer to Fall) and selling over 5 million copies worldwide.
In my opinion The Works is a solid album even though I can understand why some of the critics and fans thought that the group did play it a little too safe. Most of the band's trademarks, like their multi-tracking vocals and layered guitars were really trimmed down on this record. For the most part The Works is a lean pop/rock record.
I believe that Queen were taken aback by the reaction of Hot Space. For the first time in their career, fans weren’t on board with the band’s musical departure or experimentation. Queen were at a commercial and creative crossroads. They could have continued doing what they were doing and lose their fans, or they could make an accessible album that would bring back the fans back into the fold.
By means of The Works, Queen certainly accomplished at getting the fans back, and they did on their terms. With The Works, we saw the re-emergence of the band’s rock roots though Queen didn’t fully abandon the electro-pop sounds that graced The Game and Hot Space, they just weren’t as flamboyant or flashy as we had come to expect from the band.
Still, The Works is a solid album with some great tracks such as the lead single album opener Radio Ga-Ga; the hard rocker Hammer to Fall; the uplifting I Want to Break Free; the reflective It’s a Hard Life and the bombastic second track, Tear It Up. In my opinion the piece de la resistance on The Works is the album closer, Is This The World We Created? A short but haunting acoustic number from Brian May and Freddie Mercury about nuclear war, third world hunger and the imbalances between rich and poor. The song is sung with such conviction that if you don’t get goosebumps, then there is something wrong with you.
The bottom line, Queen’s eleventh studio record deserves a second chance to be heard. No, its not as flamboyant, theatrical or camp as their earlier recordings, but that's what makes it endearing. The Works is an album that proves that underneath all the overdubs and multi-tracking there are four talented individuals who can deliver The Works.