Queen

Queen is to rock and roll what the comic-book Superman is to Nietzsche's Superman: one big rock 'em-sock 'em, colorful, way-larger-than-life, out-of-control exaggeration of an exaggeration.

With its craving for overproduced musical bombast that crashes through your speakers like the Man of Steel bursting through a brick wall, Queen would never be called a subtle group. Still, as easy as it is to make fun of this sort of overbearing stuff. Innuendo is so over-the-top it's enjoyable.

The album is a homecoming of sorts for Queen, a return to the mid-'70s glory days of such tunes as the infamous "Bohemian Rhapsody." The band's recent releases have pursued a more mainstream rock route with zero success, so it's nice to hear this reversion to the old exaggerated ways.

Most of the songs are awash in over-dubbed vocals and booming Brian May guitar riffs. "Headlong" nearly drowns you with what comes across as an entire choir yelping "Hoop diddy diddy. Hoop diddy doo." The title song and "Don't Try So Hard" are harder rock, but the production is so lavish, it sounds like Heavy Metal Goes to the Metropolitan Opera. And, as a bonus, the album's best tune is the lounge-lizardish "I'm Going Slightly Mad," on which lead singer Freddie Mercury croons uneasily, like a cocktail jazz singer crazy after one too many requests for "Feelings."

If this is cartoon rock and roll, at least it's good and brazenly cartoonish. (Hollywood)

Charles Brown

Brown's musical talents have always transcended commercial ups and downs. Whether he was at the top of the R&B charts or in obscurity, this blues singer and pianist has always maintained a high level of professionalism.

On this outing, the debut release for Rounder Records' new subsidiary Bullseye Blues, however, Brown goes beyond even his usual excellence; All My Life stands as a landmark in a 45-year career. Brown leads off with one of his own compositions, "Early in the Morning," which shows him in his most characteristic mode: cooing a slow blues over a gently rocking, tasteful trio accompaniment. The gospel oldie "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" is given another new lease on life with Brown's moody interpretation. On "Joyce's Boogie" he proves himself a master of that venerable piano tradition.

Blues diva and Black and Blue star Ruth Brown (no relation) joins him on the rollicking novelty "Tell Me Who," and the excitement they generate puts it in the same league with Big Maybelle Smith's classic '50s version. In less capable hands the title track would be a maudlin ballad, but Brown saves it with a sweetness and depth of feeling.

As to the sidemen, there isn't a weak link in the bunch, but longtime guitarist Danny Caron earns special mention for his elegant accompaniment.

This album marks more than a comeback; it's a celebration. (Rounder/Bullseye Blues)

Mel Tormé

The thing about Mel Tormé is that he keeps getting better in much the same way that Rosemary Clooney keeps getting better. In neither case is there the slightest urge to say, "Please, please stop singing. I'd like to remember you as you were," which is the sort of thing one wants desperately to say to the man whose name will go unuttered but whose initials are Frank Sinatra.

On this album, recorded live, Tormé begins with an adroit medley arrangement of "Sing for Your Supper," "Sing, Sing. Sing" and the Carpenters' hit "Sing (Sing a Song)." There is a beautifully handled, tender "Early Autumn," which reminds listeners, in case they need reminding, that Tormé always seems to know whereof he sings. More, there is never the sense of his simply going through the emotions. One of the more delectable pieces on the album is a medley from Guys and Dolls, which Tormé handles with great dispatch and humor.

But by far the best numbers are those performed with the Frank Wess-Harry Edison orchestra, among them the Lambert. Hendricks and Ross classic "Down for Double" and "You're Driving Me Crazy," which fully demonstrates Tormé's vocal control—still sturdy despite his 65 years. (Concord)

Mind Funk

The first thing you think when you hear that name is that you are in for yet another of those new white-punk-funk bands following in the crowded wake of Faith No More and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But this new northern New Jersey-based group, made up of former members of M.O.D., Celtic Frost and Uniform Choice, is less antic, more metallic and more rock oriented. With one notable exception. "Touch Me," their hue is derived more from the Black Sabbath school than from the suddenly seminal Royal Crescent Mob.

The swarthy, if at times forbidding, power rock of Mind Funk, evident on such songs as "Fire," "Sugar Ain't So Sweet" and "Bring It On," rests on the tungsten-guitar foundation of Louis Svitek and Jason Coppola. Lead singer Pat Dubar is most remarkable for his restraint. While he clearly has air-raid-siren potential, most of the time he's actually singing like a human being.

The band's thrash-hard-core roots are evident on such maximum-overdrive songs as "Ride & Drive" and "Blood Runs Red." But in general, this is old-fashioned gothic hard rock: nasty, fitful and brooding. (Epic)

George Thorogood and the Destroyers

Slip a comma into the middle, and the title becomes an apt rallying cry for Thorogood's brand of bar-brawl rock and roll.

Try on the single "If You Don't Start Drinking (I'm Gonna Leave)." Over a rough-riding bedrock foundation. Thorogood implores his woman to adopt a more decadent lifestyle so that they can regard the world through the same shot glass.

The Delaware bad boy in fact spends this album filling out a familiar dance card, from the bluesy "Long Distance Lover" to the battering-ram boogies of "No Place to Go" and "Hello Little Girl."

Longtime producer Terry Manning has made the sound cleaner and, if possible, more stripped-down than before. Even Furious George's pungent cheap cigar of a voice is a little smoother, and his guitar doesn't buzz through your brain with the same reckless disregard.

The album contains unprecedented variety too. There's a restrained reading of the Dave Dudley barn burner "Six Days on the Road," a sedate country ballad, "Oklahoma Sweetheart," and even the nimbly picked, acoustic "Can't Be Satisfied."

There are some disappointments here, such as the blustery title track and a drab cover of Nick Gravenites's "Born in Chicago." But for the most part, the music has the same drive and bluesy authenticity that have made Thorogood one of rock's biggest rabble-rousers. (EMI)

  • Contributors:
  • Craig Tomashoff,
  • Lisa Shea,
  • Joanne Kaufman,
  • David Hiltbrand.