In The Beginnings (Digital Queen Archives Q-002)
(74:12): Smile: Earth, Step On Me, April Lady, Polar Bear, Blag, Doing Allright. Queen, 1970: Polar Bear (take 2), Silver Salmon. Larry Lurex, 1973: I Can Hear Music, Going Back. Queen’s first demo, 1971: Keep Yourself Alive, The Night Comes Down, Great King Rat, Jesus, Liar. Queen alternative takes: The Night Comes Down (instrumental), Modern Times Rock N Roll (instrumental), Liar (instrumental). B-sides & retakes: Mad The Swine, Keep Yourself Alive
In The Beginnings is another release on the brand new Digital Queen Archives label. Their aim is to release the most comprehensive collections in the best possible sound of Queen outtake, rehearsal and B-side material that are scattered over countless titles. This documents material from pre-Queen up to the release of their first album. The opening tracks are reprints of songs from the group Smile. Smile consisted of Brian May, Roger Taylor and Tim Staffel. The latter handles the vocal and bass duties and is an interesting slice of obscure late sixties British pop.
Of particular note is the first song “Earth”, a Brian May penned tuned with thematic links to songs like “’39” and “Who Wants To Live Forever?” “Blag” is a Zeppelinesque heavy rocker and the first recorded reference of Brian May’s famous “Son & Daughter/Brighton Rock” guitar solo. And “Doing Allright” is the same track that appears on Queen except with Staffel’s singing.
The following two tracks have long been rumored and hoped for and have finally been released. If taken at face value, these are the earliest Queen recordings in existence and pre-date the arrival of bassist John Deacon. “Polar Bear” is a straight cover of the Smile song with Freddie Mercury saying “take 2” and Roger Taylor saying “it was so slow and it was getting slower.” “Silver Salmon” is a bombastic, drum heavy song that, although very interesting, loses steam by the end.
The rest of the disc contains well known material. The De Lane Lea demo is presented here at the correct speed. DQA tacked on the “Mad The Swine” outtake that was recorded for Queen but appeared in 1991. This is the strangest Queen song in their entire catalogue and I don’t think the band ever knew what to do with it. The final “Keep Yourself Alive” has a great drum interlude not present on the original single. A great job and auspicious beginning for this new label. They are releasing the long rumored and long delayed Queen anthology box set which will be released in late 2005 at the earliest. These releases will only whet our appetite.