Majestic Wintertime (Godfatherecords G.R. 861/862)
Sartory Saal, Cologne, West Germany – 6 December, 1974 (disc 1) and Congresgebouw, The Hague, Netherlands – 8 December, 1974 (disc 2)
Disc 1: Procssion/Now I’m Here, Ogre Battle, Father To Son, White Queen (as It Began), Flick Of The Wrist, In The Lap Of The Gods/Killer Queen/The March Of The Black Queen/Bring Back That Leroy Brown, Son And Daughter/Guitar Solo/Son And Daughter, Keep Yourself Alive, Seven Seas Of Rhye, Stone Cold Crazy, Liar, In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited, Big Spender/Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll, Jailhouse Rock, God Save The Queen
Disc 2: Procession/Now I’m Here, Ogre Battle, Father To Son, White Queen (As It Began), Flick Of The Wrist, In The Lap Of The Gods/Killer Queen/The March Of The Black Queen/Bring Back That Leroy Brown, Son And Daughter
Bonus Tracks: Rainbow Theatre, London, UK – 19 November, 1974: Son And Daughter, Stone Cold Crazy, Liar
Godfather’s latest Queen release presents two European shows from December 1974. The first, from Cologne, was released some time ago by the Gypsy Eye label as the 2-CD set In Concert ’74. Gsparaco posted a review of this title and readers are directed to that review for further details of the performance. The master tape of the show emerged in 2009 and has since been utilized for the single CD-R Best Cologne 1974 (the bonus disc with the Wardour release At Palace) and now for Majestic Wintertime.
Gsparaco’s review of the Gypsy Eye release has this to say about the sound:
“The Sartory Saal… is a small venue which guaranteed a clear recording. An audience member sitting in front of the stage about ten metres back produced this recording. There is a small cut at 7:28 in the guitar solo and one after ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ but it’s otherwise complete...Gypsy Eye attempted to brighten the tape a bit making it sound top heavy by favoring the upper frequencies. A better generation has surfaced recently that sounds better than this, however.”
One thing which Gsparaco did not mention, but which other commentators have focused on is some extraneous noise present here and on other Gypsy Eye releases. Queenlive.ca states that, “Gypsy Eye have once again added their crackling sound,” and The Real Wizard, posting on queenzone.com, writes that “they did hiss reduction, EQ’d it a bit, and added this crackling sound they usually add to their recordings.”
Discussing the emergence of the master, queenlive.ca refers to a minor speed issue with the Cologne tape:
“Most of the recording (minus God Save The Queen) plays a bit too fast. After stopping the tape under the assumption that the show was over, the aforementioned last track then cuts in, and the speed is correct. The taper explained the speed difference as a battery issue, as his gear would often work better after a short stop.”
The Real Wizard mentions the speed issue more than once, concluding that, “it only plays very slightly too fast.”
Despite being an improvement, as one would expect from the use of the master tape, the recording is a little lacking in clarity, with some hiss. Any speed issues there may be are really not noticeable on Godfather’s version or, indeed, on Best Cologne 1974, though both come in at around two minutes less than the old Gypsy Eye release, allowing each of them to fit onto a single disc. I could discern no obvious cut in the guitar solo on either release. Overall, the tape is quite listenable for a recording of its vintage. The taper himself, writing on queenzone.com, describes the sound “H-I-S-T-O-R-I-C-A-L Mono-recording in ‘bad’ quality!” which is a rather harsh judgement. Comments on the tape posted on that site include, “not bad by 1974 standards” (Ginger01); “it doesn’t sound bad at all. Maybe too much bass, but it will be still a pretty enjoyable recording” (pittrek); “a bit hissy, slightly too much bass but powerful – definitely an upgrade!” (P-Tr extinction event); “in my opinion is a much better version then Gypsy Eye source” (CGtteir) and “to my ears it has more depth and punch” (The Real Wizard). Commenting at rather more length, Madman, writes:
“The sound is mono, on one speaker, quite clear with good bass and small hiss on the background. Realy [sic] nice to my ears. For me it sound like previous release, from Gypsy Eye have some EQ job (more treble, less bass) and/or come from worser [sic] tape (so more hiss). This ‘new tape’ have [sic] more clear vocal not so distorted, mentioned more bass (wow, do You hear John job with this) and overal [sic] sound is just better. In first play maybe sound ‘muffled’ but then it’s ok.”
Disc two contains forty-three minutes of Queen’s show in Holland two days later. The other band on the bill was the Dutch outfit Kayak and, by at least some accounts, the show was a double-bill rather than one involving a headliner and a support act. Apparently, more of the audience was there to see Kayak than to see Queen.
Bert van de Kamp, reviewing the show for Dutch magazine Oor, writes some brief but positive comments about Kayak’s set and then sums up Queen’s performance as follows:
“But, it was possible to deliver an even more professional show [than Kayak], especially in terms of stage presentation. Queen gave away a rousing show. A truly royal spectacle, which amused me a lot. Carefully put together, the show was convincing almost in its entirety. It is a band full of ideas, both musically and visually. Singer Freddie Mercury moved across the stage as if he was The Queen herself. And surprisingly, on stage the band succeeded in putting across their often complex music very well.
The show started with ‘Procession’ (from tape), and the fitting ‘Now I’m Here’ (from their new album Sheer Heart Attack), complete with stereo effects: ‘Now I’m Here – Now I’m There…I’m Just A New Man, Yes You Made Me Live Again.’
Then followed ‘Ogre Battle,’ Father To Son,’ ‘White Queen,’ ‘Flick Of The Wrist,’ a clever medley with a piece of ‘Killer Queen,’ to end with ‘Liar’ (on request), and a spectacular climax with ‘Lap Of The Gods…Revisited.’
The encore, ‘Big Spender’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ was a little bit of an anti-climax to me. Then, accompanied by the majestic sounds of ‘God Save The Queen,’ everybody went home. A highly entertaining and varied evening of modern Rock ‘n’ Roll, at which I enjoyed myself a lot. Queen’s huge popularity in the UK is completely logical.”
Van de Kamp confirms that the show ended with God Save The Queen, which does not appear on this recording, which concludes with Son and Daughter fading out. If the “presumed setlist” on queenlive.ca is accurate, the entire set list was the same as for the Cologne show.
Queenlive.ca has the following comments on the tape of the Hague show:
“For many years it was rumoured that an audience tape from Queen’s first show in Holland was out there, and its existence was confirmed in November 2011 when an mp3 sample was posted a Dutch website on the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death. A few months later it was promised that a silver disc of the recording from The Hague would be given to everyone who attended the 2012 Dutch Queen fan convention. The promise was fulfilled (with permission from Queen Productions) and several hundred CDs were distributed.
Only one side of a 90 minute cassette reportedly exists. The recording is very good quality and well-balanced, although slightly distorted. This is presumably from the master tape, but such details could not be confirmed.”
The tape has been torrented in two inarnations, and The Real Wizard refers to the second, corrected version as follows: “This monumental release had a couple slight flaws, which are fixed here. The tape played a bit too fast, and there were slight gaps between the tracks.”
The version of the tape presented to us by Godfather on this release plays, to my ears at least, at the correct speed and clearly there are no gaps. One issue with the Hague tape, aside form its overall incompleteness, is that the last song, Son And Daughter was not captured in full and so we hear the song fade out before its conclusion.
Queenlive.ca awards this tape a B+ for sound quality, whereas the Cologne show only rates a B. There is a certain amount of logic to this decision, as the underlying sound quality is superior, but overall I found the Cologne show a more congenial listen due to the distortion present on the tape from The Hague. I also found, like Madman, that the Cologne tape sounded less muffled on the second listen, as my ears adjusted to it.
The three bonus tracks come from the first of two shows at the Rainbow, both of which were recorded and filmed. In 1995 they appeared on the 2-CD compilation The Ultimate Collection Volume 3 (Royalty Music) and five years later they turned up as bonus tracks on Gypsy Eye’s release of the Live Aid performance, He Made It On His Own. The songs were long misattributed to the second Rainbow show, which cannot be the case as during that show there was a power outage during Liar. The songs have also been misattributed to the show at the Apollo Stadium, Adelaide, Australia on 14 April 1976. Queenlive.ca states that,” for years the London ’74 reel-to-reel recording was often been mislabeled as being from this date,” and both of these old releases attribute the songs to the Australian show.
Queenlive.ca states that:
“Three tracks exist from the first night in stereo sound from the Trident reel-to-reel. They first saw the light of day in the 90s, but in 2010 a superb quality version emerged. The tracks were intended to be broadcast on the radio in the 90s, and this copy comes from the tape that was given to the radio station. Earlier copies that circulated had more tape generations, and thus less clarity in the sound and more tape hiss.”
Godfather utilizes the new version for these three excellent performances and the sound is a clear upgrade from previous releases.
Majestic Wintertime comes with Godfather’s usual trifold packaging, with a striking black-and-white posed shot of the band on the front. Numerous onstage photographs from the era adorn the rest of the sleeve and the eight-page booklet. With the exception of the one on the booklet cover (which comes from the show at London’s Rainbow Theatre on 31 March), they are also monochrome. The shot of Freddie Mercury from the rear of the sleeve comes from the Hague concert. It can be seen on queenlive.ca and it originates from the book Voor Queen En Vaderland by Edger Hamer. The booklet notes have four brief sections, an introduction followed by a section on each of the three shows. Unfortunately, there is an error in the section on the Rainbow concert, where the text suddenly switches to a slightly different version of the introduction.
With this release Godfather has restored the Cologne show to the catalogue with upgraded sound, given us the first widely-available pressing of the concert from The Hague and added three most welcome bonus tracks, also in superior sound quality. Majestic Wintertime is therefore a very worthwhile acquisition for Queen collectors.