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Queen – Santa Monica 1976 3rd Night (Wardour-380)

Santa Monica 1976 3rd Night (Wardour-380)

Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA, USA – March 11, 1976

Disc 1 (59:50) Bohemian Rhapsody Introduction, Ogre Battle, Sweet Lady, White Queen, Flick Of The Wrist, Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, The March Of The Black Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody (reprise), Bring Back That Leroy Brown, Brighton Rock, Guitar Solo, Son And Daughter, The Prophet’s Song, Stone Cold Crazy, Doing All Right, Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon

Disc 2 (33:04) Keep Yourself Alive, Seven Seas Of Rhye, Liar, In The Lap Of The Gods, Now I’m Here, Big Spender, Rock And Roll Medley incl. Jailhouse Rock, Be Bop A-Lula, God Save The Queen

In October of this year a torrent hit a well known tracker that garnered much excitement for Queen fans, a newly circulated complete audience recording from the American leg of the tour to support A Night At The Opera. Prior to this there had been a scant three recordings to surface from this tour and only one, the Lampinski Boston January 30 being by far and away the best of the lot, has been available on the collectors market. The other two are nearly complete yet merely average recordings and have never been bootlegged. What is even more interesting is the history of the tape, I am a sucker for such things so I thought it pertinent to share the text from the original torrent.

JEMS is thrilled to commence our partnership with longtime Southern California taper Barry G with this previously uncirculated and undocumented Queen master tape from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Barry began taping in the early ‘70s and has been active ever since, though his later work focused more on video than audio. In his heyday, Barry was a dual threat, not only recording the shows he attended but photographing too with impressive results.

Beyond his own recording, Barry was a close friend of the late Mike “The Mike” Millard, attending many concerts with him and helping Mike make his recordings. Like Jim R, Barry has shared with JEMS some Mike the Mic recordings not in general circulation which will be part of our continuing Lost and Found Mike the Mic series down the road. But before we get to those, we have a great Queen artifact to bring forth.

Barry caught Queen on their third U.S. tour in support of A Night At The Opera. The band would play four shows over three nights in Santa Monica according to the Ultimate Queen website, playing early and late shows on the 9th, plus shows on the 10th and 11th, with this the closing set of the four. While Barry was not using Millard-caliber equipment, his recordings are a material step up from many of the built-in mic cassette captures of the era. There’s slight distortion when the levels get hot, but the recording is otherwise close, clear and lively. Samples provided. Barry says he sat in Orchestra C, Row 15.

Given there are only three extant recordings of the 1976 U.S. tour, Barry’s Santa Monica document is a major find for Queen fans. The performance is equally appealing with lots of Freddie Mercury audience interaction and peak band performance. Barry is putting his deep archive of audio, video and photographic goodies into a website called Barry Goldstein Concert Closet. The old site is still out there on the web and a new and improved site is on the way.

Barry’s recording is very good, it’s clear and detailed with the instruments and vocals being well defined in the mix. On the down side the volume overloaded the recording device so there is some distortion present as it was recorded on a portable cassette machine with a built in microphone. The frequencies range is more in the middle and lower range so it is not a bright sounding recording but dynamic in its own right. The sound does improve after the tape flip, just slightly less overloading, this is a very listenable tape, the performance is superb and the atmosphere is contagious.

The introduction is complete and with the announcement of “Ladies and Gentlemen…A Night At The Opera” with the middle operatic section of Bohemian Rhapsody is the intro music, the band take the stage with the hard rocking section, its short and sweet and leads into Ogre Battle. The pauses in the song are dramatic and give the audience a chance to cheer. Freddie greets the crowd and acknowledges this is the third and final night before Sweet Lady, there is some tape warble at the 1:20 mark that is about 30 sections long. A “delicate little number for delicate little people” is the intro to a superb version of White Queen, Brian’s solo is haunting in its beauty.

The beginning portion of Bohemian Rhapsody is played to start the early set medley that features the well received Killer Queen and an aggressive March Of The Black Queen and finally ends with a gentle Bohemian Rhapsody reprise. Freddie says its time to feature Brian May on guitar and asks what song they want to hear, shouts of Brighton Rock are clearly heard. The song is fast and furious as is Brian’s solo, full of echoed effects that seemly bounce around surrounding the listener in harmonizing notes that seem to float in the air. The transition from guitar solo into Son And Daughter is punctuated by Roger Taylor’s powerful drumming making for a very heavy ending. There is a quick tape flip just prior to The Prophet’s Song missing the first couple notes, you can hear either Barry or his buddy say “turn it over”, a wise decision since we are over 40 minutes in. Freddy tells the audience that the song has been improving every night, he is certainly correct as they play a stunning version of the song. The vocal histrionics seemingly impress the crowd who are fairly well behaved, thankfully the recording is extremely clear and detailed and one can fully enjoy it.

The Prophet’s Song ends with the band hitting the audience like a sledgehammer with Stone Cold Crazy followed by “Something from the first album”, a wonderful version of Doing All Right and is in complete contrast to the bombast that precedes it. Freddie implores the crowd to join in for Keep Yourself Alive and from what I hear they don’t rise to the challenge. Liar is introduced as being before they had a record contract and the bass line has a great swagger to it, not funky but really fat, John Deacon is on point! There is a tape pause 2 minutes into the song but sounds like very little is lost, Liar is the penultimate song of the set and Brian says LA is feeling like home, another tape pause follows. The final song of the set is a typically dramatic In The Lap Of The Gods…Revisited, its chorus sounds massive and the heavy riff and killer drum fills make for a rousing version and leaves the audience clambering for more. Now I’m Here is a perfect encore choice and Roger Taylor introduces Big Spender as “Victorian Rock and Roll”, it seems like the drum pattern would be simplified a few years latter for We Will Rock You. The Rock and Roll Medley is played at breakneck speed and brings an end to a very well played, and powerful concert.

The packaging is very nice, full color inserts with artwork based on A Night At The Opera, the live shots are taken from the run of concerts at the Santa Monica Civic and there is a picture of the concert poster and Barry G’s ticket stub tying the whole package together nicely. Of course there are picture CD’s and numbered sticker, the usual fare. Great to see new recordings show up and this must be an essential release for the Queen collector.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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