Is there any progressive rock devotee who never heard of Queensr˙che? This American progressive metal band was formed in 1981 by drummer Scott Rockenfield and guitarist Michael Wilton. Queensr˙che have been very successful in the progressive rock scene, having sold over twenty million albums worldwide. After the release of the rock-orientated debut EP Queensr˙che (1983), the musicians moved towards a musical style that was appreciated by lovers of progressive rock music. On The Warning (1984) and Rage For Order (1986) the band had already used influences from many progressive rock bands, but on the concept album Operation: Mindcrime (1988) it became obvious that the band had been inspired by a concept album like The Wall by Pink Floyd.
However, for me their most progressive rock album was the next one. On Empire (1990) all pieces fell into place. The production work of Peter Collins, who already made a name with Rush, was of a very high level. He made the songs sound powerful, but at the same time crystal clear. There was a lot of room for detail on the strong compositions that often moved towards Rush, especially on the opener Best I Can, but also on the title track and The Thin Line. In the ballad Silent Lucidity, recorded with a real orchestra, the influences of Pink Floyd are evident. It's not that strange knowing that the orchestrations were arranged and directed by the late Michael Kamen, who did the same on several Pink Floyd-albums.
On Empire the chemistry between the musicians is evident. Lead singer Geoff Tate has a powerful voice and his keyboard parts on the album are very tasteful as well. Also the rhythm section delivers an outstanding performance. Scott Rockenfield's drum parts have a strong groove and the way Eddie Jackson pulls the strings of his bass guitar has much power, still sounding beautiful. I think the most important musician on the album is guitarist and songwriter Chris DeGarmo. Before he decided to quit this musical mastermind remained for the next two albums: Promised Land (1994) and Hear In The Now Frontier (1997). Empire also resulted in the climax of the band's commercial popularity. It sold over three million copies in the US, all together more than their previous three releases and world wide it went triple platinum. Silent Lucidity became the band's first top-10 single and the album also contains the Billboard top-10 hits Jet City Woman and Another Rainy Night, the top-20 single Anybody Listening? and the top-30 singles Best I Can and Empire. The following Building Empires- tour was the first full tour that featured Queensr˙che as a headliner which was a major success.
Now twenty years later a new generation of music lovers can enjoy this outstanding album with the extended 20th anniversary edition. This new 2CD-version of Empire not only includes the remastered album, but also features six hit singles, thirteen bonus tracks and ten previously unreleased live performances recorded in 1990 at the London Hammersmith Odeon. The sound of the album is very good and the three bonus tracks on the first disc are worthwhile as well. Last Time In Paris is a nice up-tempo tune with strong harmony vocals. The song was taken from the soundtrack of The Adventures Of Ford Fairlane and appeared on the B-side of Silent Lucidity. Scarborough Fair was the B-side of the single version of Empire. This song became well-known in the sixties by Simon & Garfunkel. The song starts with acoustic guitars and gets some heavier guitar sounds later on. It's a delicate rendition as far as I'm concerned. The last bonus track is a guitar piece that looks a bit odd on this release. Dirty Lil' Secret was the B-side of Bridge, a single taken from the Promised Land- album, but I haven't got any problem by including this track here.
I neither have a problem with the addition of a second disc which includes almost one hour of a live concert that took place on November 15, 1990. During the band's performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in London they performed many songs from Empire. These live versions sound a lot heavier compared to the studio versions, but sound wise they're very good and worthwhile listening. The sound effects from the studio version are also used live as we can hear for example on the intro of Best I Can. Surprisingly Silent Lucidity sounds on a live stage just as good as the studio version. Alongside the Empire-songs you can also enjoy some classic live pieces as Take Hold Of The Flame and Walk In The Shadow, all played very well.
My favourite Queensr˙che-album got a re-release that I enjoyed listening to. This release containing the remastered version of Empire and a live-CD is a must for many prog heads especially for those people who also enjoy the music of bands as Rush, Dream Theater or Shadow Gallery.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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