Bob's remark about Teo Torriatte having one of the best climaxes in a Queen song got me thinking - crescendo really is something that Queen mastered like no other group I've ever heard. It's fun and worthwhile to pick apart what makes them so moving.
Some of my favourites, other than Teo Torriatte:
- Prophet's Song -
The vocal canon leads into an instrumental section. At 6:19 an ascending chord progression begins, culminating with the speeding-up-tape-effect. Then there's some more guitar solo, this time over the chorus progression, giving it a bit more oomph. Said oomph is enhanced further with the brief syncopated section at 6:40. Then the third iteration of the pre-chorus, just as sparse as the first, with bass and guitar playing ascending single notes in octaves. This drop in dynamic fullness is paid off when the chorus kicks in - the lead guitar soars in the background, while the vocal arrangement reaches its final and biggest iteration.
One very simple technique which I find very moving when applied well is the switching of 'Oohs' for 'Aahs' (the non-Phil Spector version of Let it Be is an exemplar of this - the backing 'Oohs' in the chorus become 'Aahs' after the guitar solo, and the effect is astonishing). Prophet's Song utilises this brilliantly - 'Aah, children of the land'.
- Love of My Life -
A slightly more subdued example - when the guitar orchestration kicks in in the instrumental passage, along with the drums and bass. It's over as quickly as it starts, making it all the more sharp and emphasised.
- White Queen -
The intensity ramps up for the electric guitar solo, and then ramps up even further for the following 'My goddess here...', which features what might be most orgasmic melding of vocal and guitar harmonies in their catalogue. It's made all the more satisfying in that we've just come out of the slow-building acoustic guitar solo, which features the very distant, reverb-washed 'Aaah's. In the climactic 'It's forevermore that I wait', the previously distant backing vocals can be heard in stunning clarity - a very effective payoff.
- All Dead, All Dead -
The song is lyrically and musically resigned for the most part, the exception being the orchestrated guitar section. At its outset, it lingers on V, building up tension before giving way to the rich and mournful wall of guitars - the bittersweet cries that are withheld throughout the rest of the song.
- Nevermore -
The most beautiful of all, in my opinion (maybe tied with All Dead). Freddie shifts into full voice and the tempo begins to sharply increase - 'You sent me to the path of nevermore when you say you didn't love me anymore'. The arrangement becomes bigger in the same instant, with arpeggiating electric guitar, and a bass guitar which is suddenly near the front of the mix. The backing vocals, previously singing 'Nevermore, nevermore', panning hard from left to right, are now unified in the center of the mix. They're intricately arranged except for the climactic moment (aaa-AAA-aaa), which is a parallel three part harmony - pretty straightforward. Maybe the simplest moment in the backing vocal arrangement, but also the most powerful to me.
This is all achieved without percussion, where similar sections in Lily of the Valley and Love of My Life rely on crashing cymbals.
It's a Hard Life also deserves mention for its instrumental, which begins subdued before vocal and guitar harmonies enter in full force. It's not quite as powerfully performed and recorded as the earlier examples, but it's a shining example of this technique amid the 80's material which otherwise tends to lack that kind of dynamic shifting.
Innuendo. 6:09-6:20 in this version link
Not only is the delivery of "and whatever will be will be" absolutely perfect, the stereo "just keep on tryin'" gives me chills and hearing the synth repeat what the guitar usually does in the choruses just tops it all off. I also love the way the second "will be" sounds phased and echo-y as well.
^hah. Nah just a good natured bad joke as if Sebastian told someone "You take my breath away. ...."
Of course he was referring to the song.
Well, for what it's worth my favorite would be The Prophet's Song - but a casual listener wouldn't get it.
Of course that's always been the heightening point of any of Queen's success - their ability to shift a person through a wide range of mood by exacting use of pacing and form
WWTLF is a perfect example. Without the deliberate pacing (as in the long form version) one is left without the emotive weight of the song (*which is why single versions only suck)
the short version lacks the dread within the orchestration as well.
it's truly a beautiful song
The intro to Death On Two Legs is pretty cool. And I really like the part in Under Pressure where they go from the quiet part "Turned away from it all..." to "insanity laughs under pressure we're cracking".
Just for clarity (for anyone that does't know). 'crescendo' is a musical term that means grow louder. The opposite is 'diminuendo'.
In a music score a cresendo in the music is shown by a < under the music streching out as long as it is intended for the music to continue getting louder.
A common mistake is to say 'the music reached a crescendo' when what is meant is that the music reached some sort of climax. The 'reaching' is the crescendo, not where it ends up.