Friday, March 19, 2010
Queen Song of the Week: Pressure On
But who would that punish? Not RT. Not Dr. May. No, it would punish you, readers, and that wouldn't be fair.
The last time I picked a RT solo song as the Queen Song of the Week, it happened to fall the day after I got a little angry at him (see here). I picked the song to emphasize what it is about RT that I enjoy so much and as a consequence, why I get so frustrated with him when he pulls one of his stunts. Since I'm not too pleased with my boy right now, I am highlighting another one of his songs this week in hopes that it will remind me that RT's solo work is getting consistently better as he ages and even if he doesn't release a new album for a year (or at this rate, ten), the end result will be amazing and that's what is important.
Pressure On is a Roger Taylor solo track from his 1998 album Electric Fire. It is the first track on the album and the first single as well reaching #45 on the U.K. charts.
Electric Fire is arguably his best solo album, but unfortunately also his most recent. To promote Electric Fire, RT did a small tour throughout the U.K. which was very well received by fans. He also did one of the first ever internet gigs which for a time was listing in the Guinness Book of World Records. He released a documentary that's a mix of pre-show, show, and post-show clips. The documentary is available in six parts on Youtube - here is the first bit.
I watched the documentary before I owned this album. As the first part ran on my computer, I kept thinking to myself, "What is that song that keeps playing?" By the time RT took the stage and began singing Pressure On, it's opening riff had already burrowed its way into my mind.
Pressure On is RT's swan song. It's absolute perfection. He creates a mood with the opening that doesn't let up until the song comes to an end more than five minutes later. Treana Morris provides lovely background vocals and RT plays most of the instruments on the track. This song is, however, a RT song through and though ("politics, schmolitics, I'm developing tics, clean out of tricks" he sings in the second verse). On paper, it's laughable, but it works here in a way that his lyrics don't work in other songs. The musical elements of the song are thoughtfully layered and complex - at each listen, I pick up on a clap or a beat that I'd previously missed. All those components together result in this gem which was the perfect choice to lead off an incredibly strong album.
Pressure On is also a great example of RT using studio effects effectively and not just because he has a new sound board that he wants to try out. About 3/4 of the way through the song, right before the final chorus, he uses what I can only describe as a metal crank. I have no idea what it is, but it fits absolutely perfectly into the song. As a funny aside, I had this song playing in my car once with a co-worker. The volume was turned down low but she heard the cranking noise and thought something was wrong with my car. "No," I assured her, "that's the song." To which she responded, "What exactly are we listening to?"
Honestly, I don't know why RT's never had commercial success as a solo artist. He should have had it following the release of Strange Frontier in 1984, but was unable to truly promote the album due to Queen's The Works tour. Happiness? from 1994 saw his three biggest solo hits to date and should have been a jumping off point for him, but wasn't. Then there's Electric Fire filled with amazing songs like Pressure On and yet outside of the loyal Queen community, it barely made a splash.
RT has assured us that he is working on new material so at this point we're just playing the waiting game. I certainly understand him not wanting to rush things, but I kind of wish he'd stay quiet about all this if he's not ready to deliver any time soon. I mean he's famous enough; he's rich enough; he doesn't have to do anything so I guess fans should be pleased that he wants to put new music out there at all. However, I'd be lying to say that I'm not a bit worried that by the time he finally releases something, no one (even his most loyal fans) will care anymore.
In any event, Pressure On is one of my absolute favorite RT songs, if not songs period. Check it out!