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PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS FORUM IS TAKEN FROM PREVIOUS VERSION OF QUEEN SONGS SITE.
Path: Queen Songs - Forum - Song Analysis: A Day At The RacesBookmark and Share

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Sebastian: A Day At The Races27 Feb 2007 18:38
About the album: note how the tracklist is sequenced, songwriter-wise: B-F-B-F-J on the first side, F-B-F-R-B on the second. Interesting contrast with 'II', where each composer has his entire ouvre on the same side.

'Tie Your Mother Down': Vocal arrangement greatly varies from one chorus to another if we listen closely (especially with DTS's). That's an interesting recurring difference between Brian ('I Want It All', 'Let Us Cling Together', 'Show Must Go On', '39, 'Prophet's Song' or his own version of 'All The Way From Memphis') and Freddie ('Play The Game', 'Staying Power', 'It's A Hard Life', 'Killer Queen', 'We Are The Champons').

'You Take My Breath Away': Very Mercury-esque details in the verse. Also, I detect some subtle McCartney influence there.

'Long Away': Brian deliberately wanted this one tobe a rocker and more Queen-esque '39. Although it was (check out Rog's amazing drumming there), it hadn't got the same magic. Otoh, there are some very interesting harmonies, as Freddie pointed out.

'You And I' is another one of your top-quality analyses. You can easily spot the evolution between your 2006 writings and those made in 2003 or before (e.g. 'Toe Your Mother Down').

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'Somebody To Love':

> Brian May in an interview suggested the influence of Aretha Franklin.

Actually, Roger and Freddie himself had confirmed that on Circus Mag in January 1977, before the American tour.

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'Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy': Another one of your best analyses. I remember when it was first issued almost half a decade ago. Dear Lord, we've spent so many hours in these discussions ... but it's well-invested time imo. Better than drinking or smoking anyway ;)

'Drowse': The other day I heard a song with a similar progression (I > III > IV > bVI > bVII), but I forgot which one :(

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'Teo Torriatte':

> Parallel modulation is relatively unusual feature of Queen songs.

IMO it isn't, especially if we count I>III or I>bVI. But compared with 'Beatles', perhaps they did flirt a little less with that, yes. But much much more than Bon Jovi or Led Zeppelin :)
1.PD 27 Feb 2007 21:27
'Drowse': I > III > IV > bVI > bVII,
This is mainly a combination of two traditional progression:
I > III > IV  and bVI > bVII > I

2.Sebastian 01 Jan 2008 14:59

This series is complete too, so I might comment on the songs:

TIE YOUR MOTHER DOWN:

Overview could use some copy-editing. My suggestion:

From time to time Queen reminded the crowd that they were a hard rock band after all. Mr May often took this job by writing simple guitar songs like this one (see also "Fat Bottomed Girls", "Put Out The Fire", "Tear It Up").

The form is simple: ballad-model with two instrumental solo sections, one of which closes the song. It’s not repetitive in terms of sections but in terms of phrases: the four-measure main riff is repeated 19 times (including variants), the one-measure title tune - twelve times over the song, contributing to its catchiness. 

Brian described the main riff of the song as Rory Gallagher-esque. The tune and the guitar riffs are heavily inflected with bluesy flat thirds and flat sevenths. Melodic major thirds are also used. The lead vocal is often "talking bluesy" (see also "See What A Fool I've Been.", "Modern Times Rock'n'Roll", and "Stealin'" much later).

Brian composed a May-estic overture for the album (rather than for this song, with which it shares the 1st track in CD releases), which is going to be discussed separately. As for Tie Your Mother Down per se, the analysis will be as short and simple as the song itself.

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YOU TAKE MY BREATH AWAY:

Again, a bit of copy-editing to the plain text:

 

Piano is the only instrument of the accompaniment, joined by guitars, bass and drums only in the solo. Mercury makes heavy use of the sustain pedal (which of course does not mean that he just holds it pushed down throughout...). The home key is Eb/cm, a favourite of Freddie’s.

Form is subtly clever with cross-quotes between the sections, especially the solo which combines both verse and bridge. The live version was shortened being started with the piano intro and closed after the first bridge.

A Capella Intro:

The song starts with an a capella intro, which can be divided to three subsections each one with solo-tutti dynamics. The solo phrases change only their last note which is walking upwards along the Cm triad (C > Eb > F) cycle by cycle.

Metrical framework of the melodies is vague, so the harmony-scheme will be based on phrases or phrase pairs.

The first phrase quotes the second one from the main piano-hook of the song. Harmony-wise the most interesting subsection is the third. Following the first solo vocal phrase we have three harmony blocks overlapping and fading into each other going through interesting chord changes. Although the home-key of the song is already suggested by the opening chord, the appearance of B7 and B aggressively prevent it to be felt well-established.

Piano Intro:

Following the a capella intro we have a more traditional instrumental one exposing a piano-hook which returns at the end of every vocal sections and also at the end of the first phrase of the verse. The hook is preceded by two bars of Cm7 chord.

Such piano figure is played twice in predominantly arpeggio-mode, the second time with pedal bass added to the halfdim-arpeggio. The subphrasing of the three-bar hook phrase is AAB.

Verse:

We have two verses in the song (first with only piano and vocal, second adding backing harmonies). Moreover, the solo also starts off as an instrumental verse. Opening chords can be simplified as Cm played throughout coloured with step-wise ascending parallel thirds.

The first phrase and the whole section are both closed with the piano hook. The subphrasing of the second phrase is, melody-wise AAA, chord-wise AAB. The last chord is prolonged longer thus the 6/4 bar. Lead melody changes for the second verse. This altered fragment is reminiscent of a guitar motif off the end of "Bohemian Rhapsody".

The chord progression of the third phrase applies chromatic bassline from the tonic on. The subphrases of the third phrase are closing on the last eighth of the measures creating a kind of syncopation. The last melodic phrase is the title phrase that closes on the downbeat of the assigned harmonic phrase.

Bridge

We have one normal and one half instrumental bridges. Except the first melodic phrase the lead vocals are either harmonised or backed with harmonies.

The harmony of the fourth phrase and the subsequent piano hook with the title phrase are taken from the end of the verse. Besides, the lead melody of the fourth phrase is a distant variant of that of the verse.

Solo-Bridge

The solo in fact starts like an instrumental verse. The second melodic phrase echoes the first with prolonged guitar harmony chords. Similar motif-echoing we can find in the following phrase as well.

From here the harmony switches to the bridge. This transition is executed so smoothly that one can hardly realise. From the five-measure second phrase of this bridge the vocal mode returns but without the lead part, which is held back until the Abdim7 bar (m.9). From here on the harmony arrangement is different from that of the first bridge.

Outro

It’s an odd one. After the last piano-hook fades away, a strange looped vocal harmonies fade in and finally lands on a four-note chord: C5,7,9 which clears out the preceding chaos.

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To be continued...

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