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LPs from the Attic: Queen — Flash Gordon OMPS

August 30, 2010
General Kala

She should have had her own wedding-planner reality series.

Queen — Flash Gordon OMPS (Elektra/Hollywood Records, 1980)

Even though Queen’s soundtrack to gloriously camp Flash Gordon doesn’t hold up particularly well as stand-alone music in comparison to James Horner’s orchestral work for Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, it retains the ability to get me thoroughly pumped up before any sporting event, business meeting, or  afternoon-delight engagement. Stealing rocket cycles and pummeling Ming just does it for me, I guess.

The small handful of actual songs that form the basis for the soundtrack, however, are very strong, especially “The Hero,” whose rock-hard bombast served to wake me up and get me amped for a string of drab, Fall workdays last year (having taken the place of several tracks from Mastodon’s Leviathan). This is Queen at its most ferociously cartoonish (Side note: I wonder if the sci-fi comic-book feel of their album cover for News of the World landed them the job. It was certainly a  curious  choice, even if it  works. Prince should call Brian May and thank him; for better or worse, we wouldn’t have had Prince doing the Batman soundtrack if it hadn’t been for Queen and Flash.)

The instrumentals, and the instrumental sections whose motifs make up the main battle themes, are well-played and exciting, but the edited songs (Mercury’s voice was removed) suffer from being divorced from the movie. They simply feel too brief or incomplete, unlike Horner’s fully realized pieces, unless you factor in the included audio from the film (Vultan’s “Dive!” and “Hero’s been hit!” and Ming’s wedding vows, etc.). These snippets, in sync with the movie dialog, give a sense of context and completeness that would be absent otherwise. In short, you can’t enjoy the soundtrack very much without watching the movie, unless….

…You have been a fan of this highly entertaining flick since you were a kid. I am; it was the second movie I can remember seeing in a theatre. The promotional material for the movie was amazing. I remember I received a printed book; one side featured information about the movie/cast, while the other side–half the book, mind–was entirely devoted to Queen. The band shared top billing with the movie!

I lost that book long ago, sadly (but not a similar Return of the Jedi book, with Fleetwood Mac gracing the back…kidding…about Fleetwood, anyway). But, the soundtrack is still with me, including the full-color album sleeve and poster, so I can relive that old movie magic or use it as accompaniment to new adventures.

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