The Music of Valensia, A Queen Fan’s Dream

Valensia is an ultra talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.  Unfortunately he has spent most of his music career in relative obscurity.  Musically he combines the influence of 1970’s Queen, Kate Bush, The Beatles and 1980’s pop music; i.e. Duran Duran, The Police, and Culture Club. Vocally he sounds like an amalgam of Freddie Mercury and Kate Bush with a touch of Michael Jackson. With all of that his biggest influences are clearly Queen and Freddie Mercury. All of these influences meld within Valensia’s lushly produced and intelligent pop/rock compositions.  His influences are displayed loud and proud, but ultimately the musical vision is uniquely Valensia’s.

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He has spent the bulk of his under the radar career paying homage to the great music of Queen. For me his music is the ultimate love letter to Queen and Freddie Mercury. At times Valensia sounds so much like Freddie Mercury it is uncanny. Listening to his music it is quite clear that Valensia is first and foremost a passionate  fan of Queen. His desire to produce music that is heavily influenced by Queen is only natural.

Overall most of his albums are worthwhile listening.  Obviously some are better than others, but there is great music to be found on all of his releases.

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His first album Gaia, released in 1993, established the basic musical template that he has worked with for his career.  Elaborately produced pop/rock music combining the quirky over the top artfulness and huge vocals of Queen, the unique weirdness of Kate Bush with 1980’s pop rock.

On Valensia II – K.O.S.M.O.S. (1996), Valensia refines the formula that he established on his debut album.  The songwriting is more mature and the arrangements are fuller.  I also feel that his vocals are stronger as well. Overall there is a focus on more mid tempo songs and ballads on K.O.S.M.O.S.

His third album, Valensia III – Millennium  (1998), is hampered by record company interference. Apparently he was instructed to write songs similar to a than current popular artist.  The result is an album, apart from three tracks, that sounds nothing like his prior albums.

Next up is Gaia II, released in 2000.  A decent album that is a bit slick and overproduced.  Overall it is a good, solid batch of typical Valensia songs, but the songwriting is somewhat lacking.  Gaia II does contain the mini epic Phantom Of The Opera, which is essentially Valensia’s reworking of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

As great as some of his prior albums were, they were all leading up to his magnum opus.  Valensia’s  absolute masterpiece is The Blue Album, released in 2002. The Blue Album is so over the top, in a good way. Valenaia beats Queen at their own game musically and vocally. There are so many multitracked vocals at times it is dizzying.  Over the course of The Blue Album Valensia takes the listener on a wild musical roller coaster ride. I could go on and on about each track. Instead I will highlight a few songs.

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The Blue Album begins with the epic track Mayte. The song opens with Valensia sounding like Freddie Mercury circa 1974, singing, “Murder I think you are a murder!” The glorious Queen like choral vocals throughout the song are marvelous. The song weaves a tale of friendship and betrayal. It is six minutes and thirty nine seconds of Queen II inspired musical bliss.

Inshallah revisits the  sounds of Queen II as well. Multitracked Valensias abound throughout this track.  This song showcases Valensia utilizing the perfect mix of Freddie Mercury and Kate Bush style vocals.  As strange as that may sound, it works quite well.

Valensia’s vocals on the track Alyssa are absolutely gorgeous. The song sounds like Queen meets old time Disney. Keyboards and piano abound to create an air of mystery and wonder.  There is a nice mix of the sounds of the Queen albums Queen II and A Day At The Races.

Throughout The Flying Dutchfan Valensia sounds so much like Freddie Mercury it is incredible! This is an upbeat rocker with some of the biggest choral vocals on the album. The song also features a killer guitar solo by Valensia.

Valensia tosses so much into The Amatuer.  There are huge Queen II like vocals, Kate Bush like vocals, reggae and rock flavored guitar all mixed into one deliriously over the top song.

The Line features the musical sounds of the 1980’s. Imagine Queen collaborating with  Duran Duran. To top it off Valensia adds in a shred guitar solo.

A Night In Spain has an exotic feel to it.  More Freddie Mercury/ Kate Bush style vocals abound.  Valensia displays a killer falsetto throughout. The music would fit right into  a James Bond movie.

Burying Heather is my least favorite song on the album. It is an enjoyable track, it just is not as well written as the others.  However it is a fascinating track because it sounds like Freddie Mercury fronting the Beatles circa 1966.

The album ends with the absolutely beautiful song Valsenian Jazz where Valensia sings the bulk of the song in falsetto.  Jazzy piano chords, walking bass lines and  orchestral keyboards help to give the song a slow waltz, jazz feel.  This easy going track is a perfect ending to the over the top musical mayhem that ensued prior.

After The Blue Album Valensia recorded Queen Tribute in 2003. Based on the title one can pretty much surmise the album’s content. Much more than a simple tribute album. Valensia opted to mostly record lesser known Queen sings; i.e. You Take My Breath Away, My Fairy King, Dear Friends. He also added in a few hits, putting his own spin on songs like We Will Rock You and Killer Queen. Going much deeper he recorded a song by Smile, the band that was the precursor to Queen.  Only a true Queen fan would record the song Polar Bear. This is a tribute album worth hearing.

After the Queen Tribute album Valensia remained somewhat active with various projects.  One of those projects was Metal Majesty. This was an opportunity for Valensia to try his hand at hard rock/heavy metal. However any hopes of new solo music faded further away with each passing year.  For a long time it seemed as if The Blue Album would be the last solo album of original music by Valensia. That all changed in 2014 when Valensia released the many titled album Valensia VI – Gaia III – Aglaea – Legacy. According to Valensia this was to be his farewell album. This album was a most welcomed surprise.  Overall it is a solid, if slightly inconsistent album.  But as a fan anything new by Valensia was an extreme treat.

As I mentioned earlier there is great music on all of Valensia’s releases. He also released three EPs that are worthwhile listening as well, The White Album (1994), Luna Luna (2001) and Non Plugged (2004).

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There is talk of another Valensia album, but at this point it is just talk.  I would love a new album from Valensia.  But if nothing new is released I will be satisfied. The Blue Album alone is such a treasure trove of music. It is an album that is enough to satisfy for years to come.

Valensia is a true artist with a great passion for music.  I truly believe that his music should be heard by a wider audience. It is my hope that many will read this blog, listen to the included songs and seek out Valensia’s music.

Troy T.

Song Spotlight: All God’s People, By Queen

I love the adventurous guitar driven music that Queen made in the 1970’s. They explored so many diverse music genres including opera, vaudeville, progressive rock, classical, jazz, pop, heavy metal, blues and gospel, among others. I also love the commercial, keyboard assisted music the band made in the 1980’s. The music may have been more mainstream, but Queen’s adventurous spirit was still present.

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The band’s album Innuendo, released in 1991, perfectly balances the guitar rock of the 1970’s with the more keyboard and synthesizer heavy music of the 1980’s. Everything came together to help Queen produce an all time classic. Innuendo is the best album that the band released since their 1976 masterpiece, A Day At The Races. From the slow, heavy opening song Innuendo to the reflective closer The Show Must Go On, Queen displayed absolute brilliance one last time. As we know Freddie Mercury passed away nine months after the album was released.

Right in the middle of the album is my favorite song from Innuendo, the rock gospel track All God’s People. From the onset of their career Queen were a band that opened songs with big vocal tracks. Songs like Son And Daughter, Somebody To Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, It’s A Hard Life and Princes Of The Universe are prime examples. The beginning of All God’s People is one of my favorite Queen song openers. Since 1991 I have listened to the opening chorus countless times, it never gets old. This is the classic Queen sound in full force.

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Freddie Mercury absolutely shines on All God’s People. There are vocal overdubs in abundance throughout. I can not tell you how many voices are on this track, but in typical Queen style there are a lot! There is so much vocal depth and richness in the opening chorus alone. All these years later it still amazes me how full and rich the choruses sound.

Of course many will be reminded of Somebody  To Love, one of Queen’s earlier journeys  into gospel music. There are some similarities between the songs, but overall they are two very distinct takes on gospel inspired rock music. At times the big chorale vocals on All God’s People also recall the vocal sounds of Queen songs like March Of The Black Queen and Flash.

Brian May really flourishes here as well. This is clearly a huge vocal song, but he finds room to play a great deal of tasteful, well placed guitar licks. His trademark guitar orchestrations, long a hallmark of Queen’s classic sound, are present as well. Although he plays a great deal in the song none of the varied guitar work gets in the way of the vocals.

The piano, bass, drums and drum machine help to lay the musical framework for All God’s People. But it’s the keyboards that really are the dominant instrument. Brian May plays lead guitar throughout the song, so the keyboards supply the bulk of the music for the track. The keyboards on this track are wonderful. They really help to fill out an already vocally dense track. There is an orchestral feel to the keyboard playing that adds to the song’s sense of drama.

I love the gospel breakdown in the middle of the song. Roger Taylor’s drums kick in, The Queen Choir takes a short respite and a singular Freddie Mecury takes over. During this moment it feels as if Freddie Mercury and Brian May are on stage in a church. Both are testifying, Freddie on vocals and Brian on guitar. After this brief moment the choral vocals return for one last grand and majestic chorus.

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For a long time I have felt that this song would have been a better single than Headlong. I can understand why Headlong was released as a single. Headlong is a fun, upbeat rocker, but it is the weakest song on the album. All God’s People really has that classic Queen sound.  I feel that it would have had more of an impact than Headlong.   We’ll never know, but I do believe that the public would have responded better to the classic Queen sound displayed on All God’s People.

Troy T.

Song Spotlight: My Melancholy Blues By Queen

My Melancholy Blues is the last song on Queen’s outstanding sixth album, News Of The World, released in 1977. One of the amazing attributes of Queen throughout their career was the diversity of musical styles contained within each of their albums. This was especially true of the band in the 1970’s. The News Of The World album was no exception, it contains an operatic piano rocker, punk inspired hard rock, Led Zeppelin like instrumental freak outs, jazz, bluesy rock, an acoustic ballad, piano ballads and hard rock.

My Melancholy Blues is a stripped back, jazz influenced track that features just piano, bass and very light drums. Listening to the song, one could picture Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor playing it in a dimly lit, smoke filled lounge.

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The song highlights Freddie Mercury’s versatility and subtlety as a vocalist. He delivers a dramatic,  yet mellow, vocal that is understated and over the top at the same time. Absent from the song are any guitar orchestrations, booming bass lines or loud drums.  Also absent are the typically over the top, multi tracked vocals. This is just Freddie’s vocals, pure, simple and brilliant.

The track also displays Freddie Mercury’s overlooked brilliance on the piano. Beginning with just the flourish of jazzy notes and then chords, the onset of the song is just piano and vocals. As much as I love Brian May ‘s guitar playing, he is not missed on this track. Everything that needs to be here is present musically. At three minutes and twenty nine seconds it is not a long song, Freddie says what he needs to and then the band plays to the fade out. I wish that Queen would have recorded more tracks akin to this one.

When the band re-recorded the track for the BBC  Brian May added some very tasty and understated guitar lines that do enhance the slightly faster and louder feel of the new version. Also on this version is a brilliant moment from Freddie. Towards the end of the song instead of finishing the last lyric something apparently made him laugh. That laugh, for me, is one of Freddie’s best moments to be captured on tape. It’s  a spontaneous and magical moment. One might even say that it is a kind of magic.

Troy T.

Happy New Year And Thank You

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I just wanted to say thank you too all that have read and followed this blog.  2016 was quite a year, one for the history books.  Years from now when people talk about the various news stories and events of this past year I can say that I was there.

Personally it was a year of challenges and much change.  This blog was one of the constants in my life throughout the year.  I started this blogging journey a little over a year ago with a post about Phil Collins.  At the onset I was very excited, but a bit fearful as well.  I had a few ideas, but would anyone care about the things that I wanted to write about? Once those few ideas were done could I keep this thing going?

It’s been a year plus and so far I have been able to publish 80 blog posts. I must say that I am extremely grateful for everyone who have supported this blog.  And I am humbled and amazed at the response to the blog’s most viewed post, Genesis 2016: The Outline Remains.  It was posted in October 2016 and is far and away the most popular post over the last year.  A big thank you to all of the Genesis fans out there.  The post that I am most proud of is Five Great Albums Influenced By Queen, published earlier this month.  A lot of passion, time and revision went into that post.  I am so very pleased with the responsible.

Once again thank you all for taking the time to read this blog, it has been a wonderful creative outlet.  My original vision for this blog was to share my thoughts on the things in life of interest to me. Music, movies, television, books, art, life and occasionally politics. The latter topic I tend to stay away from and leave to the experts. I look forward to continuing this journey and sharing more in 2017. Happy New Year and God bless.

Troy T.

Five Great Albums Influenced by Queen

Those who follow this blog can probably guess that I am a HUGE fan of the band Queen. Over the years Queen has influenced countless bands, directly and indirectly. As a fan it is great when I hear other bands mention that they listen to and are influenced by Queen. It’s even better when I listen to a band and hear in their music that they are influenced by Queen. That being said, here are my five favorite albums influenced by the music of Queen. Please keep in mind that none of these bands/artists are copycats or ripoffs of Queen. They, like so many of us, are extremely passionate Queen fans. These artists have taken that passion and love for Queen’s music and used it as a springboard to create new and exciting music. I would invite Queen fans to listen and explore some fantastic music heavily influenced by one of my favorite bands.

Valensia – The Blue Album (2002)

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It was wildly apparent from his first album Gaia (1993) that Queen was a huge influence on the music of Valensia. He even recorded a fantastic Queen tribute album called Queen Tribute (2003). For my money it is the best tribute album that I have ever heard. He does not just re-record Queen songs he rearranged many of them to great effect. His bombastic take on My Fairy King is out of this world. Not only does Valensia cover Queen songs, he also covers three Queen related songs. The three songs include one by Smile (Brian May and Roger Taylor’s pre Queen band), Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes, as if it was covered by Queen, and Eddie Howell’s mesmerizing and very Queen like track Man From Manhattan.

But, as great as the Queen Tribute album is The Blue Album is light years better. It is truly Valensia’s love letter to Queen. What does The Blue Album sound like? Vocally Valensia sounds like the offspring of Freddie Mercury and Kate Bush. Musically Valensia draws from Queen, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Steve Vai, The Police and 80’s bands akin to Culture Club, Duran Duran, etc. However, the overwhelming influence is 1970’s Queen. There are instances where he sounds so much like Freddie Mercury that it is chilling.

Valensia is a mad music genius, he wrote, produced and played the bulk of the instruments on the album. Queen’s music is a part of his musical DNA and this wonderfully over the top homage to Queen is the result. I think Valensia is absolutely amazing, I am a huge fan. All of his albums are worth seeking out, especially Gaia, K.O.S.M.O.S (1996) and Aglaea (2014). He is first and foremost an extreme Queen fan. Who else would record a cover of Smile’s Polar Bear but a Queen fanatic? It is Valensia’s great love of Queen that makes The Blue Album so amazing.

Jetliner – Space Station ( 2005)

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On their second album Space Station the band Jetliner used the sound of Queen from 1973 to 1978 as their template. In Adam Paskowitz the band had a vocalist who sounded quite similar to Freddie Mercury circa 1977 with a bit of edge and rasp to his voice.

The overall sound is focused a bit more on the guitar driven side of Queen. But there is plenty of fantastic piano throughout. This album from start to finish is so chock full of Queen like goodness, it is such a pleasure to listen too. They even recorded a very Queen like cover of David Bowie’s Life On Mars. And they saved the best for last with the title track sounding like one of the best Queen songs that Queen never recorded.

These guys were so good, it’s a shame that they just disappeared. I have not been able to find out much information as too why the band broke up.

Jono – Requiem (2013)

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Jono are a fantastic rock band out of Sweden. On their first album Requiem their overall sound is a mix of Queen and Styx. The band’s singer is the perfect amalgam of Freddie Mercury and Styx’s Dennis DeYoung. These guys are great, a modern sounding, upbeat rock band channeling the sounds of the 1970’s and very early 1980’s. Like Queen they have energetic and upbeat rock songs as well as equally impressive ballads. The album is full of fantastic vocals, tasty guitar work and, at times, very Freddie Mercury inspired piano playing. They are currently working on their third album.

Symphonika – Symphonika (2012)

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Once again Queen is the main influence. Great pop/rock songs, vocal harmonies and big choruses abound here. The overall sound leans more towards Queen of the mid to late 80’s, i.e. A Kind of Magic and The Miracle. In Robin Myles the band has a very good vocalist who sounds like a mix of Freddie Mercury, original Styx vocalist Dennis DeYoung and Stryper’s Michael Sweet. The band’s guitarist Jason Ball is clearly influenced by Brian May. Ball’s guitar tones are similar to those used by Brian May on Queen’s Innuendo and Brian May’s first solo album Back To The Light.

So far Symphonika have only released one cd. As far as I can tell the band is still together. Their Facebook page is still available, however there have not been any recent updates. I would love to hear more music from this band.

Extreme – III Sides To Every Story – (1992)

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I must confess that I was not a fan of Extreme until this release back in 1992. It is clear from the first two Extreme albums that Queen, along with other 1970’s bands, was a huge influence on Extreme. Thier huge single More Than Words is essentially Extreme’s take on Queen’s live version of Love Of My Life.

Unfortunately Extreme were tagged with silly genre labels like funk metal and hair metal when they were so much more than that. Similar to Queen, Extreme brought so many different music styles to their albums. They drew on the sounds of rock, metal, funk, jazz, rap, prog.

In 1992 in the midst of The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert Brian May introduced Extreme. He basically stated that Extreme was the only band who truly understood what it was like to be a musically diverse band like Queen.

As an aside, was Extreme the only band that really understand what The Tribute concert was about? Metallica, Def Leppard, Gun And Roses, more or less got up there and played their own songs. Extreme’s Queen medley was phenomenal!!! In the same way that Queen stole Live Aid, I would say that Extreme stole The Tribute concert.

With Extreme III the Queen influence really came to the forefront and the band released their best album to date. The influence of Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and The Beatles was still there, but the sound and spirit of Queen is so dominant. Subsequent Extreme albums have been great as well, but the Queen influence has been a bit muted.

This blog post, more than any other that I have written, has been a true labor of love.  I do hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed preparing and writing it.  I also hope that you explore the fantastic  music of the five mentioned bands/artists.  Let them entertain you.

Troy T.

Queen + Marc Martel?

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Marc Martel is an extremely gifted singer. I first became aware of him in 2011 by way of  an online Christian music forum. Someone mentioned a band named Downhere whose singer, Martel, sounded like Freddie Mercury. After listening to some songs on the band’s website I ordered one of their cds, Ending Is Beginning. Listening to the cd it is quite apparent that he is a very talented vocalist. However, within the context of Downhere he did not really sound like Freddie Mercury.  Despite this I still enjoyed the cd.

Fast forward a few months later to Martel’s online  audition for Roger Taylor’s official Queen tribute band The Queen Extravaganza. While watching his performance of Queen’s Someone To Love, it is extremely clear that Martel has the uncanny ability to sound like Freddie Mercury when he wants too. That video to date has over 11 million views! Martel has spent the last few years fronting The Queen Extravaganza.  He also found the time to launch his solo career. His first solo album, The Impersonator, is a diverse collection of upbeat pop and rock songs, I highly recommend it.

In the eyes of quite a few it makes perfect sense for Martel to front Queen.  I must say that I am a big fan of Queen + Paul Rodgers. The Cosmos Rock, the one studio album that they recorded together, is a great set of underrated songs. On paper this combination  should not have  worked, but it did.  Paul  Rodgers has been one of the best singers in rock music since the 1970’s and he’s only improved with age. His bluesy vocal stylings brought a different flavor to Queen’s music.

I am also a fan of Queen + Adam Lambert. In many ways Lambert was the perfect choice to front Queen after Paul Rodgers  moved on. The man has an absolutely amazing voice. His vocals on Queen’s Who Wants To Live Forever will give you chills.

Queen + Marc Martel?  That sounds like a winning formula. Not to take anything away from the great job that Adam Lambert  is currently  doing. But Marc Martel fronting Queen would sound so amazing.  In a perfect world Martel and Lambert could alternate tours fronting Queen.  I must say that Martel does have an edge over Lambert in one area.  I feel that Martel’s style  of songwriting would gel better with Queen, if they  ever decided to record some new music.  I know that is a big stretch, but as a fan I can dream. Perhaps, someday one day. In the meantime please watch the attached videos and enjoy a sample of what this very talented man is capable of.

Roger Taylor, Still Riding The Wild Wind

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A big Happy 67th Birthday to Roger Taylor, the beat behind Queen. Roger Taylor, much like Phil Collins, is so much more than just a fantastic drummer. Roger is also an excellent singer and songwriter and a solid guitar player. Although he may have been the third vocalist in Queen his voice helped to shape the band’s unique and instantly recognizable vocal sound. He also proved to be Queen’s most prolific songwriter, outside of the band, releasing three albums with his band The Cross as well as five solo albums. At 67 years old Roger is still the driving beat behind Queen, now assisted live by his son Rufus. His most recent solo album Fun On Earth, released in 2013, proved that he still has the passion to create great modern times rock and roll. In honor of his birthday here is my top ten favorite Roger Taylor Queen songs.  Picking ten was fairly difficult, but trying to put them in order would prove to be even more so.  Here they are in chronological order, enjoy!

Tenement Funster – 1974
Drowse – 1976
Fight From The Inside – 1977
More Of That Jazz – 1978
Rock It (Prime Jive) – 1980
Action This Day – 1982
Radio Ga Ga – 1984
A Kind Of Magic – 1986
Ride The Wild Wind – 1991
These Are The Days of Our Lives – 1991