In the world of hard rock music, there are several talented guitarists that could be considered the best of the best by almost anyone. Names that come to mind immediately include Yngwie Malsteen, Joe Satriani, Ted Nugent, and Eddie Van Halen, just to name a few. However, in the midst of all this greatness, there are some guitarists that slip under the radar and fail to get the recognition that they truly deserve. One such guitarist is Brian May.
When you hear a mention of the band Queen, the first thought that is probably conjured in the brain is of Freddie Mercury. Mercury was the flamboyant, incredible, amazing lead singer of Queen. He was one of the best band leaders in the history of rock. There are few that could compare to his showmanship, his style, and his voice. He was the face of Queen and when he passed away, the band went dark for many years. It’s easy to understand how Queen would be synonymous with Mercury. Yet, the brilliance of Freddie Mercury should not overshadow the fantastic work of Brian May on lead guitar. Have you ever really listened to Brian May play guitar on any Queen albums? From A Night At The Opera to Innuendo, the man was a guitar genius.
Brian May does not get the recognition that he deserves. Listen to the first two Queen albums and you can easily identify that before Freddie Mercury stepped up and took over the band, Brian May was the focal point of the music. The dark guitars and ripping solos reign on Queen and Queen II. Even after Queen became the Mercury show, May was still showcasing his amazing talents, as is obvious on the solos for songs such as “We Will Rock You,” “I’m In Love With My Car,” and “Flash.”
It’s easy to forget that Queen was actually May’s band. He started Queen from the ashes of Smile and it was Freddie Mercury who joined the band and pushed them in a new direction. Certainly, Queen would never have been as massive as they were without Freddie Mercury, but Queen would not be as grand without Brian May.
The later Queen albums give a deeper appreciation for his greatness. The solo on “Invisible Man” (from 1988’s The Miracle) is one of the best guitar solos I’ve ever heard on a record. The way that May is able to tap his fingers up and down and all around that guitar neck is unbelievable. He has shown other flashes of brilliance throughout Queen’s body of work as well. Songs like “Bicycle Race,” “Tie Your Mother Down,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” would never be the same without May’s signature guitar work finishing the brilliance on each of those songs.
In the world of guitarists, it’s easy to forget Brian May, especially since he and Queen are not in the limelight that often. However, May is up there with Jimi Hendrix and Edward Van Halen as one of the most talented guitarists to change the way we hear rock music. May’s experimental sound and style helped form the backbone of Queen and led to a new wave of intense show rock. When we stop and think of the greatest guitarists to ever play rock and roll, Brian May’s name has to be mentioned in the conversation. I can’t say exactly what number he would rank, but Brian May is definitely in the top ten. The world of rock music is better off for having had Brian May be a part of it.
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To be totally succinct about it, Paul Rodgers is simply one of the best rock frontmen in history. Period. No argument. End of discussion. His soulful blustery pipes have stood the test of time from Free, Bad Company and The Firm to Queen and beyond. Be it blues, rock’n’roll, ballads, R’n’B, or pop, there isn’t anything this man cannot sing.