CD Review: Roger Taylor - Fun In Space

The Queen drummer's vastly underrated first solo album is available once again in expanded form.
  |   Comments

While much of the focus with Queen has been on their iconic front man, the late Freddie Mercury and, to a lesser degree, their bombastic guitarist Brian May, the band's secret weapon has arguably always been Roger Taylor. From his trademark harmonies (Who else could sing the high harmony to Mercury?) to penning some of the band's biggest hits to his own underrated tracks on many of their albums, Queen's drummer is a crucial ingredient in the band's sound.

A prolific writer, Taylor began stockpiling songs that were either not used by or deemed unfit for the band for one reason or another. While on tour with Queen in 1980, Taylor used a break between the tour's legs to record what would become his first solo album, Fun In Space. A true solo effort, Taylor played all the instruments himself with about half of the keyboards played by engineer David Richards.

The album leads off with "No Violins," a track that would be at home on The Game (Think "Coming Soon"). The song has a punky energy with early 80's synthesizer touches and features a killer vocal from Taylor. The slow-burning ballad "Laugh Or Cry" follows with another strong vocal and understated, yet surprisingly good lead guitar playing from Taylor. For those who think of him as "just a drummer," it becomes readily apparent that he is a strong multi-instrumentalist.

"Let's Get Crazy" is a drum-heavy track that finds Taylor diving into 1950s rock and roll. An infectious track, it is one of the standouts on the disc. Taylor takes a page from the Police's songbook with the reggae-influenced "Future Management," a song that shows his scope goes well beyond the Queen sound.

Bells accompany Taylor's distinctive voice for the opening notes of the ballad "Magic Is Loose." Taylor gives a powerful vocal on the track, which resembles an updated version of his own "Drowse."

Taylor shows off his experimental side with the distorted vocals on "Interlude In Constantinople" while "Airheads" is a borderline metal track with a gritty vocal and power chord riffs. While not as technically skilled on guitar as his Queen band mate May, Taylor's stripped-down style fits the song perfectly, giving it an edge it may not have had otherwise. The synth-laden title track closes the album. A plodding track with psychedelic touches and Beatlesque harmonies, it's a strong ending to a potent debut album.

The success of Queen's recent tour with Adam Lambert has no doubt helped bring Taylor back into the public's eye here in the states. The reissued CD includes three bonus tracks, including both the A- and B-side of Taylor's first solo single, "I Wanna Testify" from 1977. Taylor's solo albums are criminally underrated and Fun In Space is well worth owning for Queen and Taylor fans alike.