What once seemed Queen's greatest liabilities--a preening flamboyance and pompous, overwrought theatricality--have ironically become their most enduring charms in a gray, postmodern pop-music landscape. While it eschews the glammy, pre-punk hard rock of live faves like "Stone Cold Crazy" and "Tie Your Mother Down" for the band's more quirky club-beat string of latter-day hits, this 51-track triple-CD anthology goes a long way toward documenting the true dimensions of the band's music and fame. Some songs may not be instantly familiar to American fans because of yet another irony: just as their U.S. fortunes waned during the punk and new wave era, the band was exploding into true international superstars. Thus, there may be a sense of discovery here, whether of latter-day Queen material or solo work by Brian May and Freddie Mercury, whose duet on "Barcelona" with diva Montserrat Caballé transcends boundaries of both time and genre. A previously unreleased live performance of "The Show Must Go On" featuring Elton John on vocals is also included. --Jerry McCulley
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