By Milan Gregory Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement
Outsider is the sixth solo album from Queen’s iconic drummer Roger Taylor.
The album came to fruition as a direct result of the pandemic; a three-day visit to his home in Cornwall was soon extended into a lengthy four months as lockdown came into force. Taylor believes the quarantine was a great leveller – everyone was reduced to their immediate surroundings with vast swathes of spare time at hand. Out of the boredom burst forth this gem of an album, which marks a distinct departure from his previous solo albums.
As opposed to other great inductees into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Queen had the distinction of being graced with not just one, but four adept songwriters who have enjoyed number one hit singles – including even the most unassertive member, bassist John Deacon.
Being eclipsed by a frontman is the perennial plight of a drummer. And if that frontman is Freddie Mercury, the level of oblivion reaches new depths. But Roger Taylor does not resent Freddie Mercury; it was in fact a conscious decision from Taylor and Brian May to step aside vocally as Queen began. When asked about Mercury in a recent interview, Taylor smiled “I think about him all the time. I’ve got an enormous statue of him in my garden…” Taylor remains a bona fide singer in his own right, underrated in his flawless falsettos demonstrated in the Rock Opera section of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
This album is a clear departure from the Glam-Rock days, taking on a more reflective mode. The hypnotic and introspective tracks ‘Tides’ and ‘Journey’s End’ perfectly bookend the album as they tackle conundrums such as life, old age and mortality. Yet the album is by no means lugubrious – ‘More Kicks’ revisits his heydays of stadium rock and trade-mark drumming. ‘Isolation’ is filled with optimism and hope while the resplendent ‘We’re All Just Trying To Get By’ resonates with a pragmatic worldview in the post-pandemic era. The latter is a collaboration with acclaimed singer-songwriter KT Tunstall; the result does not disappoint. Taylor’s acrid, raspy voice blends with Tunstall’s supple alto voice like vinegar and olive oil.
For the foot tapping ‘Clapping Song’, Taylor returns to a pronounced bass line which runs through the track like a pulse. Although this is a cover of the 1965 hit by Shirley Ellis, Taylor’s version bursts with freshness.
The album’s showstopper is ‘Foreign Sand’, with its almost hymn-like ambience. This is an unplugged version of Taylor’s 1994 hit, awash with heavy orchestral arrangement. The track is stripped to its bare elements with an acoustic guitar accompaniment deftly played by Jim Cregan, which compliments lyrics that poignantly muse on racial injustice and the refugee crisis. Taylor is often political – his 1994 track ‘Dear Mr. Murdoch’ lampoons the media tycoon with unbridled contempt. On this album ‘Gangsters Are Running The World’ is a clear shot at the autocrats around the world who inflict misery and terror.
Though 72-year-old is still bursting with creative ideas and shows no sign of slowing down as he embarks on a UK tour at the end of October, this album may well be his swansong.
Featured Image: Virgin EMI Records
Have you heard the album?