Queen's back catalogue is like an old sweater lost at the back of a wardrobe. It's comfortable, familiar, brings back happy memories and is a bit tatty round the edges. You may not have listened to it in some time, but odds are you probably own a copy of Greatest Hits. This is, after all the best selling UK album of all time, with 5.6 million copies sold in the this country alone, it's gone platinum 18 times. With that success under its belt already, is there any need for a reissued version? Well the answer isn't really that clear cut.
Admittedly there are no added gimmicks here, no lavish booklet and not an extra track in sight. The sole difference on offer is the remastering, which in honesty makes little difference to the quality of many of the songs. The material covers the pre stadium conquering years of 1974 to 1980 and as you'd expect is heavily weighted towards Freddie Mercury's compositions.
'Bohemian Rhapsody' opens the collection with the gusto and operatic intensity that it's always possessed. It may now be associated with film appearances above its parent album A Night At The Opera, but that doesn't detract from the impact it has. The first real sign of the digital makeover is on 'Another One Bites The Dust'. The bass is deeper and Freddie's vocals are crisper. He no longer sounds as if he's fighting against the bare bones musical backdrop as he exclaims; "Out of the doorway the bullets rip to the sound of the beat".
It's true to say that this compilation defined what a 'best of' should be for an entire generation. There's no letting up with hit after hit, and small details such as the vocal harmonies that punctuate 'Bicycle Race' do benefit from the spring clean they've received. However for the most part the remastering is superfluous, it's the songs that grab your attention, as opposed to a game of spot the difference. The joyous 'Don't Stop Me Now', groovy 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', and amped up rock of 'Seven Seas Of Rhye' all sound as good as ever. They're still the perfect soundtrack for almost any social occasion.
This reissue then, is a timely reminder to the power of Queen. The material is flawless, although it's only really Brian May's five tracks that show off the digital remastering at its best. But if you already own the album there's very little reason to purchase this new version. With track listings varying for Greatest Hits around the world, perhaps a couple of bonus songs to reflect that aspect of the compilations history would have been welcomed as an added incentive here. Overall Greatest Hits compliments the reissued Queen back catalogue well, but isn't an essential purchase. It's just well worth another listen, whichever version is hanging around at the back of your wardrobe.