For catalogue fans, the announcement of the track listings for the upcoming Queen reissues was the hot story of the week. New versions of the band's first five albums, each expanded with a host of bonus tracks, are due in the U.K. in March as part of the band's new licensing agreement with Universal Music Group - and there's plenty of room on the fence, because many have taken a stand for or against the sets.
To this writer, the track lists probably could have been better - but can't they all be, really? Getting some of the band's previously-unreleased demos or BBC sessions, even if they're sandwiched next to instrumental mixes or live cuts that are familiar to even casual fans, are better than nothing at all. Compared to Hollywood Records' previous remasters from the early 1990s, which don't hold up well either due to mastering or bonus content, these sets look pretty neat.
Of course, the funny thing about them is that U.S. fans have to pay a pretty penny for them in the first place. Queen's deal with Island is effective only outside of the U.S., where Hollywood still licenses the catalogue. Quite frankly, Hollywood doesn't have much of a function concerning the music of Queen these days, outside of rehashing the same handful of tracks in compilations. And if you're like most of us, you might have to wonder why that is.
See, Hollywood isn't owned by any of the major labels - EMI, Warner, Sony or Universal - it's owned by Disney. And Queen is the only catalogue act (other than Disney's own neglected library) that Hollywood has the rights to - the rest is teen pop acts like The Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus. One could certainly make a convincing argument that Disney sees no worth in giving Queen the deluxe treatment in America - the band never made a splash as big as they did in England outside of those inescapable hits ("Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Will Rock You," "Under Pressure" and the like), and much of Hollywood's best Queen catalogue treatment was done in the years immediately following Freddie Mercury's death in 1991, when U.S. interest was naturally higher. But it's equally possible Disney doesn't have the energy, having no such experience in the pop/rock catalogue world. (They don't even distribute their own material; in a massive set of ironies, Hollywood's domestic distribution was handled by Elektra, the band's original U.S. label, at the time of the 1991 remasters, and Universal is the current domestic handler.)
All of this begs the question: if Queen Productions could take their material from EMI to Universal with relative speed, couldn't a similar U.S. deal be ironed out? If Universal has the chops to distribute Hollywood's catalogue outright, wouldn't the surviving members of the band want to pursue some sort of renewed revenue stream on our shores? It wouldn't seem all that out of place for these new Queen remasters to come out through UMe in the future; however, it's doubtful that any attempt to move will be made until the reissue campaign in the U.K. is successful enough.
What say you, dear reader, of the future of Queen reissues in the U.S.? Sound off below and vote in our poll.