"Hot Space," the title of Queen's latest album, is as good a description as any of the sound achieved both by that band and fellow metallurgist Billy Squier. Mack, who also co-produced Squier's new "Emotions in Motion," adorned both records with his signature wide-open gaps, electrically hot to the point that one can almost hear white noise between the notes.
Aside from this academic similarity and the appearance of Squier on one of Queen's tracks, there's really little comparison between Queen's highly stylized album and Squier's ambitious but lackluster performance. "Hot Space" is Queen's most mature work to date, featuring what fellow rocker Rick Derringer was moved to call "a normal Queen side and a Queen-gets-weird side."
The "normal" Queen side displays the melody-making talent of Brian May at his best ("Put Out the Fire," "Las Palabras de Amour") and the hit-making instincts of John Deacon, Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor at their most acute ("Cool Cat," "Calling All Girls"). If that's not enough, there's one of the year's best Lennon tributes ("Life is Real") and a co-performance with David Bowie ("Under Pressure"). In short, there isn't a throwaway in the bunch.
The "weird" side can best be described as rechauffe disco. It's as though the group were just now discovering the form, and although comparisons to 1980's "Another One Bites the Dust" are inevitable, they're mostly inaccurate, since Queen has elevated disco to a stature it never attained during its natural life. This is mesmerizing stuff, almost totally physical in its presentation; and if "Body Language" is its best representative, the rest of the side cooks and churns just as confidently, those hot spaces blowing like calculated drafts through icy-cool progressions.
But it takes more than a production technique to make interesting music, and Billy Squier's "Emotions in Motion" has too much emotion and not enough motion. What was so rewarding about last year's "Don't Say No" was the combination of solid hooks and a Queen-like sound; this year, the hooks are missing and all that's left is an epic roar. "Everybody Wants You" and the title track aim for a melody line but miss by a mile. Whereas Squier's Rod Stewartish vocals are comfortable with the simple phrases of "The Stroke" and "My Kind of Lover," they get too much of a workout on songs like "In Your Eyes" and "She's a Runner," with their longer passages and stiffer melodic requirements. Next lesson, Squier should pay as much attention to Queen's songwriting skill as he has to their production style. THE RECORDS, THE SHOWS THE ALBUMS QUEEN, Hot Space (Elektra E1-60128). BILLY SQUIER, Emotions in Motion (Capitol ST- 60128). THE CONCERT: Sunday at 8 at the Capital Centre.