By Adam Waldman
It’s hard to think of a better, more worthy album to launch the new “My Favorite Album” feature than Queensrÿche’s epic masterpiece, Operation: Mindcrime.
Although the idea behind this new feature is to discuss why a specific album by a single artist is a personal favorite, the truth of the matter is that Operation: Mindcrime is, quite possibly, my favorite album of all-time (regardless of artist).
My introduction to Queensrÿche came in 1984 when I first heard “Take Hold Of The Flame” on MTV. Initially, I thought that the singer sounded kind of like Bruce Dickinson. I really liked the song, but didn’t know much about the band or their music.
In 1984, KISS was living up to their self-proclaimed moniker…“the hottest band in the world.” My friends and I were stoked to finally be seeing the band that we all grew up on in concert. One of the guys that went with us to the show, however, was more interested in seeing Queensrÿche. He even had The Warning concert shirt. We all thought that he was crazy.
After seeing Queensrÿche’s performance, I had to agree that they were absolutely amazing. By the time that their opening set ended, none of us thought that our friend was crazy anymore. It wasn’t long afterwards that Queensrÿche became my favorite band.
After the show, I purchased The Warning and the band’s eponymous EP. I was hooked. When Rage For Order came out in 1986, it was different, and it didn’t grab me at first. That was the thing about Queensrÿche. They never rested on their laurels or allowed themselves to be put into a creative box. Each album was another step in their evolution. Comfort zones be damned!
By the time that Operation: Mindcrime was released (30 years ago today) on May 3, 1988, I was fully immersed in all of the band’s previous releases. I can’t remember which concert it was, but the first time that I heard “Revolution Calling” was in between bands at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. I was disappointed because the band’s sound had changed yet again. Little did I know at that moment that “Revolution Calling” – and the rest of the Operation: Mindcrime album – would become my obsession.
I had limited exposure to concept albums prior to the release of Operation: Mindcrime, and I didn’t really get the ones that I had heard previously. The story of Operation: Mindcrime represented the perfect blend of my two passions (hard rock music and storytelling), and it spoke to me.
To this day, I still have a profound appreciation for character development and storytelling, but it’s usually in the realm of television or film.
Even though Queensrÿche eventually released videos for a number of songs from Operation: Mindcrime, I had already developed the characters in my mind’s eye. Geoff Tate has a way of painting a mental picture with his lyrics and vocal delivery that few others can touch. And, the musicianship on this album (along with all of the background theatrics) is as good as it gets.
Not only does each song on Operation: Mindcrime help move the story along as the characters are developed, each one is also outstanding when listened to out of sequence. No easy feat for a concept album. While the songs stand on their own, they also serve the dual role of providing the score for the movie that is created in one’s mind as they engross themselves in the album.
Once upon a time, if the lyrics weren’t displayed on the inside of the album artwork or record sleeve, you had to actually sit and manually write them out. This is something that many from my generation have done plenty of times with particular songs, but how many can say that they wrote out an entire album?
I can still picture the spiral notebook with all of the lyrics to Operation: Mindcrime written out. I can’t recall how long it took to complete, but suffice it to say, there were many lost weekends spent finishing this “mission.”
Queensrÿche was on the rise when Operation: Mindcrime was released, but not yet at the point of being a headliner. It seems crazy looking back now to think that this masterpiece was not performed in its entirety to arena crowds until the Empire tour. However, I did get a preview when my friends and I drove several hours to see Queensrÿche open for Def Leppard (in the round) at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey. It was already exciting, but there was an added rush because I never told my parents that I was skipping a few days of college to go to the show.
When Empire was released in 1990, I once again was disappointed with the change of direction of the band. After all, once Operation: Mindcrime grew on me, it instantly became my favorite album. You would think that this rediscovery process would have become easier with each passing album, but it was always an adjustment.
In retrospect, Empire is probably in second place behind Operation: Mindcrime when it comes to Queensrÿche albums, but it was absolutely the best tour that I’ve seen. In fact, seeing Operation: Mindcrime performed in its entirety may actually be the best concert experience of my life.
Looking back in the rear view mirror, I can say that Operation: Mindcrime is, without question, my favorite Queensrÿche album. Amazingly, the lyrics still seem as relevant today as they did back in 1988. As another favorite progressive band once eloquently stated…“the more that things change, the more they stay the same.”
There are a number of Queensrÿche albums that rank amongst my favorite overall albums of all-time, but for my money, Operation: Mindcrime is just at another level.
Please feel free to share your thoughts about why you agree with my sentiments, or make your case for why one of the band’s other albums is better.
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