CEDAR, Queen, and the Oscar-winning soundtrack for Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

28 March 2019

CEDAR Audio has worked closely with Queen for many years to ensure that the band's recordings can be delivered with the highest possible quality. Consequently, CEDAR's in-house audio engineer Paul Alexander has worked closely with Kris Fredriksson, Brian May's staff engineer at his private Allerton Hill Studio, and was credited on all of the recently remastered Queen CDs.

Fredriksson, who purchased a CEDAR Studio suite in 2015 recently discussed this with Paul Tingen in Sound On Sound's April 2019 issue. He explained, "Three of us (Justin Shirley-Smith, Joshua J Macrae and I) along with Queen's archivist Greg Brooks are involved in the tape libraries. The aim is to preserve every single Queen recording. Years ago, we started with the important stuff, the stereo quarter-inch masters of the albums, and copied them to other analogue formats, and then later we copied them to digital when we had that, and in 2002, when we got 192kHz, we also started copying the multitrack masters." Shirley-Smith added, "The guitar, and especially the vocals, might take up six or seven tracks, and sometimes the comps were done on the desk, so there wasn't a single track on the multitrack where you could say, 'This is the lead vocal comp.' In some of the cases where there was such a track, we would unpick it, creating the same comp again from earlier generations of tape, because on some songs they had been forced to bounce from one multitrack to another. So we'd go back one or two generations, and once we had the correct performances, re-comp them, and often also apply CEDAR restoration."

Alexander expanded on this, "I was very proud to work with Kris on many of Queen's studio and live albums (including the 1974 Rainbow and 1975 Hammersmith Odeon concerts), and with Joshua on Roger Taylor's solo albums. The recordings were excellent, but with occasional distortion on the vocals, pianos and guitars, and some feedback loops that needed removal. We used a CEDAR Cambridge system for all of this, primarily using Declip and Retouch to correct any issues. We also used Respeed to correct small timing errors on some of the older analogue recordings."

Tingen reported that CEDAR was again used on the soundtrack for Bohemian Rhapsody, which is by far the highest-grossing musical biopic of all time, and which has won a BAFTA for Best Sound and four Academy Awards including two Best Sound Oscars. The original Queen music was supplied by the band's sound team and, while mixing the Live Aid concert, the trio were at pains to avoid changing anything in it.

"It was all about getting it to sound powerful," commented Macrae, "and keeping the ambience - it is a rock band playing in a stadium! The main thing was keeping it real and not over-processing things, and not changing any of the audio content, so there were no edits, no fixing anything the band played, and no tuning. The only things we fixed were technical issues like feedback squeal. The classic moment is when Brian's guitar amp had a tube failure in 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love', resulting in a horrible whistle that doesn't have a fixed frequency, making it difficult to EQ it out. Instead, we used CEDAR to get rid of that. In the 'Ay-Oh' section, with Freddie singing back and forth with the crowd, one of the roadies is tuning the bass guitar, and this sounded on the PA. Because you really want to hear just Freddie and the crowd, we did our best to remove the tuning noises as much as possible. But because this concert is so iconic, we could not fiddle with it. Any iffy notes were left! It has become known as the best live performance ever, so we also didn't want to fizz it up and give it a modern feel. It had to remain authentic and raw."

Parts of this article were abridged from Sound On Sound Inside Track: Queen 'Bohemian Rhapsody' Soundtrack and are reproduced with permission.

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