Paul Rodgers was one of the greatest singers of his generation with both Free and Bad Company and he really stood out in an era otherwise dominated by lead guitarists. Although both were `rock' bands they were both heavily influenced by the blues and, unusually for the time, also soul with both bands combining catchy hooks with a funky, relaxed backbeat. This record sees Paul recording in Willie Mitchell's old Royal Studios in Memphis and using several of the original musicians who played on many of the classics recorded there, including Anne Peebles' "I can't stand the rain".
The songs are southern soul and blues, not just from Mitchell's Hi label but also from nearby Stax, including songs by Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and Albert King. Unfortunately this material has been over-exposed in recent years mainly because of the Blues Brothers but hearing an excellent singer like Paul singing these songs makes you realise both how good the songs actually are and how good a singer Mr. Rodgers really is. It isn't just his trademark slow burners like Albert King's "Down don't bother me" and Otis Redding's "I've been loving you too long", he also brings a real swing to the uptempo "Any ole way" and "It's growing". I was a bit disappointed that Paul and the musicians didn't do anything radically different with the songs but you can't deny the authenticity and professionalism of the backing and the way that Paul's voice perfectly fits with this material. He even manages to bring something new to an over-played song like "Born under a bad sign" with an understated reading that is much closer to Albert King's original than some of the more modern rocked-up versions.
Be sure to get the `deluxe edition' with the three extra tracks including a Staxed-up version of the old Free song "Walk in my shadow" (although the sax solo is no substitute for Paul Kossof's guitar) and a DVD featuring footage of the recording sessions.