on 21 September 2008
I am sick of reading & hearing in similar reviews, people trying to compare Paul Rodgers with Freddie Mercury. I am a huge fan of Freddie Mercury myself but unfortunately for all fans, he passed away in 1991(17 years ago). Freddie was 1 member of the band called Queen & Paul Rodgers was 1 member of bands called Free & Bad Company. They were both fantastic & entertaining frontmen in these bands who could never be replaced, let's move on to 2008. For 3 years Paul has been frontman with 2 remaining members of Queen. He has never tried to copy Freddie Mercury's style or voice, all he is doing is singing Queen songs the Paul Rodgers way. This also applies to Brian May & Roger Taylor playing Free & Bad Company songs their way, & all having a really great time doing so. Now thats out of the way, I personally think this is a great debut album from these musicians, with the odd hint of Queen Riffs on some songs, which works quite well. I think the DVD is better than "The Return Of The Champions" DVD, unfortunately it only shows highlights of the "Super Live In Japan" DVD, which is unavailable to purchase in UK, this I admit is very disappointing, considering they are all English artists. So to all you Die-Hard Queen fans & Critics, put the disc in the drive, "CRANK UP" the volume & "ROCK", I am sure Freddie will be looking down & "ROCKING" with us, knowing that these artists are giving a new lease of life to all past & future hits, to faithful & new audiences around the world.
on 24 October 2008
As a longtime Queen fan (of the WHOLE band, not just Freddie) and an admirer of the talents of Paul Rodgers in whatever form, I was so anxious to hear this album that I bought it as an import. After a couple of listens I wrote up my impression of the individual songs, of the album as a whole, and of the band as they release their first studio collaboration. Here are my thoughts -
Cosmos Rockin' - a great rockin' opener, very classic stuff, great hand-clappin', head-bobbin' ,foot-tappin', singin' along fun. I really enjoyed this one. Paul sounds great, the guitar really rips, Roger is really delivering. The call-and-return chorus is fun. Fun lyrics, obviously meant to be fun and with tongue firmly in cheek. I had a big smile on my face the whole track.
Time to Shine - a great opening vocal from Paul, very nice hearing real piano on a Queen-ish track again, as it kind of disappeared in the '80s, usually replaced by synths. I like the urgency and the driving quality of this song, Roger is really great here. Lyrically, I like the spin of optimistic challenge they put on the phrase "its time to shine". I like the karma of the entire record actually. I admire them for putting something positive like this out into the ether. With a few lyrical changes this could almost be a hymn. Quite spiritual, or as much as one could expect from a rock song and without straying into U2 territory.
Still Burnin' - there's a nice groove on this track, some tasty bits of classic May guitar. I love how unpretentious the album is - "rock 'n' roll never dies" is so down-to-brass-tacks. Has a nice solo. These guys clearly have had it in their bellies to make an unapologetic back-to-basics rock record and I like that they didn't try to dress it up too much. There's a rawness to it. The "We Will Rock You" sample is kind of fun. I wasn't expecting that. It works.
Small - I was really taken with how this affected me. I love simple songs that express a simple feeling. The chorus is nice, very direct, communicating something very universal. Rodgers is such an unpretentious vocalist. I really like the solo, lots of emotion in there. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Very nice toward the end when the chorus gets big. That was a "Queen moment".
Warboys - I think this is magnificent. I'd heard Rodgers' live solo version of this, and this version just takes it to a whole other level. The acoustic guitar, the drumming and the vocals are so crisp. This was this first "I got chills" moment on the record. That "warboys" chorus with the Queen-esque vocals stacks really lays it out. And Roger is killing it with that percussion. The drums and guitar are so tight. Excellent.
We Believe - I'm really of two minds on this one. It is very Pollyanna-ish but its also very sincere, which I appreciate. And its pretty. There are some nice moments. I like how it builds, and I like the "I believe", "you believe" back and forth in the verses. But lyrically its trying to say too much and with too many words. I think talking about leaders and so forth probably makes it a little too on-the-nose to really resonate enough. It was better when it was about "me" and "you". And no song should ever include a phrase as clumsy as "deed of obligation". But I really can't take much issue with the "peace, reconciliation and forgiveness" spirit behind it. There's probably a better song in there somewhere but it needed a rewrite to tighten it up. Paul's vocal *almost* saves it. He's really gives it his best but if there's a track I'm tempted to skip on the album, this is the one.
Call Me - I was into this. Its kind of a refreshing change after some of the musically heavy and lyrically heavy stuff that it follows. Its simple, fun, easy to sing along to. Reminds me of "Let Your Heart Rule Your Head" from Brian's solo album and a bit of "Who Needs You" from "News of the World". The buzzy guitar is fun and I love the solo. I really think this could have been a track on "A Day at the Races". One of the reasons I have loved Queen for almost 20 years now is the variety, and this is a nice left curve track.
Voodoo - This track has a very Santana-ish quality, which must have been fun for them to work on since I don't think Queen-proper ever did a track like this, this well. This is obviously what something like "My Baby Does Me" from "The Miracle" was aiming for and didn't come close to. Totally Paul's territory and he just glides effortlessly through this. Brian's guitar is nicely understated and plays well against the vocal. The whole track is smooth as silk and is just about perfect for what it is. I don't think they could improve a note on this one.
Some Things That Glitter - Lovely opening with the piano, guitar, and cymbals. I love the symbolism of the butterfly. Very groovy in a laid back, '70s kind of way. Paul's vocal, again, is effortless and lovely. Nice to hear Brian doing those very Queen-esque backing vocals. "My butterfly grew golden wings" and then that lovely bit of trademark May guitar is a great little moment. A nice restrained solo. I could hear Freddie singing this, circa 1976. Probably my favorite track on the album.
C-lebrity - being the single, I have heard this a lot by now and its grown on me quite a bit. I love the lyrics, all trademark Roger Taylor stuff - the humor and the sarcasm. Again, a recurring vibe of this whole record for me is "fun" and this to my ears is a fun track. I like that it's a bit rockier and poppier than some of the other stuff, and thus taking Rodgers out of his comfort zone a bit. A nice to-the-point guitar solo. "I want to be a star in a Broadway musical - they're gonna love me - I can't sing or dance at all", I love that bit. Roger is, again, really killing it on the percussion. And it gets fun and a little sing-songy at the end with that weedly-weedly guitar. Another song I could hear Freddie doing well, say, around 1984 or thereabouts. And I imagine the video would have been hilarious.
Through the Night - Again, the guitar/drums/piano mix here is something I really missed about post-70s Queen. I like the melody here, Paul's very emotive vocal really sells it. I love the little change between the verse and chorus. Very raw emotive solo from Mr. May. "Without your love there's nowhere I can hide", that's a great line. Lovely guitar at the end, another overt "Queen moment".
Say Its Not True - As this song was released as a free download on New Year's Eve, this is the one I've obviously lived with the longest and I really fell in love with this version. Great hearing some lead vocals from Roger and then Brian, then some beautiful harmonising between the two of them before Paul sweeps in toward the middle and just takes it into the stratosphere. His voice really soars and he gives it all the power and emotion its due. I have always had a very emotional reaction to the song and specifically to this version. Its just big and sincere and in your face, and they go way over the top at the end with that huge sweeping guitar, and its really satisfying. Amazing that they were able to take the simple little acoustic song that this track started its life as and turn it into this epic.
Surf's Up ... School's Out! - I loved this one and specifically because its so different from anything else on the record and anything I've ever heard Paul sing. Again, taking Paul out of his comfort zone worked very well for me. Great hearing Roger's vocals. This sounds completely like his track to me. I like the way the verses and the chorus contrast so much and that there's some different dynamics in the song. I love tempo changes in songs and songs that kind of go off in two or three different directions. I like the bridge with the twinkling synths in the middle, and then its some crunchy guitar and driving drums to take it home. It's a bit of a curveball and it just works for me. If anything I wish they had mixed it up just a tad more on the whole album.
Small reprise - a pretty way to end the record. I find it perfectly hummable.
So I liked it quite a bit. It's a 4 of 5 or 8 of 10 record for me (although I'm bumping this product up one star because of the value-added live highlights DVD, which is excellent). I wasn't blown away but, in fairness, I also wasn't blown away by "Jazz", "The Game", "Hot Space", "The Works", "A Kind of Magic" or "The Miracle" - all good albums to varying degrees, but none were mindblowing. This album is three flavors I like mixing it up very well and doing what they do. A nice variety of songs, and if anything, I wish there had been even more. I like that it was a pretty raw, straight forward record without a lot of gloss on it. Its very genuine in that way and I respond to that. And, in the Queen tradition, I like that its not taking itself *too* seriously, that they gave themselves the freedom to just have fun, make fun music, and just sort of be lads playing music together. On the flip side, I like that there's a lot of genuine, unadorned emotion - some hope, some sadness, some loss, some ambition. It's a rounded record, if you know what I mean. And it has a very organic, "all came out of the same pot" kind of feeling to it, which contrasts rather sharply, to my ears at least, with most of the Queen-proper studio albums starting with "The Game", all of which sound to me like 3 or 4 great singles surrounded by some very pleasant but mostly inconsequential filler, written by 4 seperate songwriters working more or less alone. Conversely, I do wish this album had had a couple of poppier tracks. Queen became as much a pop band as a rock band in the '80s and '90s, and my ears have become somewhat attuned to that.
I absolutely think that this trio is, in every way, a new band. Being the vocalist, Paul's influence is very strong, but having heard a lot of Paul's solo work from the last 15 years, Brian and Roger's influence on Paul is crystal clear. It's a much more defined and shaped album than Paul's solo stuff, a much broader variety of sounds, and of course the elements of the classic Queen sound are easily and frequently identifiable. And I think Paul allowed Brian and Roger to be unburdened from the shackle of having to have a specific "Queen sound" that refers to something that stopped developing organically 17 years ago. I imagine that "sound" is simultaneously something they want to perpetuate since they helped create it and also something that has to feel limiting and confining at times too. "Can we do this? Does this sound 'Queen' enough?" I don't really feel that tension in this record. I'm not sitting here saying to myself "ok, this reminded me of Queen album _______ " because this just feels like a very different animal. Too many things have changed and too much time has passed to make that kind of comparison. Not a new chapter in a book so much as a new book. It just feels like a new creative entity, and rather like a second marriage. Both people bring their baggage, good and bad, from their prior marriages, and those elements blend into something that's new and old at the same time.
After listening to "The Cosmos Rocks", I hope they make another album together as Queen + Paul Rodgers. They've made themselves a very interesting beginning, and I would really like to hear how they develop as a writing unit and as a band.
The Queen is dead; long live the Queen.
on 15 September 2008
Queen reinvent themselves
Queen reinvent themselves - almost every new album brought a significant change, the very different albums "Queen" (1973), "Jazz" (1978), "Hot Space" (1982), "A Kind of Magic" (1986), "Innuendo" (1991), and of course "Made in Heaven" (1995) may serve as examples.
What does this mean? Well, it means that "The Cosmos Rocks" does of course not sound like an infusion of the old albums. Propably a lot of posthumous Queen fans of younger age would have wished for an album containing just slightly modified re-makes of all those "Greatest Hits I & II" with different lyrics. So much is clear: This did not take place.
A new lead voice that has by no means been drawn from some kind of casting show inevitably brings new accents - especially in song-writing as well. And so some might ask themselves if this is more of Queen + Paul Rodgers or almost a bit of Paul Rodgers + Queen. The answer to this is pretty obvious: Both is true, varying from track to track. Furthermore, the sound of our worshipped guitar god Brian May who has characterized the sound of Queen almost as much as the voice of one Freddie Mercury is still unmistakable - not to forget Roger Taylor's down-to-earth honest and sturdy drum-playing.
This being said, one has to be willing to listen himself into the album. Anybody expecting vocals like Freddie Mercury's will undoubtfully be disappointed. Likeways anybody who dislikes Paul Rodger's voice and style of singing will turn away unhappy: This is not Queen like with Freddie Mercury on the microphone: Nobody will ever bring back Freddie, especially no voice impersonator like in that "We Are The Champions" experiment with Robbie Williams.
They took a big chance to write and record new material with a different "grown-up" voice - but it was obviously worth the risk. Time will have to tell if this album will become a commercial success in the year 2008.
Thumbs up - and five stars. God Save The Queen!