Let me begin by saying that I love The Cosmos Rocks, the sole studio album recorded by Queen + Paul Rodgers. On paper this combination really should not have worked. Queen’s eclectic, over the top rock mixed with Paul Rodgers’ working man blues. But in hindsight it was a perfect pairing.
How do you fill the shoes of one of the greatest singers in the history popular music? You can not, it would have been an impossible task for anyone to attempt to step into Freddie Mercury’s shoes. The solution was a simple one. Bring in another all time great vocalist and let him be himself. Enter the supremely talented Paul Rodgers. He has long been one of the great voices in rock and roll music.
I applaud Brian May, Roger Taylor and Paul Rodgers for having the guts to record a new album seventeen years after Freddie Mercury’s passing. The end result was the Queen + Paul Rodgers album The Cosmos Rocks, released in 2008. Overall it is a very solid rock and roll album. It is less bombastic than prior Queen albums and that’s okay. The album is an equal collaboration made by three veteran musicians. One of the interesting aspects of the album is the fact that Brian May, Roger Taylor and Paul Rodgers played all of the instruments. Of course Roger Taylor and Brian May handled drums and guitar. Brian May and Paul Rodgers shared duties on bass, piano and keyboards.
As a long time Queen fan I only have three minor criticisms of The Cosmos Rocks. First off, some of the lyrics are a bit clichéd. Secondly, I would have loved to have heard Brian May and Roger Taylor sing lead vocals on a few more tracks. Third, John Deacon’s absence is notable. I do understand his not wanting to be involved, but his basslines are missed. Those three issues aside, it is a great album.
There are a few standout tracks on the album including Time To Shine, Still Burnin’, War Boys and the incredibly moving ballad Some Things That Glitter. Of the album’s fourteen tracks one of the most typically Queen-like songs is Through The Night.
The song opens with the unmistakable sounds of Brian May’s guitar. Roger Taylor’s rim clicks and a soft piano hold down the rhythm. Brian May launches into a bluesy guitar solo before giving way to Paul Rodgers’ vocal. Brian May colors the verses with his beautiful chordal guitar work along with some subtle lead guitar notes. His guitar never interferes with Paul Rodgers’ wonderfully understated vocal. When the song reaches the chorus it features Brian May’s intricately layered guitar orchestrations, evoking the sounds of Cream’s classic track White Room. Roger Taylor’s drumming propels the song along with a brilliant less is more approach.
I can not say enough about the vocals of Paul Rodgers. Somewhere in his musical journey he found the vocal foundation of youth. He was a great singer throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Somehow in the twenty first century he sounds even better. Brian May and Roger Taylor have created an excellent musical foundation for Paul Rodgers to build this exceptional vocal upon. His vocal is a fine example of controlled power. The man possesses quite a powerful voice but he spends the bulk of Through The Night keeping that power just below the surface.
Roger Taylor’s drumming has such a steady groove that it nearly lulls the listener into a hypnotic state. He begins with rim clicks and transitions to the snare drum by the first chorus. The distinctive snap of his snare drum has always been a highlight of Queen’s albums and it is present here as well. The song showcases his mastery of drumming as his playing truly adds to the overall vibe of the song.
I was quite pleased with The Cosmos Rocks when it was released back in 2008. I saw the band live on the ensuing tour and it still holds as one of the best concerts of my life. Paul Rodgers sounded even better in a live setting. The quality of his vocals was stunning. The entire band, augmented by Spike Edney, Jamie Moses and Danny Miranda, was in fine form. At the time I was greatly looking forward to a follow-up album, but that was not to be. Paul Rodgers opted to move on to work on his own music and I can not blame him. Nine years later and I appreciate The Cosmos Rocks even more. I am thankful for Paul Rodgers all too brief time collaborating with Queen. It truly was a great partnership.