Live At Montreux 1994

Paul Rodgers & Friends

Despite being introduced by promoter Claude Nobs at the Montreux Jazz Festival as Paul Rodgers & Company, Paul Rodgers & Friends should actually be Paul Rodgers and his Heavy Friends because the musicians who join arguably the greatest white blues singer ever are no slouches. Drummer Jason Bonham, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Journey guitarist Neal Schon and Queen guitarist Brian May are among Rodgers' pals who appear on the Live At Montreux 1994 DVD. With friends like that, who needs…other friends.

Having released his second solo album Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters in 1993, Rodgers was apparently anxious to road-test the material, and invited some of the musicians from the album to accompany him on stage. On the Live At Montreux 1994 DVD, Schon and Bonham stay on for the whole show, while May and Lukather (who didn't play on the Muddy Waters album) have guest spots.

After a short introduction from Rodgers, shot just prior to the disc's release, we are taken back to 1994 where the singer and his makeshift band start off with a pair of Free tunes, "Travelling Man" and "Wishing Well." The band really hits their stride on the Muddy Waters classic "Lousiana Blues," where Rodgers' voice fits the melody like a satin glove as Schon's fingers chases the riff with might and muster.

One thing that might surprise you about this show is they play more Free songs than Bad Company songs. That might have something to do with the bluesier approach and spontaneous, powerful execution. Schon flips "Fire And Water" on its side and carves out a swift solo before Bonham brings the house down with a rousing finish. "That's Jason for you," Rodgers announces. But then Brian May struts out and starts firing away with Van Halen-like licks to help get the fire burning under "Good Mornin' Little Girl." Later, the famed Queen guitarist would swab the deck with the famed Journey guitarist on yet another Free classic, "Little Bit of Love."

Lukather waltzes out for "Feel Like Makin' Love" and adds some extra bite to the breaks. And he hangs out for a couple more tunes. The evening's resident second (or third) guitarist Ian Hatton plys out a decent intro to "The Hunter" and Schon delivers an upper cut solo in the middle section before Hatton comes back to finish off the track in true Paul Kosoff style. All this time, Rodgers is rockin' steady with an effortless vocal. When he springs around the melody of "Can't Get Enough," you get a clear understanding as to why this guy's pipes are so valued and praised.

May returns for a spirited run-through of "All Right Now," and Lukather joins in for an electrifying "Crossroads." For "Hoochie Coochie Man," even more "friends" come out, including Eddie Kirkland, Sherman Robertson and Luther Alison, and a heavy jam ensues, bringing the night to a close. Available on CD as well as DVD, Live At Montreux 1994 captures the best of Paul Rodgers on a rare and special night in the fabled Swiss town with a few of his musically inclined buddies. Ah…the life of a world-class rock star.

~ Shawn Perry

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