The Cosmos Rock

Queen + Paul Rodgers

For all the hype and expectation surrounding the union of Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor with legendary blues-rock crooner Paul Rodgers, you’d think anything new would be out of this world (or in this case, the “cosmos”). By all accounts, it would take a ‘miracle’ to match the legacy of A Night At the Opera, much less the catalog of Free or Bad Company. Mergers like this always sound better on paper than on stage, and while the 2005 tour that brought the two parties together for the first time was filled with enough passion and energy to give the existing Queen/Rodgers catalogs a kick in the pants, starting from scratch with The Cosmos Rock was a whole other road to go down.

“Cosmos Rockin’” opens the 14-track disc with the declaration that the combined strength of May, Taylor and Rodgers has “the whole world rocking…” The trademark leads are intact, the drums pound gallantly, and Rodgers, as always, sings like an angel. What this and some of the other songs that follow lack however is heart, soul and commitment. Back in the day, the flamboyant, campy air surrounding Freddie Mercury seamlessly melded with the crash-bang-boom saliency of May, Taylor and bassist John Deacon. Rodgers, for his part, tends to adhere to a more traditional, restrained approach. Here, the singer doesn’t so much hit sour notes as he falls short of seizing the throne with the brash bravado and showmanship the best Queen songs required.

The balance of power cedes to more straight-ahead tunes like “Still Burnin,’” “Small” and “Warboys” (which Rodgers performed during his 2007 solo tour) – all of which would be just as at home on a Bad Company disc as they try to be here. But then mediocre fare like “We Believe,” “Call Me” and “Voodoo” work overtime trying to convince us that the Queen/Paul Rodgers combo plate is a match made in heaven. Don’t get me wrong – they’re nice, harmless tomes any old codger might warm up to; but they’re nowhere near the standard that Queen, Free and Bad Company set in their prime. And that, dear listeners, is a problem.

Perhaps the reason “C-lebrity” is the album’s first single is because it truly takes the best elements of May and Taylor, and and accommodates the powerful lungs of Paul Rodgers. The song is driven by a gripping Brian May riff that allows Rodgers to expand and contract naturally. Subject manner aside, this is the kind of material that would have made The Cosmos Rocks a far more inviting affair. As it is, “Say It’s Not True” and “Surf’s Up…School’s Out” fall victim to too much high production value and not enough grit, which is really what a majority of this record needs. The Highlights DVD included with the expanded version is really what you want: Paul Rodgers and Queen performing the hits of Queen, Bad Company and Free live in Japan. While I can respect the fact that these guys want to write and record new music, lowering their standards of excellence to feed the public isn’t the way to go. Maybe for their sophomore effort, May, Taylor and Rodgers will stop trying to live up to their past achievements and create a new legacy with fresh eyes and ears.

~ Shawn Perry

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