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Paul Rodgers

+ {The Firm} + {The Law}

The grit ’n’ honey vox behind both FREE and BAD COMPANY, PAUL RODGERS (born 17th December 1949 in Middlesbrough, England) struck out on a solo career following the initial break-up of the latter band in 1982. From his halcyon days bringing forth the likes of `All Right Now’, `Wishing Well’ and `Feel Like Makin’ Love’, there was always going to be a market for anything that the muscular singer (a black-belt in karate) could turnout. Sadly, this was not the case initially. But Paul’s love of MUDDY WATERS from seeing him live at The Marquee in London in 1967 while the young singer was cutting his teeth in blues act Brown Sugar, was to have a profound effect on RODGERS forever onwards.
Recorded at Paul’s home studio, with the well-groomed singer laying down all the instrumental parts himself, his first solo attempt CUT LOOSE (1983) {*5} was a largely unremarkable fare from a man eminently capable of R&B/hard-rock genius. Having said that, his loyalty brigade might argue the merits of `Live In Peace’ (soon to be included on his FIRM’s `Mean Business’ set) and a BAD CO. cast off `Superstar Woman’ (the original later accommodated on his second group’s `Original Bad Company Anthology’).
His next project, The FIRM (an almost supergroup collaboration with JIMMY PAGE, Tony Franklin and Chris Slade), also failed to do the business and make an impact critically at least. Despite the expectation and anticipation, eponymous album THE FIRM (1985) {*5} – featuring a dismal cover of `You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ – did little to please hard-rock acolytes bar the most loyal of LED ZEPPELIN and FREE/BAD COMPANY disciples. A year on, the out-of-step, arena-rock injected MEAN BUSINESS (1986) {*4} was even more disappointing, suffering from turgid supergroup syndrome and wallowing in the mire of mediocrity.
Declining to join a re-formed BAD COMPANY in 1986 (his position was taken by Brian Howe), RODGERS eventually resurfaced in the early 90s as one half of The LAW with former SMALL FACES/FACES/The WHO drummer Kenney Jones. Releasing a solely dour album, THE LAW (1991) {*5}, the vox ’n’ drums duo certainly didn’t rewrite any rules and a general lack of interest (peaking at a lowly 126 in the US Billboard charts) saw the group locked up for good. Apart from three PAUL RODGERS songs (top marks going to `Laying Down The Law’), outside writers were used: CHRIS REA (on `Stone’), BRYAN ADAMS (on `Nature Of The Beast’), Phil Collen of DEF LEPPARD (on the first rendition of `Miss You In A Heartbeat’) and Jerry Lynn Williams (on `Best Of My Love’) among them.
RODGERS duly emerged again a couple of years later with the star-studded MUDDY WATERS BLUES (1993) {*7}. As the title suggested, the record was an interpretation of the frontman’s favourite Chicago blues numbers featuring such lead guitar alumni as (in order of appearance):- BUDDY GUY, Trevor Rabin, BRIAN SETZER, JEFF BECK, STEVE MILLER, DAVID GILMOUR, SLASH, GARY MOORE, BRIAN MAY, Neal Schon and RICHIE SAMBORA. His most consistent effort since the BAD COMPANY days, the album surprisingly made the UK Top 10 (US Top 100). The following year saw the release of a live EP featuring a trio of HENDRIX covers, namely `Purple Haze’, `Stone Free’ and `Little Wing’.
A set of original material, NOW (1997), eventually appeared on the German-based S.P.V. imprint, a UK Top 30 breaker issued around the same time as a LIVE: THE LORELEY TAPES…. {*4} set that ran through old FREE, BAD COMPANY and solo nuggets. At the close of the millennium, workaholic RODGERS returned with another solo album of new material. ELECTRIC (1999) {*5} was a record (as stated on the sleeve) that was a slight back-to-basics throwback to his 70s days, although tracks such as `Jasmine Flower’, `Deep Blue’ and `Freedom’ were never going to re-position the singer back under the arena spotlight he craved.
This would come through his return to a live-and-kicking BAD COMPANY reunion in 1999 and again in 2008, while squeezed precariously in between, was time spent as singer with QUEEN, chronicled on their jointly-funded comeback double-disc `Return Of The Champions’ in 2005. Of RODGERS’ solo sojourns, the 2006-recorded LIVE IN GLASGOW (2007) {*6} was just the ticket needed to show his power and prowess as one of the world’s greatest ever singers. With a backing band that consisted of guitarists Kurtis Dengler and Howard Leese, bassist Lynn Sorensen and drummer Ryan Hoyle, there could be no denying Paul’s passion and exuberance towards his first love: music.
If there was anyone who could stretch his larynx to compete with the ghost of R&B/soul/blues giants who’d once shined a light down at Willie Mitchell’s legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, it was PAUL RODGERS. Sending forth all his royalties towards Stax Music Academy (as in “payin’ his dues” to the masters), 2014’s chart entry THE ROYAL SESSIONS {*6} was a covers set of immense quality; the man was of course one of the best white men to ever sing the blues. Classics all, in every sense of the word, Paul excelled especially for `That’s How Strong My Love Is’, `I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)’, `Born Under A Bad Sign’ and `I Thank You’.
Followers of Paul’s fundamental formation, the FREE SPIRIT (2018) {*7} set celebrated blues singer RODGERS in all his retrograde and re-vamped glory, filmed as he was at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the DVD version. Squeezing into the UK Top 30, FREE’s best of/greatest hits had never sounded so sonically superb; or maybe it was just great to hear them classic rock gems rolled out once again.
© MC Strong 1994-2001/GRD / rev-up MCS Dec2011-Sep2018

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    1. Martin Strong

      Eh! Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Tony. Feel FREE to express yourself – you’re in good company.

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