The Cosmos Rocks

Queen + Paul Rodgers

Parlophone, 2008

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Undoubtedly one of the most surprising unions in the rock world of recent years was the coming together of Queen and Paul Rodgers, which culminated in the Return Of The Champions world tour of 2005/06.  It wasn’t the first time that the two remaining members of Queen (bassist John Deacon retired some years ago) have tested the waters with a new singer.

But it wasn’t until Brian May and Roger Taylor had a chance meeting with Paul Rodgers and then decided to play some gigs together that something began to stick.  It seems odd at first -- Queen were known for their campy, bombastic arrangements and a star performer in their flamboyant frontman, Freddie Mercury. Rodgers, meanwhile, is best known as the lead singer of legendary British blues bands Free and its off-shoot Bad Company.  His gruff, powerful delivery is a far cry from Mercury’s unique blend of power and sensitivity, not to mention his incredible range and the occasional falsetto.

Replacing the great Freddie Mercury was never an option, so the band wisely decided to bill themselves as Queen + Paul Rodgers, a true collaboration as they would play a steady mix of both Queen and Rodger’s hits throughout their debut tour.  As a rock show, it was quite simply brilliant.

After the tour was finished, it was announced that the boys planned to record an album of new material, which began sometime in 2006 with May and Rodgers sharing bass duties and all three splitting the writing credits.  Sessions were scheduled around Rodger’s solo tours and finally commenced earlier this year.  The result is one of this year’s most anticipated albums and I for one am pleased it’s finally here.  If you (like me) love your rock loud and heavy and appreciate a killer voice when you hear one, well, you’re going to love The Cosmos Rocks my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 as much as I do. 

The album kicks off with “Cosmos Rockin’,” and as the title suggests, it rocks with ease and sets the tone for what is to follow.  Next up, “Time To Shine” is one the album’s highlights; backed by a driving and heavy track, Rodgers shines with an outstanding vocal performance that could easily be compared to his very best.  It also contains some of his finest lyrics: “In an instant the mysteries of life will unfold / The myths and the dragons of time will explode / Here's to a real understanding of truth / For compassion and grace to be given their chance, too.”

Then comes “Still Burnin’,” a rocking and rhyming number complete with retro harmony backing vocals for the chorus. Taylor and May always sounded great together and they still do here.   “Small” is a sweet acoustic ballad about finding solace and peace of mind in a today’s ever-changing world, while “Warboys” is an angry anti-war song and is another standout.  Rodger’s lyrics hang in the air long after this cut is over: “They were born with the knowledge of the struggle to survive / They were raised, learning only ways to stay alive / Their language is the language of the bullet and the gun / If you can see them coming, baby, better run.”

Power ballad “We Believe” continues the anti-war theme and is basically a call to arms for a greater understanding through communication and restraint -- if only.  “Call Me’ is the most “Queen” song here; from the opening harmonies to Taylor’s drum rolls, it’s the only song here that really wouldn’t sound out of place on any of the classic Queen albums of the past. 

Curiously, next up is “Voodoo,” which is vintage Rodgers and would find a home on any of Free’s best works.  Its slow-burning bluesy arrangement, coupled with his rich tones, make this another standout among what by now is turning out to be a great album by a very great band.  Ballads “Some Things That Glitter” and “Say It’s Not True” bring welcome relief from the heavy riffing and soaring vocals.

“C-lebrity” is a fun rocker that takes a stab at the ridiculous age of reality TV and the famous for being famous crowd -- you know who they are.  It packs a hefty punch in spite of the tongue-in-cheek lyrics.  “Through The Night” is simply brilliant; I’m running out of compliments for Mr. Rodgers, but his singing here is truly soulful and effortless as always.  “Surf's Up… School’s Out” is plain crazy, which I’ll hazard a guess is an homage to the idols of their youth, and finally, “Small Reprise” closes out the album beautifully.

All in all, this is a blistering dose of rock that finds its makers on top of their game and ready to roll.  It’s loud, bombastic, heavy, and heartfelt all at once, a rare treat that many bands would struggle to pull off, but not this one.  Bring on the tour (fingers crossed it will head down under) -- it’s sure to be a cracker.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Mark Millan and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Parlophone, and is used for informational purposes only.