Paul Rodgers: The Royal Sessions

Posted February 20, 2014 by in r&b



2.5/ 5


Genre: , ,
Genre: Soul, R&B, rock
Producer: Perry Margouleff
Label: 429, Pie Records
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 41:34
Release Date: 4 February 2014
Spin This: "I've Got Dreams to Remember," "Born Under a Bad Sign"


Rodgers' vocals are smooth, almost ageless. Charles Hodges' organ brings in Al Green-esque magic


Rodgers doesn't push himself enough; Royal studio players find it hard to duplicate raw soul of Stax

Paul Rodgers soulful voyage to Royal Studios produces mixed results

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Paul Rodgers soulful voyage to Royal Studios produces mixed results

It seems like all roads lead to Memphis for the chunk of American and English rock superstars starving to get a piece of that Southern soul: Dusty Springfield did it while Stax was on the map; Elvis did it in his last days; U2 did it during their Rattle and Hum sessions; Huey Lewis & the News, Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs and Cyndi Lauper have all produced albums recently with the sound of Stax on their mind. Paul Rodgers, former frontman for Free (and for a short period of time Queen) and probably one of the greatest vocalists to ever hit the landscape of rock music, has made that voyage to Memphis to cull out a back-to-basics soul record, something his career has been so hungry for. On The Royal Sessions, his first studio solo album since 2000’s Electric, Rodgers journeys to the Royal Recording Studios where the late Willie Mitchell created a sophisticated smooth style of his own best identified as the “Hi” sound. Inside that small building, only minutes away from the rebuilt Stax museum where Stax studios once stood, Mitchell and the Royal musicians provided hit records for Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner and Ann Peebles.

As Paul Rodgers digs deep into the Stax vault for cover tunes, he runs across a very tedious task of merging Royal’s studio sonics along with the Al Green string sweetening with Stax’s signature rawness. At times, the record creates fuses the two worlds with ease. Otis’s “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” is probably the finest of the contributions. With Rodgers ad-libbing like a bluesman messenger across six minutes of Memphis soul, the gospel-powered ballad is perfectly staged with vintage background vocals, soaring organ swells, horn arrangements, bluesy guitars and the occasional King Curtis-esque sax solo. “I Can’t Stand the Rain” is as just as impressive, thanks to Charles Hodges’ signature organ contribution highlighting the key ingredient of the Hi sessions. “Born Under a Bad Sign,” another notable attraction, gives Rodgers enough room to utilize darker shades of tone on his crooning.  “I Thank You” and “Shake” – the latter being an Amazon bonus track – hardly replace the originals from Sam & Dave and Otis Redding, but they sound good on Rodgers’ type of soul. Where the album struggles to shine is when it goes for dexterous offerings that require much more than a little studio magic. The reworked “Walk on By” from the Isaac Hayes songbook sounds like a hallow shell of its former self, especially as Rodgers’ solo carves out a new and awkward timing for the lyrics. And even with the uptempo numbers, he tends to seem too relaxed, a far cry from the agile craziness once executed on Rodgers’ big anthems with Free and Bad Company (“It’s Alright Now,” “Can’t Get Enough”). And maybe there was a lot of pressure and high expectations to live up to. To challenge the mightiest oracles of soul music and to make better versions of them seems almost too good to be true. But Rodgers hardly tries; he’s just going with the motions. Luckily he comes out with a decent album, but it’s too welterweight when compared with the iconic originals.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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