Sound — 8
It goes without saying that Paul Rodgers is easily one of the more decorated lead vocalists within the rock community. Rodgers has spent the better part of the past fifty years behind such renowned groups as Bad Company, Free, The Law and Queen, even occasionally focusing on a solo career between projects.
While he is well known for his earlier material, new music from Paul Rodgers has been hard to come by. His last studio album as a solo artist surfaced back in 2000 as "Electric," during a period where rock in general was suffering from a harsh decline in popularity and the effort was largely ignored by the media. Similarly, his 2008 collaboration with Queen entitled "The Cosmos Rocks" was slashed by the majority of reviewers.
It seemed as though Paul Rodgers was discouraged from creating new music, however the musician is determined to make a formidable return-to-form with his newly released studio album, "The Royal Sessions." The title of this new effort has the ability to puzzle even Rodgers' dedicated fanbase. What exactly are "The Royal Sessions"? The inspiration behind the title and the album itself comes from Paul Rodgers wanting to pay tribute to the songs of his youth, which largely includes blues, R&B and soul songs from throughout the late and early 1960's.
In such cases where a rock vocalist goes and tries to give his own rendition on classic blues and soul-based recordings, the end result can go one of two ways; we either have an album comprised of standout renditions which keep some familiar qualities of the original while showcasing the talent of the vocalist whose covering the track, or we are left stuck listening to a compilation of stale cuts. When it comes to "The Royal Sessions," thankfully, it's the former.
Paul Rodgers' take on the Sam & Dave classic "I Thank You," which has been covered by a variety of artists including Bonnie Raitt to ZZ Top, remains just about as close as you could get to recapturing the strength of the original, with gospel vocal melodies and energetic keyboard work providing a solid backbone for Rodgers' solid performance. A formidable instrumental section and Paul Rodgers' consistent singing style are features which are present all throughout these ten recordings, such as his covers of Albert King's "Born Under a Bad Sign" and "It's Growing" by The Temptations.
There are moments throughout the album where Rodgers does attempt to rewrite a classic, for example his version of Burt Bacharach's "Walk on By" where Paul changes the entire lead vocal melody while singing several octaves below the original. The track's choice use of wah pedal is commendable, however this song did admittedly fall slightly below expectations, especially after reaching the halfway point in the album.
With this track being the clear exception, Paul Rodgers delivers an enjoyable performance throughout "The Royal Sessions" which easily appeals to this established fan.
Lyrics — 8
Paul Rodgers, the now 64 year old rock vocalist, still has an impressively intact range for having been performing for over four decades, and deserves recognition for the solid performance which he offers here on "The Royal Sessions." Rodgers' breathes new life on the majority of the heavily replayed blues favorites included on this release, providing them with the ability to appeal to familiar listeners while also opening these covers up to a whole new generation of rock listeners.
Overall Impression — 8
In short, Paul Rodgers does an applaudable job at revisiting a collection of blues and soul songs from the 1960's with his first new solo album in over fourteen years, "The Royal Sessions." Although the album is of hit-and-miss quality, Rodgers does more positive growth than harm here. While this effort is largely comprised of memorable recordings, the strongest cuts are "I Thank You," "I Can't Stop the Rain" and "Born Under a Bad Sign."