Friday, March 14, 2014

Paul Rodgers The Royal Sessions 2014

Summary: English classic rock voice (Free, Bad Company) goes to Memphis to record a set of sixties soul covers in a famous studio (Royal Studios), home to highly regarded seventies soul label Hi Records, and recording locale for many sixties and seventies soul greats.
Additional details: The band includes musicians that played on the previously mentioned original recordings.

There are four Otis Redding covers. That's just looking for trouble, since no one EVER improves on the Otis Redding version of anything. Except maybe Aretha.

The arrangements are super-tight. This could go up or down in its effect on the overall evaluation.

If you liked that last Boz Scaggs record, this is very similar. Great horn charts. Beautiful backup singers on several tracks. Lovely, warm recording venue with theoretically wonderful vintage equipment (no doubt augmented these days). Rodgers has a nice rough edge to replace Scaggs' smooth croon.

I never really considered Rodgers as a soul singer. There really was no need, he was so splendid at bluesy rock swagger.

His voice has held up quite well. He has lost perhaps a little power (and only a little), but not much range. His tone is the same as his younger self, and that's pretty cool.

Song selection is pretty solid. Not surprisingly, Rodgers does some of his best work on the bluesier numbers like Down Don't Bother Me and Born Under A Bad Sign. I Can't Stand The Rain is a weird choice, but it comes off better than I would have thought. Walk On By gets a 7-minute treatment almost worthy of an Issac Hayes solo record.

A few songs don't work so well. It's Growing and Any Ole Way sound like talented bar band covers, but from the less-energized first set of the night. 

Conclusion: Mostly quite good with only a few weak performances, but still better than the majority of genre cover sets. Most of the time the band sounds like they're into it, and when they're hot, it is very good. Rodgers does better than might be expected in the soul setting, and his voice is still an impressive tool. You probably need to like both Rodgers and old soul music.

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