Queen + Paul Rogers - Return of the Champions

2006-03-30 07:05

Queen and Paul Rodgers have a good time on a two-disc live concert release. The spectre of Freddie Mercury hangs thick in the air. But the roles of Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor are often underestimated.

Of the 27 tracks performed here, only four are credited to Mercury, with a few others recognised as the Queen collective, and the rest spread out among the other principals.

Still, the most difficult thing to overcome when listening to the Queen + Paul Rodgers project is the tendency to compare it the classic Queen we all know and love. Is Queen MINUS their charismatic front man Mercury and bassist John Deacon still Queen?

And then to add Paul Rodgers - an accomplished rock n' roll freemason in his own right - seems more a case of replacing lost infantry for new battles than trying to recapture glorious victories of old. Paul Rodgers is no Freddie Mercury, and the Queen monolith has wisely opted to celebrate that fact in its performance.

Just as well. Rodgers is a gruff, rough n' ready rock singer - in many ways a stark contrast to Mercury's gigantic operatic presence. And at times his style is at odds with Queen's more measured arrangements.

But this live recording of one of rock's all-time great bands has its moments. On the first disc, the highlight by far is Brian May's sentimental rendition of Mercury's "Love of My Life". Fans need no reminding of how gifted a musician and performer the late showman was, and May and the crowd do a good job of celebrating such legend.

The band seems to settle into high gear on the second disc, rough-housing through multi-era queen from "Radio Ga-Ga" through " Bohemian Rhapsody" through May's traditional "God Save The Queen".

A nice touch during the closing act of the show is to include Rodgers' own "All Right Now" - the Free classic. It's also one of the disc highlights, putting the singer in his element with a band that's happy to play the rockers as respite from the archetypal Queen show.

The rest sees a very active Roger Taylor grabbing more mic time, and Brian May goes through the motions with searing solos and the odd lead vocal. But in the end Queen + Paul Rodgers' Return of the Champions is really for collectors only, documenting one of rock's grand icons hooking up with another for some good ol' times. If anything, it will encourage you to go out and buy the studio albums again. When it comes to Queen, it's hard to go wrong.

- Anton Marshall

Queen - the flamboyant, brilliant, poppy and glorious band whose frontman Freddie Mercury's moustache defined macho camp - were unforgettable. This live line-up featuring Paul Rogers (ex of Free) doesn't try to replace Freddie, and so it works relatively well in its own right.

Lindi 2005/11/03 4:19 PM
Nice, but you had to be there This CD sounds ok to me, but I'm a Freddie fan I'm afraid. Killer Queen is one of my favourite songs, ever. And you HAVE to be camp to do that.
Emsie 2005/11/09 9:50 AM
Return of the Champions Sorry NO go without my man Fred. I dont like Paul's voice
richard metcalfe 2005/11/09 6:45 PM
Queen + Paul Rodgers Queen could have picked some one better than this , sorry not impressed at all
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