en: The Cosmos Rocks [info]
Firstly, the pairing of the former Free and Bad Company singer with a band that's been soldiering on without its most memorable USP (unless you count white clogs and a guitar made from a fireplace) is no disaster. This is no repeat of the Calling All Stations-era travesty that Genesis wrought by employing a D-list singer. Paul Rodgers is, in any book, a legend, and manfully fulfils his role. The trouble is that his identity, forged at the age of 19 is (if you'll excuse the pun) rock solid. His voice, which always did sound older than his years hasn't really altered one jot. And Queen's Led Zeppelin-at-the-Royal-Opera-House brand of drivetime rock is similarly set in stone. As a result this isn't an alchemical wedding, but more a boisterous singalong that's efficient rather than incendiary.
Yet sheer competence and experience will out and stylistic pitfalls have, in the main, been avoided. Thus, we get no leather-clad frontman singing about fairy folk: Rodgers' lyrics always relied on the more hoary old cliches in rock's thesaurus. Meanwhile May and Taylor (sadly no coaxing pop genius John Deacon out of retirement) go for a harder edge more suited to Rodgers' grizzled larynx. The mix is at its most entertaining when both parties give the most of their signature sounds. The eco ballad Small is sappy and only comes alive when Brian whips out the plank. In fact too often songs start like the mid-paced Bad Company country rockers (Some Things That Gliitter) and lack Freddie Mercury's baroque flourishes that would have stretched the band beyond mere efficiency. So it's the harder rocking numbers that please most: C-Lebrity (harmlessly poking fun at the vapid fame-obsessed nature of tabloid culture and bearing more than a passing resemblance to something from Physical Graffiti), Cosmos Rockin' or Time To Shine being the outstanding numbers.
There are a couple of real clunkers here. Call Me If You Need My Love is essentially Can't Get Enough Of Your Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and We Believe is the kind of lighter-waving, platitude-filled nonsense that will never, ever, replace classics like We Are The Champions.
All in all, The Cosmos Rocks displays a band that seem to still be in love with rock. Why else would they be doing it? Surely not for money. May's guitar is in fine fettle throughout, and it's hard to begrudge such stalwarts their noisy fun. Fans of both sides will be happy, and that's just about as much as anyone could expect. But one final question: as an astrophycicist surely Brian must know that the Cosmos vibrates rather than rocks?