The Royal Sessions

Music Review

7 Feb 2014
Paul Rodgers
The Royal Sessions
429/Pie Records

This album is a nostalgic journey for Paul Rodgers. For those among of a tender age, the name will mean very little, but for many he will forever be associated with the bands Free and Bad Company. I am not a devotee but have kept in touch with his work over the years and proudly count his Muddy Water Blues as a cherished album. That album was a collaboration between Rodgers and some of the best guitar players in the business including: Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, David Gilmore, Steve Miller and others. It celebrated the music of Muddy Waters with a rock accent.
This album is a slightly different affair, it concentrates on re-imagining and rearranging a selection of classic soul hits, the music in fact of Rodgers’ youth. It seems the years have not changed his voice and energy in a meaningful way, considering his age (64) this is quite a tour de force. The album was recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal studios in Memphis where the singer was accompanied by the musicians that worked there in the seventies. These include the Reverend Charles Hodges on Hammond B3, Lester Snell (piano), Archie ‘Tubby’ Turner (Wurlitzer) and Michael Toles on guitar. Among a strong backing of horns, strings and vocals by the people who made the Memphis soul sound in the first place. The overall effect is exact and mighty big. The sound of this very able band matches Rodgers’ energy and vocal abilities. The album includes the following tracks:

I Thank You
Down Don’t Bother Me
I Can’t Stand The Rain
I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
That’s How Strong My Love Is
Walk On By
Any Ole Way
It’s Growing
Born Under A Bad Sign
I’ve Got Dreams To Remember

Some of these are amazing renditions that breath an original air into songs that have followed many of us all our lives. The execution is as perfect as any Steely Dan album, with each note almost ‘machined’ into shape. Which is all the more surprising given that for the most part this was a live recording. The amount of joy you get from this album will depend on your affection for the genre. I really enjoyed three tracks but in spite of the perfect musical execution of the others, I wasn't able to fall in love with the rest of the album. I put it down to the fact that nostalgia plays a great part with this type of music. In the event I really liked I Can't Stand the Rain, Walk on By and Born Under a Bad Sign. His version of Walk on By especially needs to be heard. The recording was made to analogue tape and the sound sits on the warm, bassy side of the equation. A fine balance is struck between the warmth that is always associated with soul music and the speed of the drums and horns, resulting in really nice bass and horns that will not shatter glass.

Reuben Klein