Queen + Paul Rodgers

#633: Don’t Take Offence At My Innuendo

GETTING MORE TALE #633: Don’t Take Offence At My Innuendo

I didn’t understand Queen until it was almost too late.  When I was a highschool hair metal brat, Queen were “too pop” for my tastes.  Much of their music seemed to be novelty songs to me.  Highschool pep rally music:  “We Will Rock You”, “We are the Champions”.   In the late 80s, North America had all but given up on Queen.  My exposure to them was minimal until 1991.

MuchMusic began playing a new Queen video called “Innuendo”.  The animated short was intense with firey guitar histronics (courtesy of Steve Howe from Yes) and an exotic Zeppelin edge.  Having just got into Zeppelin big time, this was very appealing.  At school, old pal Scott Peddle concurred.  “That new Queen is quite the Zeppelin tune,” and I agreed.  As far as I was concerned, any band that could homage Zep’s “Kashmir” with their own unique slant, well, I had to check them out!

M.E.A.T Magazine had a new interview with Brian May that year, and so my learning began.  It was the first I heard of Freddie’s rumoured health problems.  Queen hadn’t toured since 1986 and this raised questions.  Little did I know, but the British tabloids were all over Freddie with candid photos and near-death pronouncements.  Brian denied the health concerns, but admitted that it was Freddie who didn’t want to tour.  This was because as singer, he couldn’t smoke, drink and party with the rest of the band.  He had to take care of his voice.  So went the interview.  Brian assured readers that Queen would continue, as they were already half-way through the next Queen album, eventually released in 1995 as Made  in Heaven.

The next chapter in my learning came during the summer.  In guitar magazine interview, Brian May ran through all the Queen albums one by one.  I drank in every word, as I got a rough outline of what this band was all about.  Diversity, mostly, and I liked that.  Zeppelin too was diverse, but I sensed that Queen took it to another level.  I made plans to begin collecting Queen.

After highschool, I managed to stay in touch with a guy named Andy.  Andy had an older brother with an extensive record collection.  Andy told me all about this song called “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  He was over one night when my mom came downstairs to tell us some bad news.  It was the 23rd of November, 1991.  Freddie Mercury had made a statement.

“Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.”

There was such a stigma surrounding AIDS then, more so than today.  It is easy to be critical of Freddie’s decision to keep his illness secret.  Unless you were there in 1991, then you really can’t know how difficult it was for AIDS sufferers at the time.

Andy and I were shellshocked.  The rumours were true.  The denials were false.  Brian later admitted that he knew early on that Freddie was sick.  Still, Andy and I had no idea how serious it was.  We talked, we listened to Queen.  Freddie died the very next day (the same day as Eric Carr of Kiss).  I had hardly got to know him.

My mom was headed to the mall and she asked if I wanted anything.  “Yes,” I answered.  “The first Queen album please.”  She returned that afternoon with Queen, 1973.  It was my first Queen.  I intended to collect them in order.

Getting all the albums in original order went sideways shortly after.  Less than three months after Freddie’s passing, came a worldwide phenomenon:  Wayne’s World.

Overnight, Queen were everywhere again.  Everyone knew every word to “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  The few months’ head start that I had were meaningless.  Two weeks later, Hollywood Records released Classic Queen in North America.  This was essentially a revised Greatest Hits II from 1991, (which they didn’t even bother to release here) with older hits thrown in.  Later that year came a new version of Greatest Hits, with the track listing revamped to avoid overlap with Classic Queen.  Confusing?  Indeed, it must have been to old fans who already had the old Greatest Hits with the original cover art.  That immediately became a collectable.  To new guys like me, I was just trying to keep up.

Hollywood Records reissued all the old Queen albums as part of their 20 Years of Queen series.  There were bonus tracks.  I had begun my Queen collection on cassette, but I was irked to discovery that some of the CD editions had bonus tracks that were not on the cassettes.  And so, I already had to re-buy.  Interestingly, some of those old 1991 bonus tracks are remixes that are now out of print and not available on the newer Queen reissues.

It was a blessing that I stopped buying them in chronological order.  After all, I didn’t want to wait that long to get Innuendo, an album with more than the average amount of heavy Queen rock.  Next, I got News of the World.  Its bonus tracks was a pretty awful remix of “We Will Rock You” by Rick Rubin and featuring Flea.  Fortunately the album itself was much better.  Queen’s best?  Quite possibly, due to “It’s Late”, a Queen epic as regal as any.  The 6:27 Brian May workout is a clear highlight on an album of nothing but.  “It’s Late” sunk its hooks in me deep.

As it was difficult for Hollywood Records to to extract new releases from a defunct band, the reissues continued.  Queen At the Beeb was out of print, so it was re-released with new cover art as Queen at the BBC in 1995.  This collection of live oldies from Queen and Queen II were not what the hit-buying general public were interested in.  My copy was a cassette promo from the Record Store, intended for store play.  The boss never played it so I claimed it.

Working at the Record Store, I was able to fill in most of the blanks in my collection.  A nice find was a version of The Miracle with 14 tracks instead of the more common 13.  I still have that.  (The additional track was the 12″ remix of “Scandal”.)  It was ol’ buddy T-Rev who made sure I knew these things.

As the years passed, Queen releases became less important.  The long-awaited final album Made in Heaven became a shelf warmer at Christmas 1995.  Regardless of its deep emotional contents, people didn’t want to know.  The unfortunate effect of Queen’s sudden comeback in North America is that people lost interest a few years after they gained it.

Not me.  Made in Heaven became a dark favourite.  Two years later, Queen indicated they weren’t done yet.  The trio of Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon regrouped for one last song:  the ballad “No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young)”.  It was a tribute to Freddie and Princess Diana, and released on a new compilation called Queen Rocks.

John Deacon retired, but then something strange happened.  The duo of Brian May and Roger Taylor reconvened as “Queen +”.  This moniker was used for a number of remixes on Greatest Hits III: Queen + Wyclef Jean, for example.  There was Five + Queen doing a new boy band version of “We Will Rock You”.  Queen + Paul Rodgers did an album (The Cosmos Rocks) and a number of tours.  But it wasn’t until a former American Idol TV contestant named Adam Lambert came on board that Queen regained mass public awareness.  Now, Queen + Adam Lambert are a hot touring commodity.

That might have to be enough.  Because nobody bought The Cosmos Rocks, Queen + Adam Lambert are unlikely at this time to record new music.  Instead they will be tearing up stages Down Under in 2018.  They promise all the favourites, and a few unexpected oldies.  Lambert is a versatile singer who can do it all, so Australia and New Zealand are now on alert:  Queen + Adam Lambert are coming and are promising a hell of a show.

  • Auckland – 17 & 18 February
  • Sydney – 21 & 22 February
  • Brisbane – 24 February
  • Adelaide (first Queen shows since 1984) – 27 & 28 February
  • Melbourne – 2 & 3 March
  • Perth – 6 March

 

REVIEW: Queen + Paul Rodgers – Live in Ukraine (2009 CD/DVD)


 

QUEEN PAUL UKRAINE_0001QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – Live in Ukraine (2009 Hollywood 2 CD/1 DVD set)

The show was dubbed “Life Must Go On”, with funds raised going to AIDS research.  Queen had never played in Ukraine before.  350,000 people would be in attendance at the gig, which also functioned as Queen’s tour kick-off.  No pressure.

The massive 28 song setlist consisted of Queen classics augmented by Free and Bad Company tunes, and songs from Queen + Paul Rodgers’ studio album The Cosmos Rocks. The stage has two huge screens on the sides, and an even bigger one behind.  A taped intro to “One Vision” leads to the band taking over with a rapturous entrance.  There is also a center ramp that takes the members right into the crowd.  I have always liked Paul’s slant on Freddy’s songs.  He’s not the same singer, not in the slightest, so the vocals lines change organically and it works.  Unfortunately “One Vision” is shortened so as to lead into “Tie Your Mother Down” which is right up Paul’s alley.  Brian and Roger do their share of the backing vocals, and it sounds pretty Queen-like.  (The live band is rounded out by longtime sideman Spike Edney (keyboards), Danny Miranda (bass) and Jamie Moses (backing guitar.))

QUEEN PAUL UKRAINE_0007“The Show Must Go On” came early in the set, and Paul really poured everything into it.  Even with his “cool biker’ stage look, he had the crowd in the palm of his hands, especially when twirling that mike stand over his head.  “Fat Bottom Girls” sounds a little odd without Freddy, but Paul manages.   Of course Brian and Roger do their part to help.

I found “Another One Bites the Dust” to stumble awkwardly, as I anxiously awaited the song to end so we can get on with it.  “Hammer to Fall” is vastly better, and this flows cleanly into “I Want it All”.  Brian smiles away as Paul commands the song in his own way.  “I Want to Break Free” works better than you’d think, and Brian’s guitar is sublime.

At this point of the show, Brian introduces Paul to the crowd, who then sings Bad Company’s “Seagull” acoustically.  This is a show highlight, as Paul occupies that ramp in the middle of the crowd.  Paul then introduces Brian as the “greatest guitar player in the universe” (I won’t argue), who does “Love of My Life” solo acoustically on a 12 string.  Brian’s sweet voice is augmented by 350,000 others.  Brian then invites Roger and his bass drum up the ramp with him, and they do “’39” together, possibly my favourite Queen song ever.  But it’s just a fake-out; Brian invites the backing musicians to join them and “’39” is fully fleshed out.  It’s funny seeing all five musicians out on that tiny platform in the middle of the crowd, but what a treat for those down there!

Roger Taylor is left on stage with Danny Miranda, and they proceed to play his electric upright bass with drum sticks.  This turns into a medley of famous Queen basslines, all played with sticks.  Nonsense aside, Roger is left to solo on his scaled-down portable kit.  This jazzy solo is another solo highlight, as Roger demonstrates his underrated skills on the traps.  As the solo progresses, his drum tech gradually sets up a full kit around Roger.  By the end of it, Roger breaks into “I’m in Love With My Car” with the whole band.

QUEEN PAUL UKRAINE_0005Finally Paul Rodgers returns to the stage for the latter half of “Say it’s Not True”, a stunning ballad for Freddy.  Halfway through the set now, and this is the first new song.  With Paul back, they decide to do a couple more of his songs:  “Shooting Star” and “Bad Company” (Paul on piano for “Bad Company”).  Both sound great with Queen; the guys’ backing vocals work perfectly, and the crowd clearly knows them.  During “Bad Company”, a slide show of that band runs on the giant screens.

May is front and center for his guitar solo, and the crowd loves every note of it.  This solo goes into “Bijou” from Innuendo, featuring the pre-recorded image and voice of Freddy Mercury.  This then leads into “Last Horizon” from Brian’s solo album, Back to the Light.  Unfortunately this appears to be the part of the show during which one would leave to urinate.  “Bijou” and “Last Horizon” are both great, but it’s too much slooow soloing for too long.  The bit only starts to come to life when guitarist Jamie Moses joins Brian for a harmony lead.

QUEEN PAUL UKRAINE_0006Paul straps on an acoustic for a laid back version of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” which degenerates into guitar noodling.  Finally comes Queen’s “new” single “C-lebrity” which is a song I like a lot.  It boasts a solid rock riff and a great performance by Paul Rodgers.  Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and the song everyone had been waiting for, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, follow.  Both songs fail to really combine the elements of Queen + Paul Rodgers fully.  “Feel Like Makin’ Love” is a little too sweet when performed by Queen, and “Bohemian” is done with the recorded image and voice of Freddy singing the song.  The crowd doesn’t seem to mind, but it doesn’t work for me.  Paul only shows up for the heavy part at the end.

Fortunately one more new song was played: “Cosmos Rockin'”.  I wish there were more.  Yes there are a lot of songs to be played, but surely a solo could be cut in order to play more new material.  It feels as if Queen + Paul Rodgers weren’t even giving the album a chance.  It’s not like radio is going to play it, so you have to play it live.  The song is well received with the crowd jumping and down.  When they sing, “We got the whole house rockin’ to the mighty power of rock n’ roll,” I believe it!  They are dancing and going absolutely nuts!

There are only a few “must-plays” left, and undoubtedly “All Right Now” is one of them.  Paul Rodgers has certainly lost nothing through the years and that riff sounds great coming from Brian May.  And finally, the traditional duo of “We Will Rock You”/”We are the Champions”.  I’ve always felt these highschool rally perennials are probably best experienced live.  It’s a “had to be there” feeling, since these singalongs are probably more fun to experience than to watch.  Although Paul since both songs differently from Freddy, I like his slant on them.

Wikipedia reports (unsourced) that digital download versions of Live in Ukraine contained two bonus tracks:  “Radio Gaga” and “A Kind of Magic”.  I’ve been searching online for years and I’ve never found them available anywhere, so take that with a grain of salt.  Both songs are available live on another Queen + Paul Rodgers album, Return of the Champions.  That album has enough different live material from this one, such as “Can’t Get Enough”, “Wishing Well” and “These are the Days of Our Lives”, that both are worth owning.

3.5/5 stars

WTF SEARCH TERMS: Pol Rodgers Edition

PAUL

WTF SEARCH TERMS III:  Pol Rodgers Edition

WTF Search Terms is a new feature here at LeBrain’s, where I reveal some amusing words that people typed into search engines, ending up at my site.  Today I’ve gathered 10 of the funnier Rock-related search terms!  If you missed the last one, click here.

10.  “show me all of iron maidens art dra”  “Show me”?  Pfft.  Show me your dra first.

9. “pol rodgers fire and waters”  He  knew how to spell Rodgers, but not Paul.

8.  “band acting like a puppet”  My best guess is Supergrass.

7. “jonbonjovi phoyoes never seen”  If you’ve never seen it, neither have I.

6. “where was montly crew attacted in saskatchewan”  He spelled Saskatchewan right.

5. “deep purple songs about nature appreciation”  This thought had not crossed my mind once before now.

4. “when will def leppard be on itunes”  Perhaps the answer is, like my old Psych 301 prof used to say, “On the 12th of Never.”

3. “why does burke shelley sound like a woman”  Maybe because his last name is Shelley, huh-huh, huh-huh.

2. “paul di anno teh beast”  Teh.

1. “does sebastian bach really like model trains”  Yes, him and Sheldon Cooper!

REVIEW: Queen + Paul Rodgers – “Fire and Water” (The Cosmos Rocks bonus track)

SAM_2063

QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – “Fire and Water” (The Cosmos Rocks Amazon.com bonus track, 2008)

When I reviewed the full album, The Cosmos Rocks, I was frustratingly missing one song:  “Fire and Water”, their Free cover only available by download on Amazon.com.  The reason I was missing it, is that Amazon.com tracks can only be downloaded by people living in the United States.  I don’t know if they can tell by your IP address, or by where your credit card is registered, but only Americans can download this track.  I’d tried to acquire it via the dark recesses of the internet, but no such luck.

Aaron, being the good chap that he is, offered to ask his brother in law in the United States if he could help.  Unfortunately, this song being an Amazon exclusive, of course you have to buy the whole album to get the one track.  Anyway, Aaron’s bro in law was a good soul too, and did me that favour, sending me the track.

Am I a sucker for buying the whole album again for one song?  Let’s not get into that.  I’ve paid more for less in the past.  It was a quest long completed and that’s what matters to me.

“Fire and Water” is of course a cover of Paul’s classic Free song, written by Rodgers and Andy Fraser.  Unfortunately, Amazon didn’t advertise that this was a live cover.  I had assumed that, like the iTunes bonus track “Runaway” (a Del Shannon cover) that this was a studio version.  It is not.

This being a download, there are of course no liner notes, no way to tell where this song was recorded or when.  I’m working on the assumption that it was probably recorded at the same concert as the live iTunes bonus track, “The Show Must Go On”, which was the Super Live in Japan concert.

Anyway, I have it now.  And of course it’s great.  “Fire and Water” is a classic song, and I believe that Brian May does the guitar work total justice.  It’s a chance for him to deep dig and groove with Roger Taylor.  Paul Rodgers is perpetually young, although the song’s key has been lowered to accommodate an older voice.  I don’t think this detracts from the song, which is a pretty authentic rendering of a true rock classic.

I don’t have much else to say, I’m glad to finally have the track, completing my Cosmos Rocks album.  Right?  Right?

No!  Turns out there’s a very hard to get Japanese 2 CD edition of the The Cosmos Rocks, with a 15 track live disc of Super Live In Japan featuring “The Show Much Go On” and…yes…”Fire and Water”.

Now, none of this information was easily available before, which is what led me to this problem.  So for what must surely be an internet first, I give you the most comprehensive overview of The Cosmos Rocks available.  There’s all the tracks, and there’s the best ways to find them.

Ahh well.  A collector and his money are soon parted.

4/5 stars for the song

0/5 stars for Amazon.com

REVIEW: Queen + Paul Rodgers – The Cosmos Rocks (+ bonus tracks)

SAM_2063

QUEEN + PAUL RODGERS – The Cosmos Rocks (2008 Hollywood Records, iTunes + Amazon bonus tracks)

I was surprised as anyone else when, in 1997, Queen continued on as a three-piece (sans the retired John Deacon) with a new track called “Only The Good Die Young” (Queen Rocks). Since then, Queen has continued on with one-offs under the name “Queen +” with the name of the singer.  (Adam Lambert, you can fuck right off.)

When they started touring with Paul Rodgers, I salivated! I loved the live album Return Of The Champions, and I was chomping at the bit to hear some new music. Would I, as a long-time Queen fan, be let down?

Not really.

SAM_2067

There have always been Queen albums, particularly in the 80’s, that I felt had filler on them. Cosmos Rocks is like that. Some songs are awesome, worthy of the Queen legacy and a proud addition to the canon. Others are limp are dull. And, the best song didn’t even make the CD release! Read on….

The CD kicks off with what I consider to be some cheesy sound effects, similar to but not as good as “One Vision”. Then, Brian May’s guitar kicks in, and the first track “Cosmos Rockin'” really starts. This is a great track, a hard and fast rocker with May’s licks as fluid as ever. Paul Rodgers, perpetually young, is in fine voice. What a great start to a comeback album! Rogers and May ably handle all bass duties on this album.

Rodgers sings most leads on his own, with familiar sounding backing vocals by Roger Taylor and Brian May. On some songs, the lead vocal is split three ways, such as “Say It’s Not True” which is actually an older song from 2003. I like this touch, as it keeps the sound a little more rooted in old-school Queen which always had Taylor and May singing lead. When Rodgers sings, however, with his voice in full power, it is a brand new beast.

I have to say I was very happy with the choice of Paul Rodgers as lead singer, as he is simply one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time, up there with Daltrey or Plant. He is also a gifted writer, although I’m not sure his writing really gelled with Queen. Still, he is vastly different from Freddie, and nobody could ever replace Freddie, so I think this was definitely the way to go. Certainly much better than picking up some guy who lost American Idol…

Some of the other highlights on this album were the heavy-handed first single “C-lebrity” which seems to disparage the reality TV that Queen would later embrace! I prefer the disparaging sentiment! “Surf’s Up…School’s Out!” is another rocker that blows the doors off most younger bands. “Say It’s Not True” is a highlight, as it is the most Queen-like. Of course, with Freddie gone, his dramatic flourishes and piano was also gone, leaving Queen as a straightforward rock band with May & Taylor firmly in charge. What they once had in unique operatic flourishes has been replaced by hard rocking guitars, for better or for worse.  It is what it is, and nobody can be Freddie.

“Small” is a fantastic ballad, worthy of the Queen back catalogue.  May and Taylor join Rodgers on the lush outro.  I absolutely adore this song.  But then when you think Queen have lightened up, “Wayboys” assaults the speakers, a rare political statement with a military drumbeat.  “Call Me” is another great tune, very vintage Queen in style, sort of an electric campfire singalong.

There is, unfortunately, a lot of filler on this CD, slow-paced plodders that don’t go anywhere or stay in your memory. The thing about the Queen of old is that they were very diverse. You could have a nice jaunty flamenco song like “Who Needs You” on the same album as an epic like “It’s Late”. Queen + Paul Rodgers lacks that diversity. Well, it would have had more diversity if the best song had been included….

That best track I mentioned, that isn’t even on the CD, is available as an iTunes download only. It is a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway”, and it is worth the purchase, because it is amazing. I love the oldies, and clearly these guys do too. I wish it had been included on the CD. There is no shame in having a cover tune on your CD, especially when you also have over a dozen originals as well! The iTunes download also came with a new live version of “The Show Must Go On”, but I have no idea when or where it was recorded, except it is a different version from the one on Return Of The Champions. Maybe it is from one of the Queen instant live CDs, of which there are plenty, or maybe it is from the Super Live in Japan DVD that comes with some editions?

SAM_2066

There was another bonus track too, one I haven’t heard, because only American residents can get it from the Amazon.com site. Canadians are SOL!  “Fire And Water” (a live version), originally by Paul in Free, is that bonus track. Come on, Amazon! Let Canadians buy it too!

This actually really pisses me off.

(ADDED NOTE:  I have since acquired that bonus track.  Read all about it here.)

The Cosmos Rocks is not a perfect Queen album, but one that stands up in the back catalogue as an interesting and entertaining sideroad.  The big difference is that The Cosmos Rocks has more, and bigger, guitars than many Queen albums of the recent past.

3/5 stars.