This is another review I have been sitting on for months. Coming back to the album for repeated listenings, altering my rating. Little tweaks here and there …… general indecision really. Have I rated it too highly ….. am I being over critical. You know the sort of thing. I guess all of us ‘amateur’ reviewers do it all the time to a certain degree. I may as well point out straight from the off, for those of you that don’t know me, I come to this album as a Paul Rodgers, Free, Bad Company etc fan and as someone who has a healthy regard for Brian May the man but only a limited appreciation of the band Queen. The greatest hits packages which I never play, a promise to a friend that I will actually listen to the studio albums in their entirety at some point and the memory of a pretty decent live show I attended way back in eighties being the sum total of my patronage to the Royal part of this collaboration.
The first thing I suppose I have to comment on is the name. Now as no great fan of Queen I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with the bands name apart from the abbreviation linking them forever with a second rate London football team, which is neither here nor there. I do however have a little insight as to how it may have come about. Way back when VH-1 was worth watching they used to have some great shows on there rather than just boring videos. Shows like ‘View From The Bridge’ and ‘Around and Around’ etc. The much missed Tommy Vance used to do a few programmes as well and I remember on one of them he was interviewing Paul Rodgers about his (then) new solo album ‘Now’. One of the subjects discussed was whether it rankled with Rodgers that all the material he was famous for was under the name of ‘Free’ or ‘Bad Company’ and that although everyone knew his voice not that many knew his name. His most common moniker being ‘That bloke from Free’ or ‘Him that sings ‘All Right Now’. Rodgers admitted that it did a little bit and that before he was finished he wanted a big selling product under his own name. Therefore I would guess that he saw this as the perfect opportunity when it was suggested. Maybe even he suggested it !
So with the background out of the way what about the actual album itself. Opinions on here seem to be divided reviews wise but ratings wise it doesn’t look so good. I would think it is fair to say that anyone looking for a Freddie Mercury Queen album is going to be a bit disappointed. Although I would counter that by suggesting that anyone who was expecting that really doesn’t have much of a clue and their opinion is probably not worth listening to!
For the record, I absolutely hated the live album that came out a few years ago. I didn’t think Rodgers made much of a job of the Queen material and I didn’t think the Free/Bad Company stuff was as good as the performances Rodgers’ solo band were putting out. In fact I thought the whole thing was a shambles, a license to print money and lent the CD to my mate and have never asked for it back. Therefore I wasn’t exactly expecting much from this at all but as you will see I was (mostly) pleasantly surprised.
“The Cosmos Rocks” kicks off with the virtual title track ‘Cosmos Rockin’ and straight away you are hit with a fresh unexpected power and enthusiasm which you would expect more from a young band than a bunch of veterans approaching pension age. The chanted backing vocals and lyrics are a bit corny but it is very much a feel good tune which makes you sit up and take notice. Brian May also takes a good solo. I would guess it is one of the more Queen like songs on the album. ‘Time To Shine’ sounds very much like a song that could have been on Paul Rodgers last two solo albums “Now” and “Electric”. The third track ‘Still Burnin’ is not a sequel to a Bad Company song but after an intro not unlike something from the ‘Muddy Water Blues’ album turns very much into something akin to material on ‘The Firm’ albums. Once again May produces an excellent solo. That is very much par for the course for the album in truth. The songs themselves are mostly Rodgers in style but with great May guitar interspersing. ‘Small’ is a very Lennonesque song in both subject matter and delivery. It reminds me of Rodgers’ performance of ‘Norwegian Wood’ on the British Rock Symphony album as well as his vocal on the Free track ‘Lying In The Sunshine’. ‘Warboys’ was first heard on the Paul Rodgers live solo album “Live In Glasgow” and is again a little like something that he may have recorded in The Firm. It is probably one of the weaker cuts on the album and sounds a little out of place. It also contains an awful edit which I’ll let you find for yourself ………. it won’t be difficult. ‘We Believe’ is very much an eighties anthem like song. It is a little Firm like again but with a very huge nod towards an earlier Rodgers track called ‘Live In Peace’. I could imagine this being sung at Barrack Obama appreciation events the world over without anyone batting an eyelid. In truth it is a bit too hippy for this day and age but is pleasant enough if a little long. The extremely catchy ‘Call Me’ was one of the first of these songs to really stick in my head and in days gone by it would have been a sure fire radio hit. This could be the QPR cross between ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘Can’t Get Enough’. It’s short its simple but hell is it catchy. I defy anyone to forget it once they have heard it. The best track on the album, ‘Voodoo’, comes next and is steeped in Rodgers blues soul vocal ability and is quite possibly the best original blues he has put down on tape since the Free days. It also proves once and for all, if it was in doubt, that Brian May can play the blues. My only complaint is that it is too short. ‘Some Things That Glitter’ is another Beatles meets Bad Company like track which again reminds me of Rodgers work on the British Rock Symphony album. ‘C-Lebrity’ is a really heavy track, lyrically similar to the Bad Company track ‘Joe Fabulous’ it is still a grower that gets better with repeated listens. The bad backing vocals let it down a little though. ‘Through The Night’ is a little like ‘Stone’ from Rodgers’ ‘The Law’ album and is one of the more forgettable tracks. It is easy to let your mind wander midway despite May’s excellent guitar work. ‘Say It’s Not True’ follows next and it pains me to have to put this in print. It is truly the most awful recording of Paul Rodgers career, even though his part is the best part on it. Can someone explain to me please why you would hire the greatest rock singer on the planet and then let someone with such a deplorably bad voice as Roger Taylor sing. It makes no sense at all. May’s voice is bad enough, very weak and forced but Taylor is just unlistenable. Mainly due to the fact that he thinks he is good. May at least has the decency to look embarrassed at singing while Paul Rodgers is standing around cringing. Just to make matters worse the entire song is a complete rip off of the Jackson Browne track ‘Say It Ain’t True’ from his “Lawyers In Love” album. Why he hasn’t sued is beyond me. Fortunately the album ends on a high note with the experimental “‘Surfs Up … School’s Out’. It is almost a “Who” like song and it ends the album in the same way as it began with energy and freshness.
To conclude then, for I fear I may be going on a bit here. “The Cosmos Rocks” is far more like a Paul Rodgers album than a Queen album but if we are honest who expected any different.
© Martin Leedham. Originally published on RYM April 2009