Album Reviews: The Law – The Law (1991)

The Law is definately Paul Rodgers most little know project it is also quite possibly his most misunderstood. The idea behind The Law was almost certainly for Rodgers to get the hunger back and start singing again. He had spent pretty much half a decade in silence after the collapse of the supergoup The Firm. A project which on paper looked sure for success but failed to capture the imagination of both Rodgers and Jimmy Page’s followers. The excesses of the seventies had taken their toll and Rodgers, comfortably off from the string of hit singles and albums from the Free and Bad Company days hardly needed to worry about where the next pay cheque was coming from. Atlantic Records though held the contract of the man regarded even then as the finest rock singer Britain had ever produced and were keen to get him back on track. The idea to kick start Rodgers career was to allow him to record an album largely made up of other peoples material in whatever style he desired. Of course these days he would just have recorded a tribute blues or soul album, which Victory had the sense to allow him to do a couple of years later, but that was not the fashion at the start of the nineties. Quite why the decision was taken to call it a group and not label it as a Paul Rodgers solo project is quite simply beyond me. Kenney Jones is hardly essential to any of the material, played no part in any of the composing and yet he is listed as the only other band member. In effect giving him joint billing with Rodgers. Rather strange considering that it is Rodgers vocals that are most definately the highlight of the album whilst the drumming is little better than ordinary. Tracks from outside writers made up the majority of the album with Rodgers himself contributing three tracks and one or two heavyweight special guests were drafted in alongside the house band of Rodgers, Jones, Pino Palladino on bass and John Staehely on guitar.

The album gets off to a pretty good rocking start with the fast and catchy ‘For A Little Ride’ which was co-written by Marc Mangold from Touch. Time to slip in a bit of irrelevant personal trivia here: I actually had a cat at the time who would always come home as soon as I put this track on. It was also the very first new release I bought on CD rather than vinyl.  ‘Miss You In A Hearbeat’ written by Def Leppard’s Phil Collen is in the style of a typical Free or Bad Company ballad. It features some nice guitar and a classic heartfelt soulful Rodgers vocal. It is quite possibly the best track on the album and is far superior to the version that Def Leppard eventually recorded some years later. ‘Stone Cold’ is a slightly rockier track almost like an over produced Rock Steady from the pen of the talented Tamara Champlin. ‘Come Save Me (Julianne)’ is the weakest track on the album and has a terribly over the top MOR production. Sodden in keyboards and synths it is a pretty painful experience despite Rodgers vocal and the track cannot be saved from mediocrity even by ‘the voice’. ‘Laying Down The Law’ one of the three Rodgers penned tracks on the album could almost be a sequel to the track Bad Company and was the one used to promote the album on radio stations back at the time of release and was even released as a single. In fact it managed to hit number one on the Billboard AOR chart. It is probably the closest thing here to Rodgers back catalogue and is obviously one of the highlights. ‘Nature Of The Beast’ is a straight up bar room rocker written by Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams. It is nothing out of the ordinary but fun all the same and, like the previous track, sees Rodgers comfortably returning to his old Bad Company style. Bryan Adams also guests on the guitar.

‘Stone’ is the most bluesy and atmospheric song on the album but could have done with a rawer production. From the pen of Chris Rea it has been produced in a style far closer to Rea’s than to that of Rodgers. A song which should and could have been full of passion and feeling is watered down slightly by the production. The drums are plodding at best and the whole feeling of the backing is just too clinical and safe. Rodgers is forced to inject all the feeling himself. A problem that is recurrent throughout the album in fairness. Even David Gilmour’s guitar is more like polished Pink Floyd than gritty bluesy Rodgers.

‘Anything For You’ has a nice jerky jazzy beat courtesy mainly of Palladino’s bass playing but is excrutiatingly middle of the road in places despite the good melody and enjoyable riff. Again Rodgers’ vocal is the songs saving grace and lifts it out of the ordinary. It is almost Paul Rodgers does Paul Young ….. yes it is that pop and sacharine tinged. Obviously the contribution of Palladino adds to that feeling. Having said all that though it is still a good song and even features a nice little guitar break. ‘Best Of My Love’ is probably the most middle of the road track here and almost veers in country radio territory. Along with ‘Come Save Me’ it is one of the weaker offerings and is never going to figure very highly in any Rodgers career retrospectives. ‘Tough Love’ is the second of the three Rodgers compositions and is certainly the heaviest and fastest track on offer here. It is quite possibly a track Rodgers originally had in mind for The Firm or even Bad Company. The final track on the album is ‘Missing You Bad Girl’, the third and final Rodgers composition and is a strange sort of song. A slow track that had the potential to be something pretty atmospheric it is ruined by the awfully cheesy production and ill chosen arrangement. It obviously has the credentials to be a great soulful Rodgers song in the shape of ‘Soon I Will Be Gone’ or one of those other slower Free songs but for some reason it has been done in a strange way with an arrangement that sounds almost electronic. The drums are particularly disappointing given that Jones is given equal billing.

“The Law” didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it was released and most found the production, weak tracks and the overly MOR arrangements to be something of a disappointment. It is an extremely rare poor production job by Chris Kimsey who can usually be relied upon to deliver the goods. To be fair to Kimsey though this may have been the way it was intended to come out so he probably shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame as it is the arrangements and the weak material which are in truth more to blame than the production. However, as it was the first product from Rodgers for sometime it was greeted reasonably well by hardcore Rodgers fans who had been waiting patiently for far too long. So long in fact that they would probably have accepted him singing the phone book. I’ll include myself in that lot.

 The band actually played one gig …… well it wasn’t actually a gig ….. it was a special twenty minute guest slot at about 5  in the afternoon at a festival in Milton Keynes in England headlined by ZZ Top and Bryan Adams, who was at the time at number one in the singles chart with that awful Robin Hood song. I was lucky enough to witness it and I have to be honest and say that although they played exceptionally well the majority of the crowd had no idea who they were or what was going on. From memory they played Little Ride, Stone Cold, Laying Down The Law and Stone. It was only when they finished with All Right Now that people began to take notice and finally realised who they were. Unsurprisingly the album and the group sank without a trace and the project was quickly aborted. There is a bootleg album around claiming to be an unreleased second album but this is only out takes and rejected tracks from this album. Curiously one of them is ‘Too Much Is Not Enough’ which ended up on the Deep Purple album “Slaves and Masters”. Fortunately for Rodgers his Atlantic contract was fulfilled and upon signing to the little known Victory label he recorded his Grammy nominated “Muddy Water Blues” album which placed him back where he belongs at the top of his profession.

© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM October 2011

About Martin Leedham

Music critic, Horse Racing Tipster, Hapless Dreamer, Defender of the Underdog
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