After a period in the relative doldrums the mid nineties saw Paul Rodgers return to the forefront of world rock with numerous tours following on from the huge success of the Grammy nominated “Muddy Water Blues” album and a live mini album of Jimi Hendrix covers. By the time 1997 came along Rodgers had a set of new original material written and a solid band behind him so set about recording his third solo album. “Now” was recorded in the early part of the year and features Geoff Whitehorn on guitar, Jim Copley on the drums and Jaz Lochrie on the bass.
The first thing to hit you about “Now” is the crispness and the energy of the sound as ‘Soul Of Love’ literally leaps at you from out of the speakers. It is a great opening track, fast paced with a great melody and some fine guitar from Geoff Whitehorn. Musically there is a lot going on under the vocals and Rodgers is belting it out in good old rock fashion. Despite the solo status of the record this has a real band feel about it. The track was released as a single and even had a promotional video made for it which I seem to recall featured a girl going up an escalator for some reason. ‘Overloaded’ is a classic second track from Rodgers in the style of a ‘Rock Steady’ or a ‘Make Or Break’. Slower and bluesier but with a rock strut about it. This one though has a little more jazz funk about it that the others. But the jerky rhythm is the perfect follow up to the energy of the opener and a great lead into what follows. ‘Heart Of Fire’ is a classic Paul Rodgers song in the Bad Company style. With heartfelt lyrics about looking after your children it features a great chugging rhythm which gives Rodgers the space to belt out one of his classic vocals. Superb phrasing and lingering notes abound in what is surely one of his best solo tracks. ‘Saving Grace’ could almost be ‘All Right Now’ revisited or brought up to date. It has a great crunching riff and could easily have been a Bad Company song. In fact it was re-recorded a few years later for inclusion as a bonus track on the Bad Company live album “Merchants of Cool”. This though is a better version, full of power and energy and featuring some great guitar from Whitehorn. It also has a great rock ending. ‘All I Really Want Is You’ is a slower track to begin with before it speeds up after a minute or so. Again Whitehorn plays a blinder of a solo before the track slows back down again for the verse only for Rodgers and the band to really let rip in the chorus and the final part of the song until it all slows down again into a jazzy ending. ‘Chasing Shadows’ sees Rodgers singing unaccompanied for the first two lines before the song turns into a chugging mid paced rocker. It is pleasant enough but is probably one of the weaker tracks on the album.
The mood changes considerably for ‘Love Is All I Need’ which is a slow blues gospel type song which wouldn’t have been out of place on the Muddy Water Blues album. It is a classic vehicle for Rodgers unique phrasing ability and the use of the Shekimah singers as backing vocalists gives it an authentic delta blues swamp feel. It is actually the only track here not recorded at the Parkgate Studio in Catsfield and was recorded at Pie Studio in Glen Cove. That probably helps to give it the different feel it has to the rest of the album as well. ‘Nights Like These’ is a slower song that starts with an acoustic guitar intro, it is not unlike the tracks Rodgers contributed to Tim Donahue’s Voices In The Wind album and it is probably one of the lesser cuts here. ‘Shadows Of The Sun’ starts with a great twangy guitar riff before the band comes in and sets it off as another mid paced Bad Company like epic. It is similar in feel to ‘Evil Wind’ from the “Desolation Angels” album. It also has a great guitar ending. ‘I Lost It All’ is a heartfelt blues which builds from a slow beginning with Rodgers delivering the vocal over some great understated blues soloing from Whitehorn before it builds into a hard hitting belter of a track midway. It is probably the closest thing on here to The Firm and I could easily imagine it as a track Rodgers had in mind for that band. ‘Holding Back The Storm’ has a pretty explosive start to it and ends the album in fine strutting rocking style. Whitehorn inparticular providing some great rock and blues guitar. The closing distorted guitar and feedback comes as a surprising end to what is an excellent album.
Finally it is worth mentioning that “Now” was actually recorded live in the studio on a 24 track analogue tape and put through an analgue to digital converter (at the last moment) according to the sleeve notes. As I am now actually playing it through a digital to analogue converter I would guess what I’m hearing must be pretty close to the original sound but I’m prepared for a barrage of responses from audiophiles telling me that is not how it works at all ….. tin hat at the ready.
© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM October 2011