Release Date: Oct 28, 2008
Record label: Hollywood
The news that Brian May and Roger Taylor were to record an album as Queen, with Free and Bad Company's Paul Rodgers on vocals, was met with consternation. What harm, it was asked, might such a venture wreak on Queen's artistic legacy? But, really, what damage is there left to do? Unfairly critically reviled in their heyday - their wit and willingness to take outrageous risks overlooked, their ability to craft perfect pop singles and slip easily between genres ignored - Queen's oeuvre had just been favourably reassessed when the former members unleashed We Will Rock You, a musical that bent over backwards to suggest that the 70s rock hacks might have been right all along: here was a band uninterested in anything other than commercial success. It wasn't just the awfulness of the show itself.
Give Queen -- or Brian May and Roger Taylor, as that's who's left at this point -- and new singer Paul Rodgers this much credit: this awkward marriage of convenience winds up being more convincing on the 2008 studio effort The Cosmos Rocks than it did on the live album. Of course, this is almost entirely due to the fact that the songs here were written by and for Rodgers, a frontman who is a cosmos away from Freddie Mercury and never quite seemed comfortable taming Freddie's flamboyancy. Here, Rodgers effectively rules the roost, helping steer The Cosmos Rocks far, far away from the meticulous, grandiose sonic sculptures of Queen at the height of their reign and toward a humble boogie.
Oh dear. Imagine Brian got his astrophysics PhD in '72, took that career path instead, and only formed a band now, aged 61. The result might be pub rock tosh with stadium reverb, Mud/'Quo boogie ('Cosmos Rockin"), anthemic mush ('Call Me'), and lyrics like 'I've got a pain in my memory'. What an astronomically bad parallel universe.