Ringing in the New Year with the Voice of Rock
by Todd K Smith
After nearly 40 years in the rock and roll business,30 albums released and 90 million albums sold Paul Rodgers could easily retire to an island in the Caribbean. Although this platinum-selling artist has always maintained a low profile the bands he built around his distinctive voice and songs are legendary. His CV reads like a rock history lesson from the blues-based Free (1968-1973) to arena headliners Bad Company (1974-1982) and on to a partnership with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page in The Firm (1984-1986). As a solo artist he has delivered a number of quality recordings including the 1993 Grammy nominated “Muddy Water Blues” that showcased his love of the blues greats that first inspired him. In 2005, Rodgers added to his resume in the unusual yet prolific jump to front the stadium titans, Queen. The pairing won fans worldwide and ignited a passionate songwriting campaign within the group.
Recently, Paul Rodgers has been touring to promote his #1 Charted Gold Debut Solo DVD “Live In Glasgow.” Recorded last year on his UK tour, it features many of his signature hits including “All Right Now,” “Feel Like Making Love”, “Can't Get Enough.” and new songs. The Reno Gazette Journal caught up with Rodgers after his opening slot for the highly publicized Led Zeppelin reunion. The event held at London’s O2 arena was organized as a fundraiser and tribute to Atlantic Records Founder Ahmet Ertegün. “It was a great reception,” says Rodgers of his part of the program. “I decided to do two songs at opposite ends of the spectrum. The heavy rock ‘All Right Now,’ because it was Ahmet’s introduction to my voice and a very pure acoustic version of ‘Seagull,’ dedicated to Ahmet and John (Bonham), one of the first song I recorded for him.”
Rodgers was one of a number of Atlantic artists invited to help raise money for the Ahmet Ertegün Scholarship Foundation. “It’s only been a couple days and I heard they raised £2.1 million for the Foundation,” says Rodgers. “The foundation chose Universities in Turkey (Ertegün’s homeland) the UK, and America with plans to offer three students full music scholarships.” Eclipsing the night was the colossal media attention surrounding Led Zeppelin. “I rang Jimmy up the night before and wished him luck,” continues Rodgers. “They went down really well and looked great. Funny how almost overnight it seems hip to have gray hair, Jimmy almost looked angelic. After the show they spirited away in true Zep fashion.”
For Rodgers, the highlight of the night was listening to many of his musical mentors. “At the after-party, I played with Sam Moore which was a thrill. We did a song that we recorded called ‘We Shall Be Free.” Percy Sledge, Ben E. King and Solomon Burke were there too, but the most poignant moment arrived when Sam Moore sang Billy Preston's ‘You Are So Beautiful’. It was chillsville.” On that dramatic high Rodgers returned to the studio for a week’s collaboration with Queen. “I come from a place musically that if it feels good, that’s the thing to do,” says the singer/songwriter. “That’s why recording with Roger (Taylor) and Brain (May) is working for me. I am constantly amazed and surprised at how right it feels. We have 13 or 14 tracks down and are still at it. Mozart said, ‘From the heart, to the heart’ and I feel that applies to what we’re doing.”
The first song released from Queen + Paul Rodgers became available this month. Says Rodgers, “We recorded Roger (Taylor's) song ‘Say It’s Not True ‘ about the Aids crisis. December 1st is Nelson Mandela’s World Aids Day, and we thought, ‘if we move fast and mix it we could gift it to them. It all came together perfectly and fans were able to download it from www.46664.com for free. We had 66,000 downloads the first day, 100, 000 the next.” The song will be released on CD December 31 with all proceeds going to 46664. Surprised at the overwhelming response Rodgers adds, “I am quite happy working solo but as an artist, I feel Queen and I are creating something special.”
He confirms that the Reno shows will be the last solo dates for a while as his focus will be on the next Queen + Paul Rodgers record and tour. “ I’m bringing the same wonderful band that was featured on ‘Live In Glasgow.’ and we will be playing songs that I’ve written from Free and Bad Company to The Firm, with a few surprises. We have lots of experience in the band and a young guitarist, Kurtis Dengler who adds a nice creative touch."
Website: Paul Rodgers, Eldorado Casino