Review of Paul Rodgers (Bad Company, Free, The Firm, Queen + Paul Rodgers), one-time special show on June 19 at New York City’s Town Hall with Memphis studio musicians that recorded The Royal Sessions
By: Tom Partington
June 19, 2014
Paul Rodgers – he’s been the lead singer for the bands Free, Bad Company, The Firm, The Law, and even Queen. Most people have heard recordings of him singing. Which band you associate him with often depends on your age. He established a firm place in the British music scene in the 1970’s, and his contemporaries and collaborators are among the top of the top – Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David, Gilmour, Brian May – the list goes on and on.
Just the sheer number of albums, years, and stage time accrued over the years would create a stone-cold professional rock singer. That he is. With his latest album, The Royal Sessions and this special concert performance of the album, we are reminded of the huge influence that Blues and Classic R & B had on British Rock in the 1970’s.
Mr. Rodgers’s latest album goes straight to the source, and pays homage to some of his favorite soul and R & B songs, and made the recording in Memphis with a group of seasoned pros who authentically create that STAX sound from the first note. Amazingly, every one of the session musicians on the album was performing at the concert on June 20 at Town Hall in New York.
A band in the classic configuration of a 1960’s soul revue – think Otis Redding, James Brown, even Blues Brothers: Horn section. Back up singers. A Hammond B-3. A Wurlitzer. A String Section (!). This is absolutely thrilling in the days of synthesizers and artificial backing tracks. It’s hard to convey the power of a band like this on a recording, and it was enjoyable to see reaction of long time Paul Rodgers fans, most of whom were likely expecting and accustomed to the sonic and musical vocabulary of a traditional rock ensemble. They might have been skeptical at first, but by the end they were fully, completely engaged.
The band included Steve Potts on exceptionally solid and meaty drums, Shontelle and Sharisse Norman singing outstanding backup vocals, Archie Turner on a deeply grooving Wurlitzer, Leroy Hodges Jr. on bass, Reverend Charles Hodges Sr. on B-3, and Michael Toles on guitar.
The setlist was pretty much the entire Royal Sessions album – songs like “Born Under A Bad Sign”, “I Can’t Stand The Rain” and “Wonderful World” were more or less straightforward renditions – but his version of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By” became an entrancing magical groove that was allowed to build and grow with power and finesse.
The format of the classic R & B show band developed to support outsize performers like Otis Redding and James Brown – who built and polished an act and personality after logging many years, and who knew the material inside and out. In this case, it was a one-off concert to support a recently recorded album. Paul Rodgers is extremely comfortable on stage, and can sing flawlessly, but the overall effect was more of an excellent singer with an excellent band; not a legend who lives inside the music.
This is not to say he wasn’t entertaining – he was engaging with the audience, constantly smiling and almost unnaturally calm while roaming the stage while cueing the band and giving the microphone stand a few obligatory spins. He mostly seemed to be overjoyed to be singing some of his favorite songs with a wonderful band. And who wouldn’t be happy? This concert and album once again demonstrates the power and excitement of a real band with real players. Let’s hope it inspires more.
PAUL RODGERS ANNOUNCES SPECIAL “ROYAL SESSIONS LIVE”
PERFORMANCE IN NEW YORK CITY
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JUNE 19TH CONCERT AT NEW YORK CITY’S TOWN HALL TO FEATURE THE LEGENDARY MUSICIANS FROM RODGERS’ CHART-TOPPING ALBUM THE ROYAL SESSIONS
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Ticket Presale Begins Thursday, May 1st
Tickets On Sale To The Public Friday, May 2nd
Los Angeles, CA (May 1, 2014) – Iconic vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Paul Rodgers
(Bad Company, Free, The Firm, Queen + Paul Rodgers), has announced a one-time special show on Thursday, June 19 at New York City’s historic venue, Town Hall. This singular performance will feature Rodgers –along with the all-star Memphis studio musicians that recorded The Royal Sessions
at Memphis’ storied Royal Studios– performing a full set of the classic soul and R&B songs released in February to critical and fan acclaim.
Tickets are available for pre-sale beginning on Thurs., May 1 with the public on sale beginning at 10 am ET on Fri., May 2. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster
.com, Ticketmaster charge-by-phone at-1-800-745-3000 or at the Town Hall Box Office located at 123 West 43rd
Street in New York City. Fans should check local listings for updated tour and ticketing information.
Onstage, he will be accompanied by The Royal Sessions musicians: Reverend Charles Hodges Sr. (Hammond B3), who has played and recorded with Al Green, James Carr, Willie Cobbs, Albert Collins and Boz Scaggs; Leroy Hodges Jr. (bass), who has backed Al Green, Ann Peebles and also appeared on albums by Rufus Thomas, Bobby Rush and Cat Power; Archie “Hubby” Turner (Wurlitzer), who played with The Impalas, Albert King, and currently tours with Cyndi Lauper; Michael Toles (guitar), who has worked with B.B. King, Albert King, Isaac Hayes and more; Steve Potts (drums), who has been included on records and tours to artists from Neil Young to Cat Power. Additionally, Rodgers will be joined by The Royal Singers, three soulful, gospel-rooted vocalists, including Shontelle Norman, Sharisse Norman and Stefanie Bolton, and The Memphis Horns, a multigenerational mix of Memphis’ best blowers, including Marc Franklin (trumpet), James L. Spake (baritone sax), Gary Topper (tenor sax), and Lannie “The Party” McMillan Jr. (tenor sax).
Paul Rodgers said, “Throughout The Royal Sessions’ recording, the love for the music was a palpable presence in the studio. I absolutely cannot wait to tap into that energy again in a room full of music fans in NYC.”
Released on 429 Records on February 4th
, The Royal Sessions debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart. The album’s “I Thank You
” hit #1 on Classic Rock chart and “I Can’t Stand The Rain
” climbed to #3 at AC Radio. In addition, the album debuted at #18 on Billboard’s Current Top Rock Albums chart and #77 on Billboard’s Current Top 200 Albums chart. All of Rodgers’ and Margouleff’s proceeds from The Royal Sessions’ album sales will be donated to the Stax Music Academy. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page raved, “Paul Rodgers has created a timeless masterpiece in The Royal Sessions.”
ABOUT PAUL RODGERS: Over the course of a career that has spanned five decades, Rodgers has written, recorded, produced and released 31 albums and sold more than 90 million records. In addition to his Grammy-nominated solo career, Rodgers is credited as the main songwriter, lead singer and founding member of three internationally famed rock bands – Bad Company, Free and The Firm. Bad Company released six multi-platinum albums, spawning several timeless rock chart hits. With Free, Rodgers and the group released four top-five albums, including multiple smash hits. In addition, Rodgers formed The Firm with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, which released two top-selling albums and had two top-grossing world tours. Rodgers was instrumental in resurrecting Queen and, together over four years, the band released an all new studio album, live CDs, DVDs and launched two epic world tours.
Paul Rodgers is currently on a solo tour
and will hit the road for 11 dates with Bad Company
ABOUT THE ROYAL SESSIONS: The Royal Sessions is lovingly crafted collection of classic soul and R&B songs re-imagined by the soulful rock singer recorded at Memphis’ Royal Studios, historic home of Willie Mitchell and Hi Records. With the album, Rodgers pays homage to the legendary hits he collected on 45s and LPs released on Stax/Volt, Goldwax and Hi Records —recordings by Otis Redding, Albert King and Ann Peebles- which inspired him to pursue a career as a singer.
Produced by Perry Margouleff, The Royal Sessions is an extraordinary recording which captures the music in its pure form—live band and vocal takes as performed together at Royal Studios by Rodgers and an all-star roster of legendary musicians.
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Contact: Scoop Marketing for Paul Rodgers