Paul Rodgers ‘The Royal Sessions’ (Pie) 4/5

paul-rodgersFormerly lead singer with Free and, most notably Bad Company, Paul Rodgers is enjoying a new lease of life with a trip down nostalgia lane and on this new album it is a voyage dripped in the soul-blues that he heard as an adolescent which makes the experience all the more enojyable. Recorded in Memphis at same studios where the classic albums for Hi and Stax were recorded, Rodgers has enlisted the musical support of some of the original studio musicians of the era and collective they conjur up some driving music with memorable bass lines and stabbing unison horns. The line-up includes the reverend Charles Hodges on Hammond B3 organ, Lester Snell on piano and drummer Steve Potts who replaced Al Jackson at Stax. The classic repertoire reflects the superior songs on offer. Opening proceedings on an uptempo note is the busy and breezy number ‘I thank you’ which was originally penned by the dynamite pairing of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. In fact Hayes the vocalist is paid homage to on an elongated version of ‘Walk on by’ which differs considerably from the shorter Dionne Warwick take. For a slice of authentic gritty soul, the interpretation of Ann Peebles’ ‘I can’t stand the rain’ even includes the original percussive accompaniment which just happened to be lying around in one of the studio cupboards. In terms of mid-tempo southern soul, it would be hard to better the standard ‘That’s how strong my love is’ and it is an undoubted highlight of the album. A couple of Albert King numbers are included and of these, ‘Down don’t bother me’ stands out with some fine electric piano accompaniment. Tim Stenhouse