Return Of The Champions

Queen And Paul Rodgers

Blasphemy to some. Pure genius to others. The least you can say about the Paul […]
By David Kaluza
September 29, 2005
Queen And Paul Rodgers - Return Of The Champions album cover

Blasphemy to some. Pure genius to others. The least you can say about the Paul Rodgers fronted reunion is that it sparked controversy and divided the Queen fan base into two distinct sides. Now, with the release of the double live album Return Of The Champions, all those of us that did not manage to catch the band on stage (including myself) can make up their minds for themselves as to the musical validity of this incarnation of one of the world's most beloved and important bands ever.
Quite honestly you simply cannot speak of a reunion of any sorts since from the remaining three living Queen members only two are present, namely Brian May and Roger Taylor. With Deacon being absent, the duet is joined by legendary vocalist Paul Rodgers (Free/Bad Company) and three hired guns (Edney / Moses / Miranda), of which only Danny Miranda really rings a bell to me due to his work with Blue Oyster Cult.
Of course it should be clear from the start that Paul Rodgers can't fill Freddie's shoes, at least as far as his unique personality and on stage performance are concerned - but vocally he is without doubt equal, if not better than Mercury (whoever hates me for saying this - you can address all hate mail to our editor in charge, Orpheus, who can nicely forward it to my personal mail account). Fact is, Paul Rodgers is not trying to be Freddy Mercury, and this becomes apparent during this more than 120 minute performance (including a drum and guitar solo) where Rodgers manages to satisfyingly give his own twist to classics like Another One Bites The Dust or  The Show Must Go On with his soulful, bluesy voice.
Also making it in the setlist are no less than four of his own creations, with Wishing Well and All Right Now paying homage to his Free period and Can't Get Enough together with Feel Like Makin' Love covering Bad Company's repertoire. To say that Rodgers excels on these tracks as well is an understatement.
Return Of The Champions however, is not simply the Paul Rodger's show - as both May and Taylor get to shine in their respective solo spots as well as the show in general. Listening to the intensity of certain songs you would be hard pressed to tell that both gentlemen are already way past their 50th birthday and easily put many younger musicians to shame. Both also share various vocal spots throughout the album, with May doing a beautiful rendition of Love Of My Life and Taylor giving his best on I'm In Love With My Car. On Bohemian Rhapsody later on in the set, the band plays along to a recorded track with Paul entering in the second half for a duet with a virtual Freddie. Not exactly the way in which I personally would have preferred this song performed, but apparently a popular enough decision based on the audience's reactions.
In the end, no matter what your opinions are on the name that this band chooses to perform under - you would be hard pressed to fault them musically. Perhaps not having the same kind of emotional attachment to the original songs or the Queen legacy as some diehard fans out there makes me more forgiving and receptive of the music as a whole. And indeed, it can be argued that perhaps it would have been best if they simply performed as May / Rodgers instead and abstained from the use of the word Queen completely but then again, the CD is clearly labeled as Queen + Paul Rodgers - and not simply Queen. As it stands, this is easily the best and most touching tribute to Mercury and nearly three decades of brilliant songwriting you can possibly imagine.
With a track list that is nothing short of excellent, superb performances and a great production, Return Of The Champions comes heartily recommended and is the ideal companion to the legendary Wembley Stadium show. Here's to hoping that the collaboration between May, Rodgers and Taylor will continue for quite some time in the future and maybe someday will even lead to a new studio output.

8 / 10


"Return Of The Champions" Track-listing:

Disc 1

Reaching Out
Tie Your Mother Down
I Want To Break Free
Fat Bottomed Girls
Wishing Well
Another One Bites The Dust
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Say It's Not True
Love Of My Life
Hammer To Fall
Feel Like Making Love
Let There Be Drums
I'm In Love With My Car
Guitar Solo
Last Horizon

Disc 2

These Are The Days Of Our Lives
Radio Ga Ga
Can't Get Enough
A Kind Of Magic
I Want It All
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Show Must Go On
All Right Now
We Will Rock You
We Are The Champions
God Save The Queen

Queen And Paul Rodgers Lineup:

Paul Rodgers - Vocals & Guitar
Brian May - Vocals & Guitar
Roger Taylor - Vocals & Drums
Spike Edney - Vocals & Keyboards
Danny Miranda - Vocals & Bass
Jamie Moses - Guitar

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