Thursday, June 25, 2009

I don’t know about the cosmos but this album rocks

A local music store was having a 40% off going out of business sale recently and, lucky for me, they had a double-album vinyl copy of the Cosmos Rocks. Although I turfed my record player years ago, this record will accompany all of my original Queen LPs that I still have.

After seeing Queen+PR at the MGM Grand in Vegas during their 2006 tour, I was eagerly awaiting the new album of material that they said they were working on. I had already listened to Return of the Champions and thought that while PR didn’t match Freddie’s abilities vocally or musically, I found that their renditions of Bad Company tunes were almost better than the originals because of Brian and Roger’s input.

Did this mean that Brian and Roger would become merely a backup band to PR when the new album came out? Would the signature Queen sound be there (i.e., Brian’s guitar, vocal harmonies) or would the PR imprint take centre stage?

I picked up the new CD in October of 2008 when it came out in North America, popped it into the player in my car, and was pleasantly surprised at the rocking good time brought on by the title song. As a matter of fact, Brian’s playing on this song really shines. At first, I thought I was listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn during the guitar solos, which is a style I’ve never heard Brian play before. The more I listened to this song, the more I thought that Brian had found the inspiration he was looking for.

Without going into a song-by-song review, overall, I think the album’s strengths outweigh any of its weaknesses. In particular, We Believe is definitely an anthem for a new world. Brian’s songwriting is at its best here as he tries to promote peace and harmony in a war-torn world.

While I don’t consider this a true Queen album, I always look forward to new music by Brian and Roger under whatever label it happens to be. Do I think they should retire the name “Queen”? No, it’s their legacy, not the fans’; it’s the name that is known worldwide and they should be able to capitalize on it as they wish.

Yeah, but Freddie suggested the “Queen” name . . . and John’s not on it! So what. Freddie and John’s past work isn’t negated by their absence on new Queen songs. Fans should be thankful to have new music to listen to on its own merit and this album delivers just that. To put this in perspective, I think the Rolling Stones would be hard-pressed to put out an album of this energy and passion. They haven’t done anything original since the early ’80s.

My only criticism is with the graphic design for the sleeve. I don’t know how Richard Grey gets the contracts for Brian and Roger’s work, but his album designs have never been that stellar (to use a cosmos metaphor). Perhaps if the branding for this new album was a bit stronger, the marketing for it may have taken it to a different level. For Heaven’s sake (again, a cosmos metaphor), even Hot Space had a more interesting album cover.

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