The thing that I have always found frustrating about Paul Rodgers is that post-Free, the quality of the material he has recorded has not always matched his formidable reputation as one of the UK’s finest blues-rock vocalists. After Free Rodgers joined forces with Mick Ralphs of Mott the Hoople fame, King Crimson refugee Boz Burrell and fellow Free veteran Simon Kirke, to form Bad Company, a solid enough proposition tailor made for American radio, but pretty much a polished AOR version of former glories that shifted large numbers of units. Later in the 80s, Paul Rodgers found himself alongside Jimmy Page in The Firm, a supergroup which was significantly less than the sum of it’s parts. By the early 90s, Rodgers still had the formidable reputation forged in his early career, but had done little beyond a few Bad Company numbers which had really endured in the same way that his work with Free had.
Then, while idly flicking through his phone book, inspiration hit him. Okay, so while he wasn’t the most gifted lyricist, what if he did an album of covers? What about an album covering established fried-gold blues classics? What about an album of established fried-gold blues classics recorded with reputable guitar-slingers from his phone book? Sure, there’d be no end of record label red-tape to work through, but surely the end result would be worth it.
Thus inspired, Rodgers headed into at the studio with Jason Bonham and Pino Palladino, a rhythm section that would have been the envy of anyone during that period, and recorded easily his best album since his Free days, and with a whole host of ‘heavy friends’ helping out and creating interest in the project, it was released to modest fanfare. Here was one of the great voices of UK Blues Rock, paying tribute to one of the all time great voices of The Blues. Blues fans loved it, rock fans loved it, and apparently everyone involved in the project loved it.
In one album Paul Rodgers had resurrected his career, with Muddy Water Blues reminding everyone exactly why he had always had such a great reputation as a singer. All he had to do now was repeat the trick a number of times, recording a series of albums with a rotating line up of guest guitar players, each of which could draw from the songbook of a different Blues artist each time.
Except that didn’t happen. Perhaps due to the aforementioned record label red-tape, Muddy Water Blues was a one off and Paul Rodgers has spent the 25 years since periodically releasing albums of his own material, occasionally reforming Bad Company for the odd compilation and tour, as well as touring and recording with what remained of Queen.
Listening to Muddy Water Blues now, it’s painful how close Rodgers got to an ongoing project that could have paid such dividends, but you never know, there’s still every chance that he could head into the studio with a decent rhythm section and his phone book, as long as someone was prepared to wade through the red tape and do the necessary admin.