Middlesbrough-born Free frontman Paul was 20 when he co-wrote All Right Now, a swaggering blues-rock smash on both sides of the pond in the summer of 1970.
He then formed and fronted Bad Company, another remarkable British blues-rock band who notched up multi-platinum album sales, before lending his distinctive vocals to Queen.
It seemed an odd match but Queen called Free’s Fire And Water album “our Bible” in their early days. And, hallelujah, after a 24-year wait, this feels like a second coming for the singer who turns 74 in December.
It opens with the cocky bounce of Coming Home with bluesy lead guitar breaks from Keith Scott and Ray Roper, and a slower, emotion-drenched middle eight.
Bassist Todd Ronning (ex-Bad Company) and drummer Rick Fedyk – both from Rodgers’ touring band – anchor the sound adeptly throughout, with Johnny Ferreira’s sax and Chris Gestrin’s keys adding texture to the mix.
Ronning and Fedyk co-penned mid-paced blues rocker Living It Up with Rodgers, who wrote the other seven tracks solo and plays acoustic guitar on three numbers.
Rob Dewar adds a classical guitar flourish to the summery Dance In The Sun – Paul’s grandchildren add the laughter – and Rolling Stones’ pianist Chuck Leavell pops up on the achingly soulful title track.
Other highs include the prowling blues-rock of Photo Shooter and the slower closer Melting which sweeps us to
“Iconic” is a word used too freely in music circles. Paul Rodgers deserves it and that genuinely iconic voice has lost none of its power to engage.
There might be just eight tracks here but there’s not a duff song among them.