When Queen performed at their 2004 induction into the U.K. Music Hall of Fame, they asked former Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers to take on the unenviable task of filling in for the late Freddie Mercury. “It was amazing how seamlessly our different styles fit together,” Rodgers says of that appearance. “We came offstage really buzzed about it and said, ‘Let’s do some more.’ ” Within a few months, the hybrid group, dubbed Queen + Paul Rodgers, was performing a set composed mainly of Queen hits (with a handful of Free and Bad Company tunes sprinkled in) to packed arenas across the world. Rehashing the past, however, wasn’t the ultimate goal. “I don’t want us to feel just like old guys playing the hits,” Queen drummer Roger Taylor says. “Hopefully [this new album] will be a creative rebirth for us.”
Last year, Rodgers, Taylor and Queen guitarist Brian May gathered at Taylor’s estate outside London to begin recording Queen’s first album since 1995’s Made in Heaven. (Queen bassist John Deacon — who hasn’t performed with his bandmates since 1997 — opted to not come out of retirement for the project.) As the newcomer, Rodgers has had to bridge the gap between his blues-rock background and Queen’s lush, grand sound. “We’re learning a great deal from each other,” May says. “When we started talking about harmonies, Paul went, ‘Oh, really?’ ‘Cause that hasn’t been his thing. It’s a new world for him.”
The first single will likely be “C-lebrity,” which sounds like a mash-up of the brawny “All Right Now” and the harmony-soaked “Somebody to Love.” Other tracks include “We Believe,” an “epic in Queen’s traditional style,” according to May, and “Call Me,” which he says sounds like it would fit right in on Queen’s 1974 classic, Sheer Heart Attack.
The new album, The Cosmos Rocks, is the first the band has recorded without Mercury, who passed away in 1991. “I feel like he’s still very much part of the band,” May says. “We reference him every day. He always really enjoyed Paul’s work. He used to have a go at me in the studio when I tried to have him sing bluesy stuff. He’d say, ‘Brian, you’re trying to make me fucking sound like Paul Rodgers, and I can’t do it!'”