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Cool Spin – Paul Rodgers: ‘The Royal Sessions’ (429/Pie Records)

What an unexpected surprise this is. English rock and blues belter Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company, The Firm, etc.) revisits his roots on ‘The Royal Sessions,’ named for the legendary Memphis recording studio (formerly helmed by the late, great producer Willie Mitchell) that has churned out a zillion soul, R&B and rock nuggets since it opened in the mid-’50s. Backed by the cream of the studio’s current crop of top groovemeisters, including guitarist Michael Toles, bassist Leroy “Flick” Hodges Jr., drummers James Robertson and Steve Potts, keyboardists Rev. Charles Hodges, Lester Snell and Archie Turner, and the Royal Horns and the Royal Singers, Rodgers lays into 10 classic tunes, offering his unique spin on well-known numbers such as “I Thank You” (Sam and Dave), “I Can’t Stand the Rain” (Ann Peebles), “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (Otis Redding) and “Born Under a Bad Sign” (Albert King), and a handful of less obvious choices. Rodgers was clearly invigorated by the experience and sings his tail off. A nice late-career comeback.

Producer: Petty Margouleff. Engineer/mixer: William Wittman. Recorded at Royal Studios (Memphis). Mixed at Pie Studios (Glen Cove, NY). Mastered by Ryan Smith/Sterling Sound (NYC).