Crazy little thing called rubbish
THERE’S a strange, ambient whine at the beginning of this album that culminates in a spooky, unearthly voice asking: ‘‘ What planet is this?’’ Just who or what is behind it isn’t explained, but if I were a betting man I’d say it was Freddie Mercury, somewhere in the great beyond, showing an unwarranted amount of tact about the drivel he and the living are being asked to endure on the rest of this CD. This re- emergence of Queen is concrete proof that, despite the ancient adage to the contrary, the show needn’t go on. What we have is two- thirds of the remaining Queen line- up — guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor — teaming up with former Free and Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers, not only in performance but also as co- writers. Presumably good taste prevented bassist John Deacon from coming out of retirement. ‘‘ We have the whole town rockin’ to the mighty power of rock ’ n’ roll,’’ chimes the throaty Rodgers on the abysmal opener, Cosmos Rockin’, a routine 12- bar affair that makes Status Quo sound weighty. The following prog- rock shuffle, Time to Shine, is even more embarrassing, sounding like a forced marriage between REM and This is Spinal Tap . It doesn’t get much better. Most of the problems lie in the fact that in Queen’s glory days Mercury could turn the banal ( take the stand, Taylor’s Radio Ga Ga) into something gloriously camp and exciting. Rodgers, on the other hand, is a fine bluesrock singer, but it would take more than a sparkly Spandex unitard to get him out of this mess, much of it, lyrically at least, of his own making. There are a couple of exceptions. The tribute to Mercury, Some Things That Glitter, has a suitably soulful performance from the frontman, while May’s guitar riffs and licks peak on the Zeppelinesque C- lebrity. ‘‘ Next thing you know they’ll be rockin’ out in space,’’ Rodgers squeals early on. ‘‘ Not to this we won’t be,’’ aliens will surely respond.