Paul Rodgers/Queen: Paul Rodgers (vocals, guitar); Brian May (vocals, guitar); Roger Taylor (vocals, drums).
Additional personnel: Spike Edney (vocals, keyboards); Danny Miranda (vocals, bass guitar); Jamie Moses (guitar).
When thinking of suitable replacements for Freddie Mercury in Queen, Paul Rodgers is not a name that immediately leaps to mind. As the former lead singer for Free and Bad Company, Rodgers roughly belongs to the same '70s British hard rock pack as Queen, but Rodgers is pretty much the polar opposite of Mercury: a gruff, bluesy, barrel-chested macho blues-rock belter opposed to Freddie's grandly flamboyant, eccentric glam rock showman. Yet when Queen -- or more accurately, Brian May and Roger Taylor, since John Deacon decided to stay retired -- reunited in 2005, they picked Rodgers as their frontman, perhaps because he was one of the few marquee-level names from the '70s left who wasn't working steadily. The double-disc Return of the Champions documents their concert at the Hallam FM Arena in Sheffield on May 9, 2005. The set list is pretty heavy on Queen standards, with a few Bad Company and Free songs, such as "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "All Right Now," thrown in for good measure. Queen sounds big, tight, and professional, and there's even a sense of excitement to some of the performances, as if May and Taylor are invigorated to be out on-stage again, playing these songs for an adoring crowd, while Rodgers gives a spirited performance. Listening to the album, you get the sense that it probably was a fun night out. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine