Steve Rodgers: Head Up High Review

Fathers, sons, and rock and roll are a tough combination. No matter how close a father and son are, there’s a natural need for a son to not want to grow up in the shadow of his father. But rock and roll is a cut-throat business and a new artist needs to use every tool at his disposal. And often the most effective marketing tool is paternity. The tension between the need to stand alone versus the need for a boost is audible on Steve Rodgers’ debut, Head Up High, Rodgers being the son of legendary rock singer Paul Rodgers.

Rodgers isn’t the first rock and roll son forced to acknowledge his father’s legacy while simultaneously trying to chart a path for himself. In fact, it’s probably easier to list the rock and roll sons who have seamlessly embraced their father’s careers, seemingly without any psychological drama: drummer Zak Starkey, son of Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr, who’s played with tons of acts, including The Who; Dweezil Zappa, the Eddie Van Halen-obsessed son of Frank, who now seems very comfortable performing/shepherding his father’s musical legacy; and drummer Jason Bonham, son of legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. Bonham has also played with tons of artists, including Paul Rodgers, but perhaps, more interestingly, with Zeppelin themselves.

However, the list of sons who have seemingly pushed back against their fathers’ work is longer and harder to complete. Jakob Dylan has very little of his father Bob’s sound or songwriting in his own work. Julian Lennon looked and sounded just like his father but his music was decidedly unlike John’s, perhaps a deliberate choice given the tension between the two. And even Sean Lennon’s work took more from mother Yoko Ono than John.

Rodgers seems close with his father. He credits Paul with his work ethic and the two have toured together in various forms and formats. But the two have very different sounds. Paul Rodgers has a sexy, emotive voice that just oozes danger and rock and roll. Steve Rodgers has a sweet, soulful pop voice that’s closer to John Legend. His songwriting is also very pop-oriented with lots of wistful piano and subtle guitar. There are some fun moments on the album, like “Your Eyes,” which is just Rodgers and ukulele, but for the most part, this is a fairly staid, serious album with lots of beautiful ballads but not too much stadium-rocking bombast.

Head Up High is a solid debut by a talented artist. The challenge for many listeners will be ignoring the Paul Rodgers-size shadow which hangs over the album. There’s nothing Bad Company-esque about this pop album, which doesn’t rock very hard. Rodgers can’t help his parentage and does little to encourage nor discourage comparisons. No doubt, to Rodgers, his father is simply his father. But to listeners, Paul Rodgers might loom larger. So for anyone less interested in gentle, piano-driven pop, it’s best to go in with an open mind and remember the Paul Rodgers connection is a matter of genetics and marketing, but not necessarily a sonic comparable.

The Review: 7/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Haunted
– Sorrow
– So High
– Your Eyes

The Big Hit

– Your Eyes

Review by Steven Ovadia

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

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