Sunday, 15 December 2019

Bad Company





Formed from members of classic blues rock outfit Free - (singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke), guitarist Mick Ralphs of Mott The Hoople plus bassist Boz Burrell - Bad Company carried on the bass-heavy, bluesy rock tradition of Free, with a little bit of Mott’s eye for a commercial hit. they carried on their trademark rocking for eight pretty successful years, and are very much the epitome of mid-seventies radio-friendly, driving rock.

I have reviewed the first six Bad Company albums and have bunched them here, from 1974-1982, here, one after the other. They are:-

Bad Co (1974)
Straight Shooter (1975)
Run With The Pack (1976)
Burnin' Sky (1977)
Desolation Angels (1979)
and Rough Diamonds (1982)

I have also covered the live double album Bad Company Live 1977 & 1979. 

Scroll down to read them in chronological order.

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BAD CO (1974)

1. Can't Get Enough
2. Rock Steady
3. Ready For Love
4. Don't Let Me Down
5. Bad Company
6. The Way I Choose
7. Movin' On
8. Seagull                                                                                                         
The Free influence comes over really loud and clear on slow-burning bluesy tracks like The Way I ChooseDon't Let Me Down and the rocking Bad Company. The Mott legacy is obviously there on Ready For Love (previously recorded on Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes album) and the hit single Can't Get Enough whose riff owes more than a little bit to Mott’s One Of The Boys. There is a nice singalong rocking feel to Movin' On as well.

Rock Steady is a powerful, bluesy rock song, very Free-like in its tight-trousered potency. Hackneyed as it now may seem, I still enjoy a bit of this 70s rock. The Way I Choose is similar, a slow burning slab of pulsating blues rock. Seagull is an enjoyable, powerful, bluesy rock ballad.

 

Saxophone is used on a few tracks to give a slightly different sound to that of Free in places, but there are as many similarities, none more so, of course, than the wonderful voice of singer Paul Rodgers. Anything he lends his vocal chords to would be impressive, let's be honest.

With with regard to the remastering of the album, I actually prefer the Swan Song label remaster to the "Deluxe Edition" 2015 remaster. I find it punchier, bassier and more full. 

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STRAIGHT SHOOTER (1975)


1. Good Lovin' Gone Bad
2. Feel Like Makin' Love
3. Weep No More
4. Shooting Star
5. Deal With The Preacher
6. Wild Fire Woman
7. Anna
8. Call On Me                                            

This album differed just slightly from its predecessor in that that the two main cornerstones of it were the “acoustic” ballads of the marvellous Feel Like Makin' Love  and the hymn to prematurely departed rock stars, (Paul KossoffJimi HendrixJanis JoplinJim Morrison), the moving Shooting Star. Yes there were “slowies” on Bad Co too, but they were more in the Free blues rock ballad style. Here there is a lighter touch (just a little) in the basic approach to these songs. The melodic Call On Me also follows this trend. However, the heavy riffs are never far from the surface and they kick in most effectively on the chorus of Feel Like Makin' Love when Paul Rodgers’ unmistakeable blues rock voice really lets go. Weep No More  is also an excellent rock ballad, piano-based but heavy guitar appears when it needs to. 























An underrated Bad Company classic on here, for me, is the rocking opener Good Lovin' Gone Bad - full riffs and Rodgers’ voice towering over proceedings. One notable critic at the time (Robert Christgau) said that Rodgers’ did not have a strong enough voice for this sort of material. What? Are you kidding? Sometimes I think some of these critics just say controversial things that go against popular opinion just for the sake of it, for self-publicity. Nonsense. Rodgers has the perfect voice for Bad Company and Free’s material. I think most people would agree with that.

The rest of the album is pretty impressive blues rock fare - Free-type titles and lyrics like Deal With The Preacher and Wild Fire WomanPreacher has some great guitar riffery, compelling bass and a great Rodgers vocal. Sounds like Free made just that more commercially accessible. Wild Fire is one of the most Free-sounding tracks on the album, all big powerful blues rock bass. One of the bonus tracks on the “deluxe edition”, All Night Long, where a Rolling Stones riff meets La Bamba would have made an excellent single.

  

To be honest, Bad Company never really changed their style too much, just as Free didn’t, and they were all the better for it. You knew what was going to be served up and, for several years, it didn’t disappoint. 

The same applies to Bad Co with regarding the remasters, I prefer the Swan Song one. 

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RUN WITH THE PACK (1976)

1. Live For The Music
2. Simple Man
3. Honey Child
4. Love Me Somebody
5. Run With The Pack
6. Silver, Blue & Gold
7. Young Blood
8. Do Right By Your Woman
9. Sweet Lil’ Sister
10. Fade Away      

                                   
Like Paul Rodgers’ albums with Free and also those of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company’s albums became increasingly formulaic - raw, bluesy rock was what you got, album after album, to be honest. The formula didn’t change with this, their third offering and, taken in isolation, it is fine, but I have to admit that it is more of the same. It was 1976, however, and the formula had yet to become too hackneyed. There was still an appetite for it. The album did well in the charts. Look, if you like it, you like it, and I do. Regarding the sound, I prefer the original Swan Song label master to the more recent 2015 remaster. It has more punch and more bass.

Live For The Music is a copper-bottomed Bad Company rousing stadium-style rocker to open with and Simple Man, ironically also the title of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, is a brooding, Free-esque Mick Ralphs number. It sounds so much like Free, though, it could almost be them. These are two great songs, but they don’t offer anything particularly new. I still like them, though, and this is still a good album.



Honey Child is a great, riffy rocker with Rodgers on fine vocal form. You can’t go too far wrong with this. The guitar, the drums, the vocals - great stuff. Bad Company do what they do, and they do it well. Love Me Somebody is an appealing slow rock ballad, enhanced by some fine guitar. Run With The Pack is a typical Bad Company rocker, as I said, you knew what you were going to get. Some strings were added, but it still did not sound too different, they remained a little superfluous.

 

Silver, Blue & Gold is a melodic, mid-pace slow burner. Once more, Rodgers’ voice soars. I really like this one. Nice bass on it too. Young Blood is a cover of a Coasters hit. While it is ok, it still is not quite convincing when the group stray from their usual path. The spoken “she’s the one“ part is a bit clumsy, to be honest. Despite its very corny, seventies title Do Right By Your Woman is an archetypal, enjoyable Bad Company slow rock ballad. Even more so is the fine, rocking Sweet Lil’ Sister. The album ends with the slow, mournful Free-esque Fade Away. Although the “formulaic” accusations do hold some water, this was still an enjoyable, impressive album.

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BURNIN’ SKY (1977)

1. Burnin’ Sky
2. Morning Sun
3. Leaving You
4. Like Water
5. Knapsack (The Happy Wanderer)
6. Everything I Need
7. Heartbeat
8. Peace Of Mind
9. Passing Time
10. Too Bad
11. Man Needs Woman
12. Master Of Ceremony                                                 

This was probably where the rot started to set in a little for Bad Company as they continued offering more strong bluesy rock. It was an album with a few patchy or maybe lacklustre moments - certainly more than on the previous outing. The general tone is a laid-back, slow paced, slightly more reflective one, as opposed to out-and-out riffy rock, a bit like Free’s Highway album.

Burnin’ Sky is a delicious, almost funky number with a big, solid bass sound. While not a huge deviation from their usual sound, it shows a desire to try a little funk rock in the way that Led Zeppelin had on Physical Graffiti the previous year. It is a muscular, brooding number full of atmosphere and sonic depth. Morning Sun is another good one, a Free-influenced slow ballad, of the kind Paul Rodgers delivered so well. The track was enhanced by some nice flute parts to show more desire for a slight musical diversification.

Leaving You also follows the steady Bad Company path of trustworthy, chunky blues rock balladry. Like Water is another low-key, slow burning number, with another nice, deep bass coursing through its veins. The album goes off course, though, with the utterly pointless minute or so singsong of Knapsack (The Happy Wanderer), which sounds as if the group are returning from a night in the pub. Thankfully some riffage is back on the slightly fifties meets reggae fun groove of Everything I Need. Again, it is a bit of a Zeppelin-esque diversification.



Heartbeat is a chunky,  more familiar-sounding blues rocker. Peace Of Mind starts off sounding strangely like Bob Dylan before it settles into regular Bad Company fare. Passing Time is a short but pretty pleasant number and Too Bad rocks quite heavily in typical Bad Company style. It is a good track that wouldn’t have been out of place on the first two albums.

It wouldn’t be a Bad Company album without a seventies-style song title, and we get that with Man Needs Woman. Yes, it is predictable stuff, but I still like it. Unusually, it features a saxophone solo. Another departure from the usual path is the seven-minute plus Zeppelin-style slow cooking slight funk of Master Of Ceremony. Some late-night saxophone appears to help to make this one of the group’s most innovative, experimental and interesting numbers thus far in their career. I think it is really good.

 

This album should not be written off prematurely as simply “more of the same” because there are a few differences to be found here. It is still well worth a listen and the latest remastered sound is pretty good.

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DESOLATION ANGELS (1979)

1. Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy
2. Crazy Circles
3. Gone, Gone, Gone
4. Evil Wind
5. Early In The Morning
6. Lonely For Your Love
7. Oh, Atlanta
8. Take The Time
9. Rhythm Machine
10. She Brings Me Love                                     
In 1979, with punk and new wave the music of the age, another album of blues rock from Bad Company was not something that would be particularly relevant or indeed successful. This was very much 1974-75 style music, considerably out of its time. However, it is still quite a good album, taken on its own merits, with a nice clear sound and a fine punch to it. The group still did well in attracting concert audiences, though, even though record sales and cultural relevance were on the wane. Having said that, the album still made #10 on the UK album charts, so there were plenty of rockers still out there, it would seem.

Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy is a chunky and typical Bad Company slice of blues rock, of the kind we had come to expect. Crazy Circles is an attractive, acoustic-based slow rock song, with some nice acoustic soloing in the middle. Gone, Gone, Gone is a solid, riffy Skynyrd-esque rocker. You can say the same about the grinding Evil Wind. Paul Rodgers copes effortlessly with songs like this, he is “Mr. Reliable”, isn’t he? The track has a nice, deep bass line on it too and some nice guitar near the end.

  

Early In The Morning is a very Free-style slow ballad. Lonely For Your Love could be from 1974, but it rocks majestically from beginning to end. Mick RalphsOh, Atlanta is a lyrically surprising one - a Herefordshire lad going on about being “on my way back to Georgia”, but it is another convincing, lively number. Take The Time is a warm, melodic Rodgers soulful slow burner. Rhythm Machine is a catchy one too, with an infectious drum sound.

The closer, She Brings Me Love starts off just like Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends before settling into a more recognisable Bad Company sound. It has an anthemic quality to it that provides a fine ending to a good album.

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ROUGH DIAMONDS (1982)

1. Electricland
2. Untie The Knot
3. Nuthin' On The TV
4. Painted Face
5. Kick Down
6. Ballad Of The Band
7. Cross Country Boy
8. Old Mexico
9. Downhill Ryder
10. Racetrack                                             

This album, from 1982, saw Paul Rodgers call it a day after its release. Recording sessions had been strained, with Rodgers and bassist Boz Burrell fighting at one point. It proved to be the last straw, and the last album for the original line-up, that had lasted since 1974. The band tried to throw in a few new sounds - a bit of funk, some brass, some keyboards and piano but, unfortunately, it didn’t really catch on.

Electricland is an atmospheric, brooding number that is not typical Bad Company at all, really, despite some powerful riffs. Untie The Knot is an appealing piece of funk/rock. Boz Burrell’s Nuthin’ On The TV is a catchy, Lynyrd Skynyrd-style rock groove that even used the Skynyrd spelling of “nuthin’”. It sways along nicely, though, despite its somewhat hackneyed lyrics about nothing in the telly in the hotel room. Painted Face has an appeal to it, strangely in its synthesiser riff and and melodic strains. The group were trying to move with the times a bit here, it was probably just not enough.

  

Kick Down is recognisable as Mick Ralphs track in a sort of early seventies Mott The Hoople way.  Burrell’s lively, poppy Ballad Of The Band is not the band’s best, let’s be honest. It sounds like the sort of material that appears on many Ringo Starr albums. The slightly funky and brassy Cross Country Boy has a bar-room, piano-driven swing to it. Ralphs’ Old Mexico sees him revisit his travelling in the USA theme, this time heading over the borderline into Mexico. It isn’t a bad song,  but totally at odds with most music from 1982, though.

Downhill Ryder, while containing some classic riffs, also toys with a vaguely funky sound. It is sort of sad hearing Rodgers’ voice towering over songs like this for the last time with the group. Racetrack is a return to a more traditional Bad Company sound and then that was that for a group that suffered from not ever deviating much from their usual sound, but I have to say that when it was good, it was rockingly good.

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BAD COMPANY LIVE 1977 & 1979



This is an excellent live compilation, taken from Bad Company concerts from HoustonTexas in 1977 and Wembley ArenaLondon in 1979. Despite the fact that the flames of punk were burning all around them, Bad Company carried on with their brand of muscular, pounding, bluesy rock regardless and their loyal fans seemed to keep lapping it up, judging from the crowd reaction and atmosphere apparent on both recordings.



The sound quality from both concerts is excellent, made to be turned up loud and enjoyed appropriately. It is also notable that over the two set lists, only Shooting Star and the encore of Feel Like Makin' Love are duplications, showing that they had a fair amount of material at their disposal, and also making it value for money for customers in this double CD format. It is not just the well-known tracks, there are plenty of good ones across both gigs, like Too BadHoney ChildRock Steady and Movin' On. All quality, beefy rockers. The Free-esque Simple Man and Bad Company are great too.

Paul Rodgers' voice is on top form in both concerts, as it aways is the the riffs are big and powerful throughout. As I said earlier, there is a great live atmosphere. It is a fine example of just what a dynamic rock band Bad Company were, despite by 1979 being somewhat anachronistic (certainly in the UK, not so much in the US, where heavy rock always had a huge following). Recommended.

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Below is a clip of Bad Company performing Can't Get Enough on Top Of The Pops in 1974.