BAD COMPANY – ” Bad Co ” Classic Albums

Posted: April 18, 2020 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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One of the most important advances in the field rock ‘n’ roll marketing was the invention of the term, “Supergroup. A supergroup is a music group whose members are previously successful as solo artists or as part of other groups or well known in other musical professions.” Most people believe that Cream was the first supergroup, though there is an equally strong argument for The Steampacket, a mid-60’s U. K. band whose members included Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger. The term gained popular approval with the release of Super Session, a record marketed to the public as a truly glorious moment in rock history featuring the integrated talents of supermen Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills.

Al Kooper was a so-so organist but a brilliant marketer. After leaving Blood, Sweat and Tears to go to work for Columbia Records, he heard that musical hobo Mike Bloomfield was ready to leave Electric Flag, so he booked two days of studio time to jam with him. When Bloomfield didn’t show up on day two (classic Bloomfield), he called Stills, who was looking for a way out of Buffalo Springfield. When the record was released, Kooper put Bloomfield’s stuff on side one and Stills’ contributions on side two. Bottom line: Bloomfield and Stills never played together in the “super session,” but the listening audience (which included many stoners) was not discouraged from believing that these three musical giants came together to create studio magic.

Bad Company was marketed as supergroup from the get-go, Bad Company had their fare share of detractors when they burst on to the scene in the mid 70s. Ex-Free men Paul Rodgers (vocals) and Simon Kirke (drums) were criticised for following a more commercial path, despite the fact that their former band had enjoyed several hits. Completed by Mick Ralphs (guitar, ex-Mott The Hoople) and Boz Burrell (bass, ex-King Crimson and Snafu), Bad Company had Zeppelin’s Peter Grant as their manager – and the American market in their sights. They struck the bullseye. “Can’t Get Enough” might have had a tasty Top 40 sheen but it was expertly rendered blues rock to the core. None of them were “name” musicians at the time of Bad Company’s formation; they had played in bands who generally familiar to the listening public but hardly top-tier (Burrell’s time with King Crimson came long after In the Court of the Crimson King). All are now more famous for their work in Bad Company than their other engagements, so while the supergroup label may have been prematurely applied at the start of their journey, one could say that they earned the label through their work. They were an enormous commercial success

Supergroups often fall short of their potential, but the four guys who made up Bad Company – originally Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson vets – were still young and hungry enough to add some muscle to their debut album. Later records would get more bloated under the strain of their rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, but ‘Bad Co.’ still sounds lean after all these years.

Even if the song hadn’t dealt with the constant edge of sexual desire, “Can’t Get Enough” would still appear on my playlists because the music is so sexy. After Simon Kirke’s count-in and cue, Mick Ralphs lets it rip with a clean, sustained power chord using open C tuning, riding Kirke’s slap-that-bitch beat before downshifting into the rest of the three-chord pattern that ends on the bite of the Bb-F repetition. That tiny bite feels even sharper because Kirke shifts to cymbals, clearing the way for Mick’s power chords to be heard at full intensity. After a second go-round, Mick and Simon retreat to background to allow Paul Rodgers to do his thing.

Paul Rodgers’ voice gives me the tingles—up and down my spine. Paul Rodgers singing a sex song is an orgasmic experience, Paul Rodgers is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and intentional singers I’ve ever heard, in any genre. A lot of guys have sexy voices but they fail to discipline the talent with intent. Paul Rodgers pays careful attention to phrasing, understands the critical importance of build and is the master at creating a mood. As he explained in one interview, “To me, that’s what music is: creating a mood, and taking the listener to the place that you’re going. on “Can’t Get Enough” he’s going to drag you to the bedroom and do all sorts of wonderful things to you. The first verse is all about command. Rodgers sings the lines with confidence and precision, making it perfectly clear what he’s after. On the second verse, he eases up slightly on the word at the end of the opening line—“Well, it’s late, and I want love.” That wicked little twist communicates the sweet side of love, the opening salvo in the seduction. It’s a disarming line that makes the clarification all the more erotic: “Love that’s gonna break me in two.” Rodgers gets looser in the second chorus but what really grabs my attention here are the slightly syncopated cuts where Kirke applies the high-hat, this Mick Ralphs composition was rejected by his former band, Mott the Hoople. That means they rejected two Bowie classics (“Suffragette City” and “Drive-In Saturday) and one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs ever!

They had no choice but to dial it down a bit from that killer opener, and the Paul Rodgers composition “Rock Steady” was a good choice—it keeps the intensity high while foregoing the dramatic cuts and pauses of “Can’t Get Enough.” The song is about taming the wild beast who showed up in “Can’t Get Enough,” and though Rodgers tries to convince us that he’s capable of keeping his libido in abeyance, his gritty vocal expresses the opposite. He covers the range of dynamics, attenuating his vocal when telling himself to ease up on the testosterone accelerator (“When my love . . . gets a little bit too heavy”) and breaking into all-out passion when he discovers that there is indeed erotic opportunity in the slow, deep one. Virtually missing on “Can’t Get Enough,” (low bass levels are a problem throughout the album), Boz Burrell provides some nifty bass runs and strong rhythmic support throughout this piece.

“Ready for Love” was a Mick Ralphs composition that appeared on Mott’s All the Young Dudes, and anyone who has heard that version has to conclude that Mick Ralphs was not the right guy for the vocal—this is a passionate, erotic song, and Mick’s thin, reedy voice was incapable of expressing the depths of those feelings. Enter Paul Rodgers, the best rock voice in the business when it comes to setting the mood for an erotic evening at home. The arrangement is much cleaner than the Mott version—the introduction of piano into the mix adds a touch of balancing tenderness to offset the guitar and organ, and its use as the solo instrument in the break reinforces the melancholy psychological state expressed in the opening lines Bad Company gives “Ready for Love” the treatment it always deserved—it really is a superbly written piece.

While the opening segment with its dramatic drum rolls is a bit over the top, this “Don’t Let Me Down” isn’t half bad because it doesn’t wallow in insecurity as much as express dissatisfaction with the current partner. The best parts of the arrangement occur when Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie provide background vocals to support Paul Rodgers’ soulful approach, giving the song a gospel-like feel. The band is far off the mark, though, with Kirke paying way too much attention to the snare and Mick Ralphs dropping in with a fairly weak solo.

We’ll flip it over to side two and explore the curious title track and band anthem, as promised. There are various and competing stories about its origins, including the Jeff Bridges western flick Bad Company and a seedy character Paul Rodgers saw in a book on Victorian morals used as a warning to the young to “beware of bad company.” I have no problems whatsoever with his Rodgers vocal, with his portrayal of the character, with the haunting piano refrain, with the eerie sounds in deep background or with Simon Kirke’s POW-POW that cue the chorus.

The rest of the album is pure filler. The follow-up piece “The Way I Choose” is a slightly lumbering song with a guitar counterpoint somewhat reminiscent of George Harrison’s work on “Don’t Let Me Down” and a supporting horn section that falls far short of soulfulness. Paul Rodgers sings it well but his voice is completely wasted on the shallow lyrics celebrating independence, stupidity and mistrust. It’s followed by the equally vacuous rock-star-whining-about-life-on-the-road song, “Movin’ On,”.

The album closes with what became sort of a tradition for many hard rock bands of the era: the “deep” song. This was a slow number presented in a way to suggest to the listener that hard rockers weren’t just all about fun and games but that they had a serious side and thought about meaningful things. “Seagull” is Bad Company’s “deep” song. The lyrical content is just as confused as that alleged masterpiece, with the songwriting team of Ralphs and Rodgers taking a page out of Donovan’s songwriting handbook and attempting to imbue the seagull with meanings far beyond its status as a nasty, squawky bird. Bad Company is a fairly decent debut album, all things considered. Listening to Paul Rodgers is always an engaging experience, and despite a couple of out-of-sync moments, the band is tight and relatively tight and disciplined for a hard rock band.

Bad Company’s – ‘Can’t Get Enough,” and Honey Child.” This is what a real Rock band sounds like – even after nearly 50 years – with three of the original members: Paul Rodgers, one of a handful of great Rock singers (vocals), Mick Ralphs (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums) with Howard Leese (guitar (late of Heart). If you want to hear the band at its absolute pinnacle check out Bad Company: Live at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida. It is a masterpiece.

Comments
  1. I love this album. In other news I’ve been turning my music room upside down all week looking for my copy of Sharpshooter and I can’t find it anywhere.

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