Bad Company

Bad Company

Swan Song Records, 1974

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


After the rise and nearly immediate collapse of Blind Faith, one would have thought that musicians would have been scared off of the idea of supergroups. Combining so much diverse talent into one band was a great idea on paper, but could it be too volatile a mix to work?

Then again, Led Zeppelin was successful, though one could argue if they fell under the term "supergroup", as the only member who was well-known at the time was Jimmy Page. But enough bands saw the glimmer of promise in the concept of supergroups - a glimmer that led former members of King Crimson, Free and Mott The Hoople to form Bad Company.

Vocalist Paul Rodgers, guitarist Mick Ralphs, bassist Boz Burrell and drummer Simon Kirke were the first act ever to be signed to Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label. And while there are definite signs of aging on their self-titled debut, there are still moments that make the experience all worthwhile.

The one thing that strikes me about this album is that the production quality is very rough. There is not a lot of treble or bass in the mix, leaving the sound raw and a little uncomfortable at times. (I don't know if this was fixed when the album was remastered for CD; I'm still working off my old vinyl copy.) But for certain songs, this atmosphere is perfect.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

About half of this album gets regular play - or overplay, depending on your point of view - on radio today. "Can't Get Enough," the album's opener, is the perfect shot needed to both introduce the band to the listener and to suck them in for the remainder of the journey. The track is a combination of controlled order and frantic energy, a yin-yang that makes this track into a classic. Even now, 25 years after this song was released, I still don't get tired of it.

Of the remaining rockers on Bad Company, only "Rock Steady" fails to please completely. I found myself wishing that the basic rhythm and melody of the song had been worked on a little more; it comes off sounding very simplistic, something one would not expect from Bad Company. The other tracks, "Movin' On" and the title track, both are fun numbers to listen to, the latter almost sounding like a sinister track from a Western movie, with the build from piano and vocals to full band.

But Bad Company, throughout their history, had a habit of mixing the rockers with soft, slow ballads - something I can't say I always enjoyed. "Ready For Love" is one that still gets airplay, and is one that takes a long time to build into anything respectable. "Don't Let Me Down" and "The Way I Choose" are not much better in this department.

Then, there is "Seagull," a track that was supposed to show the band's sensitive side. (What the hell was with this bird in the '70s, anyway? I mean, there's this track, Engelbert Humperdinck's "Lesbian Seagull" and the book and film Jonathan Livingston Seagull? I had to read that book in high school; it was a nasty drug trip.) Instead, it showcases Rodgers as a vocalist, and it doesn't do a bad job of that. What is annoying, however, is that Ralph's guitar is slightly out of tune on the high "E" string, something that is painfully noticeable during the choruses.

The funny thing is that half of Bad Company - the best half - is reprised on 10 From 6, the obligatory "greatest hits" compilation. And while this album is one that you may want to check out if you want to get past the radio-friendly material, you're almost better off buying the best-of instead. Bad Company painted a picture of a band whose formula would not change too much over the course of their career: good songs mixed with weaker. Worth checking out, but approach it with caution.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A


'C+' seems pretty mean! On the strength of the best songs on this album alone (as you acknowledge) it's gotta be in the 'B' range somewhere. One of the great strengths of the songs here is that the arrangements are spare and to the point - a three/four piece band playing good solid rock without studio embellishments and overwrought technical pyrotechnics. And Roger's voice is a wonder to behold; surely as strong as it ever was on this release. When I feel like a chunk of clear-headed straight ahead rock, this is as good a place as any to go.

© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Swan Song Records, and is used for informational purposes only.