I remember when I was younger and more impressionable I liked Free. I thought All Right Now was the best rock songs I’d heard and that video of them playing to millions of people was just incredible. Kosoff, although a mad druggie, was brilliant at playing both notes and nothing, Andy Fraser had funk and blues running through his veins, and the drummer, Simon Kirke, was solid. He knew when to hang and when to play. Then there was that Paul Rodgers chap – my new favourite vocalist. It all worked and appealed to me. So I picked up Fire and Water for my new-ish CD player.
This phase lasted a few months. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the odd bit of Free, but I really can’t say that they had a hold on me beyond that. However, it was a good band to open up other doors – eventually leading to the discovery of some of those ol’ blues kings (as well as Jeff Beck, etc. via Paul Rodgers’ Muddy Waters album). But that was about it, really. I never bothered with Bad Company and by the time Rodgers was drafted in as frontman of Queen I had forgotten about all the good that he and Free had done. So that’s why this is such a strange one.
I’m not sure exactly why, but I decided to pick up Bad Company‘s debut one day when I was out looking at records with a friend of mine. In fairness, the purchase was largely informed by three important things:
- my friend’s statement that this was a “solid no-frills rock album”
- fond memories of that pre-Bad Company Rodgers vehicle I just mentioned; and
- memories of my short stint as frontman for a covers band back when I was a tad younger than I am now (the reportoire included a few of the numbers featured on here)
Looking closer at Bad Company the band, it’s actually a fairly good line-up. Aside from Rodgers, there’s Free’s drummer Kirpe, Mott the Hoople’s Mick Ralphs and ex-King Crimson bass-man Boz Burrell. So, at £4 it seemed like a decent enough purchase, right? Well …
The first side is actually really pretty good and shows off Ralphs and Rodgers songwriting. It kicks off with some fairly straight forward rock staples in Can’t Get Enough and Rock Steady. The highlight of the album comes pretty early in the form of a cover version – the Ralphs penned Mott the Hoople number Ready for Love. The Ralph / Rodgers co-write, Don’t Let Me Down, is a nice side closer. All ballady and suchlike. The problems start when I flipped it over, though. It’s a tad pedestrian …
… additionally, I have issues with self-titled tracks. Title tracks are fine, but self-titled numbers just make me sigh. Unfortunately the second side kicks off with such a track. Bad Company was penned by Rodgers and his ol’ Free co-hort Simon Kirke. There’s really not much to it. A nice wee guitar driven chorus to a rather peculiar piano driven verse. The Way I Choose and Movin’ On are similar (though in fairness they may not be – they by this point I tuned out completely!), while Seagull simultaneously offers a stylistic diversion and Rodgers’ moment to show off his talents by not only singing, but playing all the instruments. Good on you, Paul.
I don’t actually have much else to say about it. The album art is a tad plain and I don’t much like the inside of the gatefold – it doesn’t really do much, but highlight the complete lack of vibrancy or urgency of the music. Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy enough to listen to, I guess. But it’s maybe hindered by the lack of ambition and the fact that, despite the talent of those involved, it falls short of being anywhere close to anything from Free, King Crimson or Mott the Hoople. Although I’m aware that’s a big ask (it is close to Free, right enough – which isn’t all that surprising really).
My wife said to me after this one “pick a better record next time”. I have to agree … beware Bad Company, indeed.