Monday, August 12, 2013

Bad Company 1: Bad Company

Among other things, Bad Company holds the distinction of being one of the only bands to achieve success while signed to another, more successful artist’s vanity label—in this case, Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song. (Compare with the Beatles, who had Mary Hopkin and Badfinger for Apple, and the Rolling Stones, who had Peter Tosh for about five minutes for their Rolling Stones Records.)
They were something of a minor British supergroup, including former members of Free, Mott The Hoople and King Crimson. We never had much use for Free, and have rarely sat through “All Right Now” without wanting to box our own ears. But we’re told that’s an unfair dismissal, akin to hating Dire Straits solely because of “Money For Nothing”. (Interestingly, Boz Burrell learned to play bass in Crimson, before landing the job here.)
It’s since been suggested that Bad Company was recorded due to a crisis of faith within the Led Zeppelin camp. With studio time already booked, the band was allowed to use it. They were prepared, with a pile of riff-heavy tunes, exemplified by “Can’t Get Enough” and “Rock Steady”. “Ready For Love” is a re-written Hoople track, done (and sung) much better here. Each of those is still in pretty constant rotation on Classic Rock radio, so how much one likes this album depends on how sick one is of hearing the songs. That’s why “Don’t Let Me Down”, at the end of side one, stands out as a mellower respite.
The moodier style continues with the title track, exploding on the choruses. (This song is something of a trend-setter, as such bands as Iron Maiden and Icehouse would also follow the band name-album title-song title pattern.) “The Way I Choose” is another slow one, with Crimson alum Mel Collins on sax, but they wake us back up for “Movin’ On”. A brief album ends with “Seagull”, essentially a solo Paul Rodgers performance, right down to that one out-of-tune string.
On this album, the boys collaborated nicely. Perhaps they’re a guilty pleasure, but Bad Company delivers when you want good driving music without having to think. And sometimes, that’s just fine.
Soon after Jimmy Page began expanding the Led Zeppelin catalog, Badco got similar treatment. The debut got a bonus disc with over an hour of extras, including multiple early takes of a few songs, the “single edit” of “Can’t Get Enough” and a rightfully discarded mix with Hammond organ, the decent outtake “Superstar Woman”, and the B-sides “Little Miss Fortune” and “Easy On My Soul”. Those last three alone are as good as the album proper.

Bad Company Bad Company (1974)—4
2015 Deluxe Edition: same as 1974, plus 12 extra tracks

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