Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bad Company 6: Rough Diamonds

With a mix of mystery, a neat circular piano motif and tasteful guitar work, “Electricland” continues the Bad Company tradition of starting every album by grabbing the listener by the throat. It’s a terrific song, full of changes and lyrics just on the verge of meaning something. And from there, Rough Diamonds is their most forgettable album yet.
The disco thump on much of the record—particularly in “Cross Country Boy” and “Untie The Knot”, though the latter does have a pretty cool break after the bridge—suggests that these are leftovers from their last album, three years before. As for the rest, the overwhelming feeling is just bland. “Ballad Of The Band” is an attempt at sardonic commentary on rock ‘n roll that flies by at just over two minutes. “Nuthin’ On The TV” is tied to a New Orleans stomp, complete with horns, and Mick Ralphs soloing throughout. (Both of those are credited to Boz Burrell, so maybe that was the problem.)
They were never much good at storytelling, yet they try just about every angle. “Painted Face” suggests another sad tale of fame gone bad a la “Shooting Star”, but it doesn’t quite get past the setup, and the synth accents place it firmly in the early ‘80s. More typical of their old sound is “Old Mexico”, about as underdone as “Downhill Ryder” and “Racetrack”, back-to-back juxtapositions into other high-speed occupations, likely metaphors for something known only to him. Only “Kickdown” provides anything remotely of the quality of “Electricland”, even if the narrator was “brought up in a back street/workin’ every night and day”.
So what happened? Even Paul Rodgers, who can still belt with the best of them, sounds pretty bored throughout Rough Diamonds. The Swan Song label was on its last legs anyway, and the Hipgnosis artwork is as arbitrary as ever, with a serrated edge likely to not get too bent from repeated filing. For all their potential, did Badco really not have enough in them to make it to six albums?
Bad Company Rough Diamonds (1982)—

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