Monday, November 18, 2013

Bad Company 4: Burnin’ Sky

Sometimes when you go back to the well, there’s nothing there, which Bad Company found out on their fourth album. Burnin’ Sky has everything already in the band’s bag of tricks, except for songs that stick in one’s brain.
Heralded by a clap of thunder, the title track is pretty much the only song anybody remembers. It’s a fairly basic riff that goes on a little long. It fades into birds chirping, suggesting that whatever set the sky a-burnin’ is made better by the “Morning Sun”, an acoustic idea that isn’t much of a stretch, covered up by flutes. The strut tempo returns on “Leaving You”, which isn’t too deep, but stutters to an uneasy halt, which is surprising, since this band could never be accused of not being tight. “Like Water” is credited to Paul Rodgers and his then-wife, which was nice of him, except it doesn’t really go anywhere. For some reason, a very quiet, jokey rendition of “Happy Wanderer” appears next, followed by “Everything I Need”, which sounds like it wants to be a ‘50s pop parody, with hiccupping vocals and a spoken interlude, except that the chorus section has a little more meat to it. Amazingly, this trifle is credited to all four members.
“Heartbeat” would have been a good contender for a single, especially with the intricate dual guitar solo. It’s not until Simon Kirke’s “Peace Of Mind” that a sensitive piano song appears, but it’s sunk out of the gate by Paul Rodgers’ “people I just wanna tell ya” monologue over the intro; somewhere Paul Stanley took notice. “Passing Time” begins with a hint of an epic—probably the “Sympathy For The Devil” bongos—following some basic changes through some very disconnected lyrics. Mick Ralphs serves up two riff-heavy tracks, but again, neither “Too Bad” nor “Man Needs Woman” offers anything we haven’t heard already. “Masters Of Ceremony” is also credited to the entire band, but at seven minutes, it’s little more than a jam on the title track, with stock blues phrases drunkenly blurted here and there.
So once it spins down to nothing, Burnin’ Sky becomes a lot of time spent on not much. Outside of those fleeting moments, there isn’t anything really driving one back to hearing it again, especially as the closing track takes away the charm of the title song. It is simply background music—not so annoying to take off, but not enticing either.
This too was expanded in line with the rest of the catalog; outside of a couple of takes of the title track that sound less menacing than the finished product and the aptly titled outtake “Unfinished Story”, the other works-in-progress don’t show anything we missed, unless you want an even longer run through “The Happy Wanderer”, or wonder how “Too Bad” and “Man Needs Woman” sounded like with Mick singing.

Bad Company Burnin’ Sky (1977)—2
2017 Deluxe Edition: same as 1977, plus 14 extra tracks

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