Following the bitter and protracted double-demise of Free in 1971 and, again, in 1973, expectations were high when frontman Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke announced their new project, Bad Company. But whereas Free, surely one of the most quintessentially English rock bands of all time, could be relied upon on to counter their brazenfacedmic-stand-twirling antics with cerebral songs such as Mouthful Of Grass and Oh I Wept, Bad Co were calculatedly formed with the pursuit of the Yankee dollar in mind. Moreover, while Free had the genius combination of Paul Kossoff on guitar and Andy Fraser on bass, Bad Co had (comparative) hod-carriers Mick Ralphs and Boz Burrell in their stead. No matter. Bad Co’s self-titled debut, released in 1974 via Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label, was an unashamedly in-your-face affair, and it effortlessly reached the No.1 slot on the Billboard chart. Cocksure follow-up Straight Shooter (1975) was no slouch either, hitting No.2, but when Run With The Pack (7⁄10) came out the following year there were signs the mean machine was running out of steam. When recording a new album, one always suspected Bad Co wrote their title tracks first – and put all their effort into doing so – then hoped the rest of the songs would magically fall into place. That worked fine when the creative juices were flowing. But on RWTP said juices hit a breakwater and the band’s songwriting shortcomings were exposed. Rodgers’ lead song remains a triumphant, appropriately feral, affair. But Ralphs’ compositions in particular – Live For The Music, Simple Man and Sweet Lil’ Sister – are so characterless and lacklustre, they’re the very the definition of rock-by-numbers. That downward trend continued on 1977’s Burnin’ Sky (5⁄10). Apart from the searing menace of the central track and experimental funked-up closer Master Of Ceremony, the album is a desperately drab affair. There’s even a – mercifully brief – foray into Alpine yodelling called Knapsack, aka The Happy Wanderer, fer chrissakes. And Bad Co’s cause wasn’t helped one iota by a short-haired Rodgers sporting an unflattering bandana on the album cover. (Maybe the burnin’ sky had caused a blisterin’ forehead.) On the upside, these deluxe reissues come with a wealth of bonus tracks and the remastering jobs are simply sensational. Indeed, when Ralphs’ guitar cuts through like a berserk buzz-saw on the aforementioned Live For The Music, songwriting indiscretions are the furthest thing from your mind.
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