BAD COMPANY – The Swan Song Years 1974 – 1982
The renowned Bad Company surely needs no introduction as many of you are already familiar with their string of classic rock staples and hits that were and still are heard on the radio and TV quite often. In short, they are one of the best and most important British hard rock giants to have ever walked the earth, but these gentlemen have often been overlooked or perhaps overshadowed by bigger entities such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and the likes. Good thing that the ever-reliable Rhino Records recently issued this marvelous set containing the first six records of theirs (remastered of course) – all of which were originally released via Led Zeppelin’s label Swan Song hence the title of this particular box of musical delights.
The self-titled LP is pretty much flawless and I love absolutely everything about it – even down to the simple and striking album cover. Musically, this is blues-infested hard rock with subtle nods to the aforementioned Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds, and (obviously) Free. The compositions possess drive and confidence and yet there is no shortage of variety to the album either as it moves and slides effortlessly between raw and gritty workouts and gentle, moving ballads. "Can’t Get Enough", "Move On", and the title track remain some of greatest rock tunes to date and Paul Rodger’s stunning vocals are over-the-top sharp here. It’s only minor flaw (and this is truly a minor one) is arguably that the mellow album closer "Seagull" is perhaps a bit too Zeppelin-esque and that it lacks the drama and climax of the other pieces. Regardless, "Bad Company" is totally essential and every man and woman out there ought to have a copy of this one in their record collection. Rating? Let’s go with 5.5 out of 6.
The sophomore effort entitled "Straight Shooter" delivers more of the same and with equal amounts of passion and class to it as its predecessor. The debut had a slightly more pronounced live-feel to it than this one, but still, the raw power of this superb slice of hard rock history is to die for and the Burrell/Kirke/Ralphs/Rodgers constellation is firing on all cylinders here as exemplified by gems ala the hard-hitting "Deal With the Preacher" and the groovy "Wild Fire Woman". The ballad "Anna" is not altogether that strong or memorable, so in terms of rating this one, a solid 5 out of 6 seems to be in order.
Next one up is "Run With the Pack"and that one has heaps of attitude and swagger to it too. There is an emphasis on grove here, and there is certainly no shortage of crisp riffs or unshakable hooks anywhere in sight. The gorgeous title track and the haunting "Simple Man" are the standouts, but it is interesting to note that there are more honky tonk elements and yet a stronger presence of melancholy on the album than perhaps any of the other Swan Song releases. 4.5 out of 6 seems fair me thinks.
The fourth one, "Burnin’ Sky", sounds like the natural follow-up to "Run With the Pack" and it is undoubtedly a heartfelt and robust output, which is nicely illustrated by the majestic blues workout that is the title track. "Burnin’ Sky" shows that the creative fires were still burning bright at this point in time and this is a good collection of tunes, but previous records had a bit more vigor and spirit to them than this one. It is a mellower affair in some respects. We shall award this one 4 out of 6 then.
"Desolation Angel" came out at the tail end of the 70s and is arguably the most experimental album contained within this box set, but make no mistake; this is an entertaining slab of hard rock with a suitably funky undertone to it. I really like the diversity of this one and Rodgers oozes style and coolness here. Sonically, it comes across as bright and vibrant, which is obviously a huge plus. Who can resist such killer tunes as "Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy", "Evil Wind", or "Rhythm Machine"? A couple of cuts fail to deliver, so it is not the most consistent Bad Company record in existence, but it is nonetheless a charming, bouncy, and above all uplifting listening experience. I must admit that I really treasure this one and have a soft spot for it, so I reckon 5 out of 6 is the only proper rating for this underrated LP, right?
Finally, there is "Rough Diamonds" from 1982, and this one is not without its merits (check out "Kickdown" for instance"), but compared to the other five discs, this one is a bit of a letdown, and musically speaking, not a whole lot of interesting stuff is happening here. Again, it is not bad or awful by any stretch of the imagination, but this is Bad Company that we are dealing with and as such, this one is simply unremarkable and, frankly speaking, forgettable. We shall award "Rough Diamonds" 3 out of 6.