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Bad Company
Swan Song 8410
Released: June 1974
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 64
Certified Gold: 9/19/74

Boz BurrellSimon KirkeMick RalphsPaul RodgersOn its first album, Bad Company -- led by former Free singer Paul Rodgers and original Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs -- resembles Free in its structural starkness and early Mott in its stormy directness. In Bad Company, Robert Benton's overlooked 1972 western from whose title the group got its name, the chief characters, Civil War-era teenage romantics, displayed a sort of swaggering innocence that was quite affecting. The personality of this appealing new band is similar.

Rodgers's voice is Bad Company's virtuoso instrument; he's one of the most impressive rock singers of the decade. He shares with Rod Stewart a vocal delivery that derives its expresiveness from a shifting emphasis on its jagged edge and its sweet, delicate center. Although Rodgers' expressive abilities match Stewart's, his taste in material as yet does not. He's always depended on his own writing or that supplied by other members of his bands for practically every bit of material he performs, a decision that has often forced him to make more out of the songs he sings than is actually there (lack of consistently strong material may well have prevented Free from making it in America). With Bad Company, Rodgers persists in his insistence on group-produced songs, but fortunately Mick Ralphs has as deft a touch with a rock & roll song as he does with a guitar line. His three songs on the album (he collaborated on two others with Rodgers) are highlights.

Ralphs, like Rodgers, will never win any awards for his verbal skills -- although each at his best is capable of writing lines with the hard-hitting simplicity of first-rate R&B lyrics. But with Bad Company, as with Mott, Ralphs's manipulations of conventional rock & roll elements -- bolstered by his fluid and exciting guitar work -- show consistent inventiveness. His "Can't Get Enough" (built around the Zeppelin-like riff Mick played in Mott's stage version of "One of the Boys") and "Movin' On" contain nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times before, but each sounds irresistibly fresh. Ralphs's "Ready For Love" (which he sang himself on All the Young Dudes,) has the measured, somber gait of a Free song in the verses, with explosions of accumulated tension in the choruses. On the other hand, his tough riffing bolsters but can't substantially upgrade Rodgers's inane and melodically drab "Rock Steady" (Paul's other solo-written song, "The Way I Choose," is considerably better).

Bad Company - Bad Company
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But with "Don't Let Me Down," one of their collaborative efforts, Rodgers and Ralphs his a higher level than either has managed singly. Perhaps working as a team has bolstered the confidence of each and made it easier to take some chances: They've taken the mood as well as the chief phrase from the haunting Beatles' song, and they've dressed it in an arrangement that extends beyong their usual self-imposed bounds, encompassing an ascending sax line, a big-sounding vocal chorus and an expansive overall feel. Along with the similarly dusky "Ready For Love," "Don't Let Me Down" is the most dramatic thing on the album, suggesting an area for Bad Company to explore further on its next recording.

This is an uncompromising album, reflecting the wills as much as the talents of the participants, and it's all the more impressive in light of the fact that it was recorded immediately after the group's formation. The stylistic rigidness of Bad Company may prevent the band from becoming a supergroup right off the bat, but the album's raw strengths will surely draw diehard rock & roll listeners. With upgraded material -- perhaps including non-originals -- more stylistic daring of the sort displayed on "Don't Let Me Down" and the maturation of the already rewarding relationship between Rodgers and Ralphs, Bad Company could become a tremendous band.

- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 8-29-74.

Bonus Reviews!

I like almost everything about this band, and I think I would even if I hadn't had such great expectations, based on what Paul Rodgers did as lead singer for Free (who made at least two of my all-time favorite albums) and what Mick Ralphs did with Mott the Hoople before they turned into the Ian Hunter Show. Bad Company, simply stated, is a no-nonsense, kick-ass blues-based rock band of the first order, a bit reminiscent of the Stones, and of Free in their more aggressive moods. Further, they are that rarest of rare birds -- a band that sounds as if it hasn't shot its wad with one album; once they realize that they have the freedom to experiment that their inevitable commercial success will afford them, they can begin to tap an obviously enormous unrealized potential. In fact, this album gives us only glimpses of what they will be capable of, especially if they begin to make more of Mick's charmingly unsoulful voice as a foil for Rodgers' bluesier exhortations.

In the meantime, though, this is a killer outfit. Rodgers, who has been justifiably cited by almost every rock and roll singer with is salt as his favorite vocalist, sounds gorgeous. Ralphs plays with his usual economy and passion, and the rhythm section is just destructo (especially the drummer Kirke, who sounds less like Ringo than usual and more like the Sixties soul drummers he claims influenced him). I wouldn't be at all surprised if Bad Company makes a lot of critics realize that the hard-rock outfits they've been touting of late (like, shall we say, the Dolls or Blue Öster Cult) are indeed as lame as their detractors have insisted all along. Personally, I'm already convinced. And, oh yes, buy their single -- you'll get a flip that's not on the album, and a head start on what should be a fanzine dream band twenty years later.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 10/74.

Since a strong singer (Paul Rodgers, who's letting the hair on his chest grow out) usually dominates a strong guitarist (Mick Ralphs, who's devoting himself to Paul Kossoff impressions anyway), this is less Mott the Hoople without the pretensions (which are missed) than Free poppified (but not enough, hit single or no hit single). B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

This powerhouse debut includes "Can't Get Enough," Ready for Love," and the title track. * * * *

- Dan Heilman, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The biggest hit on Bad Company was the lusty "Can't Get Enough," but several others -- the slow-grinding "Rock Steady," the pretty Mott the Hoople remake "Ready for Love," the brooding "Bad Company" and the gleeful "Movin' On" -- remain part of the foundation of the classic rock canon. It never got any better. * * * *

- Gil Asakawa, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
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Bad Company Lyrics

Bad Company Videos

Paul Rodgers Mugshots

"Makes me want to buy a pickup truck and cheap beer," jest fans of this stripped, smokin', straight-ahead classic '70s disc. Featuring ex-Mott the Hoople Mick Ralphs' no-frills guitar, strong hard rock-bluesy vocals from ex-Free singer Paul Rodgers, and charged with lots of soul and depth, this multiplatinum smash debut burst onto the scene, dominated the airwaves and blew people away. * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

Born out of the embers of three of the UK's leading rock outfits -- Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson -- Bad Company were snapped up by Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant to record for his fledgling Swan Song label. The band took advantage of a two-week break in Led Zeppelin's recording schedule at Hedley Grange to record the album and hit the ground running, making their live debut in the summer of 1974 at the UK's Newcastle City Hall before following up with an opening slot for The Edgar Winter Group Tour in the US. With the release of their debut album at the same time, Bad Company established themselves pretty much immediately on both sides of the Atlantic.

Basic, no-nonsense bar-room rock and roll the album may have been, with rather predictable lyrics about not being able to get enough love and the need to keep on "moving 'n' ramblin'," but that didn't stop Bad Co. topping the US Hot 100, spending 64 weeks in the charts and reaching Number Three in the UK. Thanks to its Wild West lifestyle imagery the album very much forshadows similar fare form the likes of Bon Jovi some 20 or so years later.

"Can't Get Enough," the album's opener, is a surefire classic rock love song, as is the track "Bad Company." The album is not devoid of lilting ballads, with "Don't Let Me Down" -- with its gospel-esque backing vocals -- and the acoustic "Seagull" being amongst the album's highlights.

As of 2004, Bad Co. was the #46 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

As Turkey prepared to invade Cyprus in mid-1974, Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant unleashed his own Young Turks: ex-Free men Paul Rodgers (vocals) and Simon Kirke (drums), former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs, and erstwhile King Crimson man Boz Burrell (the sixteenth bassist who auditioned!).

Long before his future employers Queen made a name for themselves, Rodgers was already a rock 'n' roll star (and accordionist), and there was great anticipation about his first, post-Free foray. He did not disappoint.

Rodgers and Ralphs formed Bad Company -- christened after a 1972 Western starring Jeff Bridges -- after meeting on the road and jamming. They were taken under Zeppelin's wing, signed to their label Swan Song in the United States and -- during a lull in Zep's recording schedule -- allowed to make Bad Company in November 1973 at Ronnie Lane's Headley Grange studio.

The U.S. No. 3 album captures the energy of a coke-fueled high life, built on a Cream and Hendrix template, with added soul and country. It boasts glittering standouts such as the swaggering "Can't Get Enough," the pounding "Move On," the pleading "Ready For Love," and ballad "Seagull." Bad Company was engineered by Ron Nevison, later an in-demand producer. Kirke was recorded in a hallway, while the title track's vocals were taped at night -- for atmosphere -- in a nearby field. As Rodgers reminisced, "alcohol and drugs" were the band's true lifeblood, yet Bad Company epitomizes good time, blues rock. Steve Clarke of NME mused, "Everything they touch turns to gold." He could have added platinum too.

- Tim Jones, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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