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Straight Shooter
Bad Company

Swan Song 8413
Released: April 1975
Chart Peak: #3
Weeks Charted: 33
Certified Gold: 5/8/75

Paul RodgersOn Straight Shooter, Bad Company retains all of the spontaneous combustion of their extraordinarily popular debut album (both were recorded "live" by mobile units), while also managing to refine their musical energy, giving it a sharper direction and coming up with fistfuls of apparently innocuous but totally effective hard rock surprises.

The album leaps to life with Mick Ralph's logical follow-up to his "Can't Get Enough" hit, "Good Lovin' Gone Bad." The sparse, powerhouse sound of the band is still intact but has been developed into a crazy quilt of intertwining sounds. Ralph's lethal guitar is more constructive and controlled than in the past, neatly unifying lead runs with rhythm work. Bassist Boz Burrell has expanded his bass realm and, naturally drummer Simon Kirke has followed suit. Paul Rodgers, true to form, plugs up any unfilled gaps with such ad-libs as "Wot a sayuh," "Ooowah" and the perennial favorite "uhhHUH."

Bad Company - Straight Shooter
Original album advertising art.
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Dismissed by some as the offshoot of the "wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am" style of Free, Bad Company lets it be known that they have a brand of music uniquely their own in the three compositions penned by Rodgers and Ralphs. "Deal with the Preacher," "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Wild Fire Woman" experiment with dynamics in a manner totally alien to the first album. Forsaking the constant thunder-thudding drone motif of '74 in favor of a more textured approach, the group uses subdued acoustic guitar and tight vocal harmonies during most of the verses, saving the harsh electrical shocks for the head-slamming choruses. It's a relatively simple "calm before the storm" setup, but Bad Company milks it for all its effectiveness.

The piece de resistance of the album (and the highpoint of Paul's writing career), is the off-the-cuff rock narrative, "Shooting Star." Abandoning his "oowah bayuhbe I luvah yuh" approach to poetry, Rodgers nearly assumes the role of the Harry Chapin of crotch rock as he casually recounts the chilling tale of a young rock star...from beginning to end.

Johnny died last night, died in his bed.
Bottle of whiskey, sleeping tablets by his bed.
Johnny's life passed him by like a warm summer's day.
If you listen to the wind, you can still hear him play.

The calculated effect of the song is made stronger by its low-keyed approach to melodrama. Guitars drone, bass and drums rumble and Rodgers ends the uptempo dirge with a series of wailing "woo-wah"s and various nasal chants.

It would seem that the gutsy rock band everyone thought of as Free's bastard son has come into its own, and powerfully at that. Straight Shooter is a fine example of contemporary rock & roll but, more than that, it is an exciting second step forward by a fledgling band that looks like it may be around for a long time to come. In spite of its visual allusions to the world of gambling (flying dice and crap tables abound on the cover), Straight Shooter is a sure thing for the rock addict: a winning band in anyone's book.

- Ed Naha, Rolling Stone, 6-5-75.

Bonus Reviews!

There's simply no way I can give a bad review to a group that starts a song ("Shooting Star") with lyrics like these: "Johnny was a schoolboy when he heard his first Beatles song/ 'Love Me Do' I think it was, and from there it didn't take him long/ Got himself a guitar, used to play every night/ Now he's in a rock-and-roll outfit and everything's alright." Not only is that the most charming updating of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" I can imagine (the next verse even has his mama crying while her son fritters his time away), it's so obviously autobiographical -- these guys are just about the age for it really to be true -- that, as someone who has had a similar experience. I can't help but be on their side.

Unfortunately, while I still think Bad Company is a potentially great band, one we all owe a tremendous debt for getting rock-and-roll back on the radio (with their recent smash single "Can't Get Enough"), not enough of the potential I sensed in their debut album is fulfilled in this new one. I'm not sure exactly what the problem is, although Paul Rodgers' great voice does sound a little ragged, as if all the touring they've been doing has worn him out. There has been some progress; this record does not sound, as one critic observed about the first one, like demos. Care seems to have been taken with the production this time; there are more background vocals, general over-dubs, even strings. Still, something seems to be missing. Perhaps it's something of the deeply melancholy mood that Free, the group's previous incarnation, were so good at conjuring up. Nevertheless, it's a fine record, filled with mostly satisfying straight-ahead rockers played by a no-frills band with one of the most sensitive and powerful singers ever out of England.

Incidentally, that previously quoted song ends with this neat lyrical switcheroo, dedicated to you-know-who: "Johnny died one night, died in his bed/ Bottle of whiskey, sleeping tablets by his bed/ Johnny's life passed by like a warm summer's day/ If you listen to the wind, you can still hear him play." Did I say autobiographical? I certainly hope not. We need these guys.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 7/75.

Second effort from British quartet whose debut went to number one contains the same basic elements as the first set: well-refined hard rock with a few softer cuts mixed in. LP on the whole is an improvement over the first, however, with styles more varied, including some skillful use of backup vocals and some fine acoustic/electric mixes. Constant interchange between Paul Rodgers' highly distinctive voice (many refer to him as the "singer's singer") and Mick Ralphs' guitars keeps up the identifiable sound of the band. Rodgers and Ralphs are rapidly developing into one of the best hard rock writing teams since the early Jagger/Richards days, and the band can perhaps best be described as mature heavy metal, with the songs featuring a smoothness that does not interfere with the four's basic assault tactics. LP should establish them totally as a band in their own right, with the Free/Mott The Hoople "supergroup" comments less likely to surface. One of the few groups able to appeal to AM and FM listeners. Best cuts: "Good Lovin' Gone Bad" (this will be the single), "Feel Like Makin' Love" (not the one you're thinking of), "Shooting Star," "Deal With The Preacher," "Wild Fire Woman."

- Billboard, 1975.

This rocks even more consistently than Bad Co., but to argue that it epitomizes hard rock as a style is not only to overlook its deliberate speed but to believe in one's (usually male) heart that Paul Rodgers is the ideal rock singer. You hear that a lot; what it seems to mean is that he doesn't shriek when he gets to the loud parts. Rodgers's power is no more interesting than Tom Jones's, and Jones is twice as subtle. If hard rock doesn't have more to offer, it's not worth arguing about. B-

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

Their hot streak continues on this fine follow-up, with "Feel Like Makin' Love." * * *

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

Both Straight Shooter and Run with the Pack have strong songs to recommend them -- if nothing else, Bad Company knew how to build an entire song instead of just jamming on a riff. Straight Shooter's "Feel Like Makin' Love" rose to #10 on the Billboard charts, making it the group's biggest hit after "Can't Get Enough," which hit #5. * * 1/2

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

Adhering to the old adage "if it ain't broke don't fix it," Bad Company's second album continues where their first album left off. Good old fashioned rock, effectively constructed songs with raucous vocals, guitar breaks in all the right places, bluesy riffs and solid rhythms. Straight Shooter doesn't disappoint fans of the band who may have feared that they would seek to travel down new creative avenues.

To record their second album, the band hired former Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane's mobile recording studio and installed it in the atmospheric surroundings of Clearwell Castle, UK. The results were impressive: the album, like its predecessor, opens strongly with "Good Lovin' Gone Bad." "Deal With The Preacher" is as ballsy a rock track as any the band had recorded to date. "Feel Like Making Love" rose to Number 10 on the Billboard charts, making it the group's biggest hit after "Can't Get Enough, which hit Number Five.

Bad Company later tired of this effective style and moved towards a more melodic, almost AOR sound, but with Straight Shooter they kept it simple and as such it worked for most people. Although the record didn't match its predecessor in charting terms (their debut album charted at Number One) it managed a respectable Number Three spot in the US Hot 100, spending 33 weeks in the charts and achieving the Number Three position in the UK also.

As of 2004, Straight Shooter was the #80 best-selling album of the 70s.

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

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