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Run With The Pack
Bad Company

Swan Song 8415
Released: February 1976
Chart Peak: #5
Weeks Charted: 28
Certified Platinum: 12/1/76

Run with the Pack, Bad Company's third and best album, reiterates the raw, rowdy style of their debut, Bad Co., solidifies the loose ends that marred Straight Shooter, and adds new directions of its own. Maybe most importantly, the record is refreshing proof that rockers don't have to produce literature in their lyrics or cultivate personae to create good art. Bad Company's is a purely musical triumph.

Paul Rodger's voice and Mick Ralph's guitar continue to be the quartet's foundation -- about half of Run with the Pack is the loud abrasive rock they are best known for. And it matters less that certain songs here resemble earlier works ("Honey Child" and "Sweet Lil' Sister" are kin to "Can't Get Enough" and "Movin' On") than that each of the new bears its own vitality and originality.

Bad Company - Run With The Pack
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Ralphs is still one of the dirtiest and crudest rock chordists; his thick distortion sustains almost endlessly. But here he shines in what had been his weak area: soloing. No longer does Ralphs wallow in lengthy, overly bassy, vibrato-laden forays. "Live for the Music" is basically a three-note riff repeated over and over and echoed through a tape loop. It's simpler and infinitely more effective than his old approach. His ringing fills on the title track are ideal foils for the son's rawness. Ralphs repeats this successful tack (not unlike Andrew Gold's) elsewhere here. Similarly, he plays a positively sweet solo on the gentle "Silver, Blue & Gold" and sports a slide on the countryish "Do Right by Your Woman." On "Simple Man," Ralphs combines acoustic and electric guitars (an approach he mastered on Straight Shooter's "Feel like Makin' Love") to produce a primitive but imaginitive result. This is also the first Bad Company song written solely by Ralphs that doesn't explode in some way -- he usually sticks to gangbusters like "Sweet Lil' Sister."

The members of Bad Company realize, however, that a constantly reiterated mode or even a single song constructed on only one framework can easily bore an audience -- hence, some wise arranging. The remake of the Coasters' "Young Blood," for example, is a limited song adapted to a limited genre -- so Bad Company makes it the shortest thing here, a neat and powerful 3:27. And they sacrifice nothing in the process.

Or there's Boz Burrell's role in "Live for the Music." Here the bass player overdubs melodic harmony lines and borrows one of Larry Graham's popping ascending phrases: the primal arrangement takes on a new flair. At the song's end Rogers and Ralphs drop out, leaving only Simon Kirke -- strong, as usual, throughout the record -- drumming behind Burrell, whose meaty bass aggressively punctuates the beat. The two finish the song unaccompanied -- a minor touch that works well. Burrell, it should be mentioned, is usually well hidden in Bad Company's tracks -- an interesting contrast to too many other raucous groups that delight in an overamplified bass in pursuit of "heaviness."

Strangely, Bad Company lacks an instrumental virtuoso. Ralphs, as well as he plays on this record, really doesn't come close. But Paul Rodgers emerges as a vocal virtuoso -- he is brilliant, throwing himself into different moods with ease, revealing timbres and energy he has only hinted at since his days in Free. On "Sweet Lil' Sister," he has the heat and drive of a true rocker, while "Simple Man" displays the rich evenness he mastered long ago. He uses echo to great advantage; all singers seem to improve with this device, but Rodgers more than most. "Love Me Somebody" is still another brand of excellence, a true rhythm & blues performance boasting fine work by Ralphs. Rodgers's piano and organ arrangement recalls the early Steve Winwood, and (as if in tribute) Rodgers gives us a taste of that singer's voice when he hits a high note in the last verse.

Run with the Pack has depth, maturity and subtlety, and like many of rock's finest moments, new things impress with each hearing: for example, the harmonica on "Do Right by Your Woman" or the phased vocals on "Silver, Blue & Gold." The title track and "Fade Away" use good orchestration, a far cry from the clumsiness of the strings on Straight Shooter. Above all, there are no empty spaces. Not a moment is wasted, and significantly, Run with the Pack has ten songs -- the other albums have only eight. Finally there is the carefully tailored smoky production, approached on the previous record but perfected here with the help of Ron Nevison, Eddie Kramer and the Rolling Stones' Mobile Unit.

Bad Company could well have taken the easy way out—they're that successful now -- but instead they have risen to the occasion. For Rodgers, Ralphs, Kirke and Burrell, Run with the Pack should be a standard to match for some time to come.

- Charley Walters, Rolling Stone, 4-8-76.

Bonus Reviews!

I like this a little better than I thought I liked Bad Company. It doesn't stand particularly tall as an album, but the good parts -- "Simple Man," "Honey Child," "Silver, Blue and Gold" -- seem to be better singles and radio spots than the group has done before. To be fair about it, Bad Company has better vocals than many rock bands, and on occasion they can be inventive with the instruments. The element I can't find much of is charm; the people seem to let, or cause, the conventions of rock to overshadow their own personalities. They don't seem to have set out to take a lot of chances, either. But the handling of sound shows good judgment when they have a tune to work with; the thing starts to sound padded only when they don't have that -- in, for example, "Live for the Music" and the title song. The production (the mix lets you hear the words) and engineering are quite good. I'd like to hear what they could do if they put this much energy into something that didn't stick so close to the pack.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 6/76.

Same basic rock as heard on two prior chart-topping LPs, but with more emphasis on ballads. Paul Rodgers' distinctive, blue-eyed soul vocals and Mick Ralphs' basic yet effective guitar take the spotlight as usual, while drummer Simon Kirke and bassist Boz Burrell remain, like the Stones' Watts and Wyman, in the background doing a standout job. Slower cuts seem to work best for the most part, with Rodgers' voice seemingly better suited for a ballad format. Slower cuts also show Ralphs to be a better guitarist than most think. Some variety also heard on slower songs, and singles in this direction could prove successful. Harmonies also show through on slower cuts. Lyrics are not always great, but they are often hardly noticed in the instrumental barrage of the rockers. Listen for touches of "Bad Company" and "Seagull" in the easy-tempo material. Best cuts: "Simple Man," "Silver, Blue & Gold," "Do Right By Your Woman," "Sweet Lil' Sister" (sounds like a hit single), "Fade Away."

- Billboard, 1976.

Almost imperceptibly, album by album, they soften their Free-derived formulism -- not only does this one include ten (why, that's almost eleven!) different tunes, but the dynamics shift and the tempos accelerate slightly and Paul Rodgers actually sounds a little soulful. Which needless to say is a mixed blessing. It's not just that the lyrics are dumb, although there are smarter ways of being dumb than this, but that Rodgers emotes these egregious hip-and-funky clichés as if he's never run across such sentiments before in his life. Ordinarily, that's what a (soulful) singer should do. This time, though, it adds a false note that endangers the entire illusion. B-

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

By this, their third album, it was becoming increasingly clear that Bad Company's music was a formula, and an unusually restrictive one. (They did try adding strings on the title track, which is one of the rewrites of the song "Bad Company.") With the band touring the world and momentum on their side, Run With The Pack shot up the charts, too, but it didn't get quite as high or stay quite as long as its predecessors, mostly because of the lack of really memorable material -- the biggest single was a cover of The Coasters' hit "Young Blood." * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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