Bad Company – Remasters (review)

Bad Company – Remasters (Rhino Entertainment) review

The first band signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label gets the deluxe edition treatment

“Some gigantic moments in that one”

Those words were uttered after a searing alternate version of “Bad Company,” included on the bonus disc of the band’s remastered debut album – part of a new reissue series from Rhino Records, which also includes their second release, Straight Shooter.  Each set includes the original album, plus a second disc of alternates and outtakes.

“Gigantic” can certainly describe the expectations placed on this supergroup, made up of former members of Free, Mott the Hoople and King Crimson, when they first agreed to sign with Led Zeppelin’s own Swan Song record label.   Yet, the band delivered, and actually defied critics, quickly becoming one of the biggest live acts in the world.

Bad Company (the band and the album) arrived in 1974.  Despite the Zeppelin connection, the group didn’t share the adventurous spirit of their label owner.  Instead, their goal was no-frills rock n’ roll with a blues grit.  Very few debuts are as solid as this.  It’s that scaled-back, no-bones approach that keeps songs like “Can’t Get Enough” and “Rock Steady” in heavy rotation on classic rock stations around the country.  Yet, it was their moodier tracks, like “Ready For Love” and “Bad Company” that showed off the band’s versatility and soulful side.  “Seagull” is a stripped-down song that deserves more credit.

The bonus material from their debut is fantastic. There are two versions of “Can’t Get Enough” – one features a Hammond organ which was left out of the finished version, while another was actually recorded after the album was released, but shows just how tight the band had become live.  Two b-sides, the soulful wordplay “Little Miss Fortune” and the gritty rocker “Easy on My Soul,” are other standouts.

The first two tracks on their followup, Straight Shooter, reveal the band’s depth: “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” is one of the hardest numbers the group ever committed to tape, while “Feel Like Makin’ Love” may very well be the first power ballad, laying the groundwork for everything from “Beth” to “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

Not content to simply repeat their first release, Straight Shooter contains some different elements – from the strings on “Weep No More” to the clever piano line in “Call on Me” – this is Bad Company enriching their sound.  The other real standout is “Shooting Star” – a tale of a musician’s rise to stardom and eventual untimely passing – it would prove prophetic when Rodgers’ former Free bandmate Paul Kossoff died just a year after the song’s release.

The bonus tracks from Straight Shooter are highlighted by an alternate of “Feel Like Makin’ Love” featuring an interesting harmonica solo.  It’s fun to hear the band hammer some of their biggest songs into shape, live in the studio.  Two previously unreleased tracks, “See the Sunlight” and “All Night Long,” are really quite good; the former contains a guitar run through a Leslie speaker, while the latter is similar to “Movin’ On” from their debut – but both are nice additions to the Bad Company cannon.

Both sets are fleshed out by nice booklets containing photos and in-depth liner notes from Free aficionado David Clayton.

Unlike the Zeppelin bonus material, which was fairly unimpressive, the alternates and outtakes from the Bad Company reissues are quite revealing and beg to be played again and again.  Few bands have ever equalled the one-two punch of Bad Company and Straight Shooter.  These are the definitive versions of these great albums.  —Tony Peters