Straight Shooting with Bad Company – Check Out the Punch in the Snare

More Bad Company

More Straight Shooting

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

In late 2009 we had just finished a shootout for this hard-rockin’ album, our first since January of ’08, and what we were hearing this time around BLEW OUR MINDS. This record got a whole lot better over the course of the last twenty months or so. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the drum sound on this record is the right up there with the most present, punchy and realistic I have ever heard on record. 

I saw a friend’s band play recently in a small club and remember thinking how amazingly punchy the snare sounded (the sound coming from the live instrument itself and the club’s speakers) and this record has that kind of drum sound!.

There’s nothing like live music — everybody knows that — but good copies of this album get you a whole lot closer than I ever expected to get.

It’s a classic case of We Was Wrong. Last time around we wrote “I don’t think you’ll ever find a copy of this album that qualifies as a True Demo Disc, but make no mistake: on the right pressing there’s magic in the grooves.”

We was wrong: It is a true Demo Disc. (On our system anyway. Our stereo is all about playing records like this, and playing them at good loud levels as nature — and the artists — intended.) We revamped our Top 100 List in 2011 and this sucker is now on it, right next to its older brother, the first Bad Company album.

What You Want

It’s got exactly what you want from this brand of straight ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals; solid, note-like bass; big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound that Bad Company (and Free before them) practically invented. (AC/DC is another band with that kind of live studio sound. With big speakers and the power to drive them YOU ARE THERE.)

One of the best cuts on side two is the ballad Anna, and boy does it sound good. This track will show you exactly what we mean by “live in the studio” sound. You can just tell they are all playing this one live: it’s so relaxed and natural and REAL sounding.

Turn It Up and Rock Steady!

If you’re playing this copy good and loud you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out the jams. Feel Like Makin’ Love rocks like you will not believe — shocking clarity, tons of ambience, silky sweet highs, and a grungy guitar sound that will blow you away. Who gets better tone than Mick Ralphs? Half the sound of Bad Co. is his guitar and the other half is Paul Rodgers voice. Between the two of them they rocked FM radio in the ’70s as good as any band of their time and far better than most. Check out the lineup on side one. Three out of four of those songs are serious Heavy Hitters that you probably know by heart. (If you listen to a Classic Rock station you definitely know these songs by heart.)

Cleaning

We used to think that “the biggest problem with the average copy of this record was GRIT and GRAIN, no doubt caused mostly by the bad vinyl of the day. You have to suffer through a lot of dry, flat, grainy copies in order to find one that sounds like this.”

That was not our experience this time around. Our Odyssey record cleaning machine, Walker fluids and tons of interim tweaks have taken most of that grain and grunge our of the sound of the records we played. (Uncleaned or improperly cleaned records are a major cause of Old School sound. There really is no hi-fidelity without the use of these revolutionary cleaning methods.)

Engineering

This album was one of Ron Nevison’s first big engineering jobs. He also did Bad Company’s debut, a Top 100 album for us. In 1977 he worked on the sprawling mess that turned into Physical Graffitti.

He went on to do lots of the biggest selling monster rock albums of the ’80s, but The ’80s Sound has never held much appeal for us, which is of course why you find so few recordings from that era on our site, silk purses, sow’s ears and all that.

The Making of Straight Shooter

Heartened by the response to Bad Company, the group hired Ronnie Lane’s mobile studio and had it installed at Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire, England in September 1974. “That was an interesting place to record,” states Rodgers. “Where next after Headley Grange but an old haunted castle! We had been touring very hard but we were still able to come up with the goods in the end. By comparison, we hadn’t done any touring before our first record.”

Bad Company followed up their initial success with the 1975 release of the triple-platinum album Straight Shooter which contained the Top Ten smash ballad “Feel Like Makin’ Love” which also won a Grammy Award. “I loved Straight Shooter” says Kirke. “Quite a few of the songs on that album came along during the first year of our existence. A lot of the songs on the first album had been done in 1973 before we really had started, so we were always playing catch-up with new material. We wanted to record a follow up album that really validated what we had done on Bad Company.” Other tracks form the album, such as “Shooting Star” have long since become concert and radio staples. “I remember Paul was singing a few of the verses for that song in the airport as we were going over to America to start our second tour,” remembers Kirke. “He had taken his guitar on the plane with him and was tinkering around with the song on the flight over.”

”I just started singing that lyric, ‘Johnny was a schoolboy…,’ and I was thinking, that’s a good song,” continues Rodgers. “Where had I heard that? Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t heard it anywhere before. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and wrote it all down. The song just flowed out of me. It wrote itself. I was thinking, wow, where did this come from? Since then, people have asked me who it is about including whether it’s about (former Free guitarist) Paul Kossoff. Actually, with hindsight, the song is about all of the casualties of rock music because there have been way too many.”

”Paul’s ability to come up with good lyrics have always enabled us to have rock songs with class,” says Ralphs. “I tend to write more simplistic songs, but believe me, it’s very hard to write a simple rock song on guitar that has something special without sounding ordinary.”

Eagerly anticipated by the group’s fans. Straight Shooter enjoyed international success, reaching number three on both the UK and US album charts. The ecstatic response to the album accelerated the group’s momentum and their standing as one of the most popular concert attractions in the world. “In 1975, we were able to come back and tour America as a headliner,” recalls Kirke. “It had been an amazing year.”

”There was quite a bit of pressure on us being the first artists signed to Zeppelin’s Swan Song label,” states Rodgers. “Behind the scenes, we did take the mickey out of each other mercilessly. We would stand on their side of the stage and yell ‘Rubbish!’ and the like at them. We never did shows together, but we did jam quite a bit. There was a real rapport between the two bands.”

”There is no doubt in my mind that without Peter Grant we would not have reached the level of success we achieved,” echoes Ralphs. “His clout and insights were essential to our elevated status. He was a great manager and a lovely man.” 

FROM THE BAD COMPANY WEB SITE

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Good Lovin’ Gone Bad
Feel Like Makin’ Love
Weep No More
Shooting Star

Side Two

Deal With the Preacher
Wild Fire Woman
Anna
Call on Me

AMG Review

One year after Bad Company’s multi-platinum self-titled debut, the British band returned to London to record a follow-up. Utilizing material written earlier in 1973, vocalist and songwriter Paul Rodgers wrote two acoustic-based rock ballads that would live on forever in the annals of great rock history. “Shooting Star” and the Grammy-winning “Feel Like Makin’ Love” helped Straight Shooter rise quickly through the charts to reach Billboard’s number three spot both in the U.S. and U.K.

Bad Company

One of the most acclaimed bands of the classic rock era, England’s Bad Company has put its indelible stamp on rock ‘n’ roll with a straight-ahead, no-frills musical approach that has resulted in the creation of some of the most timeless rock anthems ever.

Formed in 1973, Bad Company came to life when Rodgers was looking to start anew after the disintegration of the legendary Free. His powerhouse vocals were a main ingredient during Free’s impressive five-year run; a period of time that saw the release of seven extremely influential albums that featured Free’s minimalist blues-rock approach. Included among Free’s dynamic body of work is the 1970 smash, “All Right Now,” one of the most recognizable rock anthems ever recorded.

Rodgers had met Mott The Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs when both Mott and Free had toured together. After jamming together and listening to several new songs that Ralphs had penned, Ralphs made the decision to leave Mott and form a new band with Rodgers. The duo recruited Kirke and former King Crimson bassist/vocalist Boz Burrell and christened themselves Bad Company, the name inspired by the 1972 Robert Benton Civil War film of the same name. Hooking up with Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, Bad Company became the first band signed to Zeppelin’s Swan Song label. “I had to fight to get the management and the record company to accept the name Bad Company,” explains Rodgers. “They thought it was a terrible name. Peter Grant called a meeting and the band met beforehand. I told them that I had been through this before with Free as Island Records had wanted to call us the Heavy Metal Kids. We agreed to go in and tell them that we were going to be called Bad Company and that was the end of the story. As soon as Peter heard how strongly I felt about the name, he became very supportive and turned the record company around.”

The Debut Album from Bad Company

Bad Company was an instant hit worldwide. Their 1974 self-titled debut went platinum five times over and featured the smash hits, “Can’t Get Enough,” (a Number One single) and “Movin’ On” along with electrifying rock anthems like “Ready For Love,” “Rock Steady” and the title track. Because of their association with Grant, a unique opportunity arose for them when it came time to record that classic first album in November 1973. “We were bursting at the seams to get into the recording studio,” says Rodgers. “Led Zeppelin had a mobile studio together at Headley Grange all ready to go, but they were delayed for two weeks. Peter Grant told us that if we were quick, we could probably use the studio to lay a couple of tracks down. We steamed in and put the entire album down. Headley Grange was very atmospheric. We had the drums set up in the hallway and the guitars in the living room. We did interesting things like placing the vocal microphone way out in the fields for the song ‘Bad Company.’ We recorded that track late at night underneath a fall moon.”

The eight tracks recorded at Headley Grange clearly defined the band’s stripped-down sound.Rock, blues and even country influences were skillfully layered within songs such as the beautiful Rodgers-penned ballad “Seagull,” the straight-ahead rock of “Movin’ On” and “Rock Steady.” Also featured from those fertile sessions at Headley Grange are “Little Miss Fortune,” the brooding blues rock classic “Ready For Love” and the previously unreleased “Superstar Woman.” While “Superstar Woman” ultimately did not become part of Bad Company’s catalog, Rodgers’ belief in the song never diminished. He would eventually record a new version of the song for “Cut Loose,” his 1983 solo album.

”We were influenced by people like Jimi Hendrix, Cream, and, to a certain extent, the Beatles,” explains Rodgers. “I don’t think that Bad Company was particularly blues influenced as a band, although I probably brought that in as I’m such a huge blues fan. We were just trying to play what felt good and natural. I think that is what gave us our identity as a band.”

Taking fall benefit of Swan Song’s visibility and Grant’s press and marketing skills. Bad Company made their formal debut at Newcastle City Hall in March 1974. The rousing response they enjoyed from fans and critics in the UK propelled the group to America on a high note, brimming with confidence. “In America, we opened for Edgar Winter,” remembers Rodgers. “The response to Bad Company was overwhelming, night after night. When we started out on tour, the album had just broken into the charts. Three months later, we were at number one. We were received with open arms.”

In the United States, Bad Company’s popularity soared. While some fans had recognized Rodgers’ voice from “All Right Now,” the group’s energetic stage shows wowed audiences largely unfamiliar with the work of Free or Mott The Hoople. FM radio devoured their debut disc, ultimately working “Can’t Get Enough,” “Rock Steady,” “Bad Company,” “Ready For Love” and “Movin’ On” into regular rotation. Rodgers’ passionate, soulful vocals were reminiscent of one his idols, Otis Redding, and struck a chord with the group’s rapidly expanding fan base.

”We always tried to be natural,” says Ralphs. “We would play soul and blues favorites at rehearsals instead of learning new songs. My favorite guitarist, the man that inspired me to play, was Steve Cropper. Simon’s favorite drummer was Al Jackson and Paul loved Otis Redding’s voice. I guess we wanted to be the MG’s with Otis Redding. Basically, we played like a bar band but soon it was clear that the bars were getting very large indeed!”

With a number one album to their credit in America, Bad Company returned to London triumphant. “The end of our first tour, the four of us were summoned to Peter Grant’s suite,” remembers Kirke. “We thought we had done something wrong. We all went up to his room, coming in like toe-scuffing schoolboys. Peter said, ‘Now listen guys, it’s been a long tour and you’ve worked your asses off.’ Then he paused for dramatic effect and we thought, what the fuck have we done. He pulled back this sheet that had been on the ground and said, 1 hope there will be a lot more of these in the future.’ Our gold albums for Bad Company were there and he gave each of us a warm embrace. It was a lovely moment.”

Grant played a critical role in the group’s early success. “He spoke our language,” Kirke says simply. “He loved his artists. He made us believe in ourselves. It really helped us that he had only one other act to manage and they were the biggest band in the world.”

Straight Shooter

Heartened by the response to Bad Company, the group hired Ronnie Lane’s mobile studio and had it installed at Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire, England in September 1974. “That was an interesting place to record,” states Rodgers. “Where next after Headley Grange but an old haunted castle! We had been touring very hard but we were still able to come up with the goods in the end. By comparison, we hadn’t done any touring before our first record.”

Bad Company followed up their initial success with the 1975 release of the triple-platinum album Straight Shooter which contained the Top Ten smash ballad “Feel Like Makin’ Love” which also won a Grammy Award. “I loved Straight Shooter” says Kirke. “Quite a few of the songs on that album came along during the first year of our existence. A lot of the songs on the first album had been done in 1973 before we really had started, so we were always playing catch-up with new material. We wanted to record a follow up album that really validated what we had done on Bad Company.” Other tracks form the album, such as “Shooting Star” have long since become concert and radio staples. “I remember Paul was singing a few of the verses for that song in the airport as we were going over to America to start our second tour,” remembers Kirke. “He had taken his guitar on the plane with him and was tinkering around with the song on the flight over.”

”I just started singing that lyric, ‘Johnny was a schoolboy…,’ and I was thinking, that’s a good song,” continues Rodgers. “Where had I heard that? Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t heard it anywhere before. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and wrote it all down. The song just flowed out of me. It wrote itself. I was thinking, wow, where did this come from? Since then, people have asked me who it is about including whether it’s about (former Free guitarist) Paul Kossoff. Actually, with hindsight, the song is about all of the casualties of rock music because there have been way too many.”

”Paul’s ability to come up with good lyrics have always enabled us to have rock songs with class,” says Ralphs. “I tend to write more simplistic songs, but believe me, it’s very hard to write a simple rock song on guitar that has something special without sounding ordinary.”

Eagerly anticipated by the group’s fans. Straight Shooter enjoyed international success, reaching number three on both the UK and US album charts. The ecstatic response to the album accelerated the group’s momentum and their standing as one of the most popular concert attractions in the world. “In 1975, we were able to come back and tour America as a headliner,” recalls Kirke. “It had been an amazing year.”

”There was quite a bit of pressure on us being the first artists signed to Zeppelin’s Swan Song label,” states Rodgers. “Behind the scenes, we did take the mickey out of each other mercilessly. We would stand on their side of the stage and yell ‘Rubbish!’ and the like at them. We never did shows together, but we did jam quite a bit. There was a real rapport between the two bands.”

”There is no doubt in my mind that without Peter Grant we would not have reached the level of success we achieved,” echoes Ralphs. “His clout and insights were essential to our elevated status. He was a great manager and a lovely man.”

Run With The Pack

The wildly successful Run With The Pack in 1976 was the band’s third consecutive platinum seller, fueled by the infectious Top 20 single success of the Coasters’ classic “Youngblood.” The band met in Grasse, France in September 1975 to begin recording the album. Upon its release, it soared to number five in both the US and the UK. With three albums now to their credit, the central ingredient to the group’s remarkable success was their steady stream of first rate original material. Rodgers and Ralphs were the group’s composers. “I always thought it was important for the group to have more than one writer,” states Rodgers. “If there was any competition between us, it was always friendly.”

Coupled with the strength of the group’s songwriting was the clarity and unmistakable power of Rodgers’ voice. Rodgers moved with ease among a wide range of emotions and musical styles. “Silver, Blue & Gold” celebrated the group’s skills for ballads, highlighting a softer, more introspective vocal performance by Rodgers.

The expanded arrangement of the album’s title track effectively incorporated strings. The group had previously experimented with strings on Straight Shooter’s “Weep No More,” but Rodgers composed “Run With The Pack” with a string arrangement in mind from the outset. “I wrote that song on the piano and when I played it to the guys they fell right in,” detail Rodgers. “In my head, the strings were always a part of the song. Jimmy Horowitz came around to the studio and he was to do the scoring. Jimmy came to the session with a tape recorder in hand and while the track was playing asked me how I wanted the strings in the background. I sang the part that I had been hearing in my head and he went off and wrote it up.”

”I’ll never forget mixing the song with (engineer) Eddie Kramer,” states Ralphs. “We both had all hands on the desk and were riding about thirty six faders, trying to do a mix all in one take and get all of the parts at the right intensity. In the end, we had to do it in two bits, as it was just too much!”

Burnin’ Sky

Burnin’ Sky,with its moody and atmospheric title track, reached gold status in 1977, followed by the double-platinum wallop of Desolation Angels in March 1979. “I think we had exhausted the pool of songs by the time we did ‘Burnin’ Sky,’ admits Kirke. “That album was as good as the three that preceded it, but I’ll never forget one of the headlines in the British music press. It asked, 1s there a crack in the sky?’ Looking back, we had done the tour, album, tour, syndrome for three years and we were getting a bit tired.”

Desolation Angels

Determined to reset their course. Bad Company gathered at Ridge Farm Studios in Dorking, Surrey to record the superb Desolation Angels. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy opened the album and set the tone for what was to follow. “I remember walking into the studio and Paul was playing this huge riff on the guitar,” remembers Kirke. “He had an octave divider device on his guitar and the riff was great. We recorded the song that day.”

”I wanted to write an anthem which expressed my feelings about everything in rock ‘n’ roll,” explains Rodgers. “I wanted to cover the whole spectrum, particularly that rock ‘n’ roll was a magical illusion of colour and sound and light.”

Another of the album’s highlights was the rollicking “Oh Atlanta.” “That was Bad Company meets Little Feat,” laughs Kirke. “We always had a great time in Atlanta and I think you can hear a bit of the country influence in that song.”

The group’s affinity for country music was evident throughout Desolation Angels. The western-flavored “Evil Wind” was a noteworthy example. “‘Evil Wind’ was a strong track,” states Kirke. “That was fall of Paul’s tumbleweed-across-the-plains imagery. I think Paul was a cowboy or one of those bounty hunters in another life.”

The wide approval enjoyed by Desolation Angels reaffirmed Bad Company’s commercial status. The album spawned the gold selling classic, “Rock & Roll Fantasy,” a staple on classic rock play-lists everywhere. The band, led by the soulful vocals of the charismatic Rodgers (who is also an accomplished guitarist and keyboardist), toured the globe countless times during this period, playing to enthusiastic sellout crowds every where. But there would be a price to pay for all of this success. According to Rodgers, “at this same time there came a point when I felt the band and its commitments had completely overtaken my life. I needed to get my feet on solid ground and spend some time watching my children grow. I never left music, I left the band.” After the release of the Top 30 album Rough Diamonds in 1982, Rodgers left the band to take time off and to eventually pursue an acclaimed solo career.

”Looking back, we stopped at the right time,” recalls Ralphs. “Paul wanted a break and truthfully we all needed to stop. Bad Company had become bigger than us all and to continue would have destroyed someone or something. From a business standpoint, it was the wrong thing to do, but Paul’s instinct was absolutely right.”

FROM THE BAD COMPANY OFFICIAL WEBSITE