Sunday, 3 February 2019

Straight Shooter - Bad Company

Provenance: This dates back to the time when I was first seriously getting into rock music. I am fairly certain my knowledge of Bad Company extended to two songs - 'Can't Get Enough' and 'Feel Like Makin' Love', the latter of which appears on Straight Shooter. As with approximately one third of Bad Company's recorded output, these songs are about makin' it with your old lady (NB: my decision to replace the 'g' in 'making' with an apostrophe is apt as this practice is rife in the Bad Company discography. It demonstrates that they place fast and loose with the rules, see).

Review: I have now reached the age where every contemporary young pop star looks the same. Every single one. And they all have names that, although ostensibly signifying plural nouns, only serve to make them sound like posh butlers from Edwardian farces. It's too much for me. I made a half-hearted attempt to keep up with the grime scene but really, I'm much more comfortable with Ghost because they wear funny masks and sound like Blue Oyster Cult.

However, you shouldn't ascribe any value judgement to what I've just said, as gazing back to the early 1970s I'm amazed anybody could tell Bad Company apart from Deep Purple, Nazareth, Foghat, Uriah Heep, Argent and the rest. It's a blur of denim, hair and yellowed teeth. Rhythm sections appeared to be about forty despite being twenty-five, sometimes people wore kaftans and overall everyone looked immensely shit. A torrid time for fashion, then, but also for music. How anybody endured the live drum / guitar / organ / theremin solos of the era is absolutely beyond me. The tolerance for interminable jamming was a gift to the myriad mediocrities of the time, their every blooz-flavoured squeak or parp given to be evidence of their musical genius.

Bad Company had the awful dress sense, the blues rock stylings and the voguish predilection for cliched guitar solos but on Straight Shooter things are kept relatively tight. The music itself is pretty unimaginative but elevated by the presence of Paul Rodgers, who is one of the great rock voices these islands have ever produced. The ease with which he shifts between gravelly aggression and blue-eyed soul cooing is demonstrated by the rollicking opener 'Good Lovin' Gone Bad' (note the apostrophe) and its neighbour 'Feel Like Makin' Love'. The latter is a rather effective country-tinged power ballad that has, (un)fortunately been irreparably damaged for me thanks to the rendition by Ned Gerblansky that appears on Chef Aid: the South Park Album.

The best song on the album is 'Weep No More', which sounds like a hangover from one of the later Free albums. Tasty string arrangements bump up against a verse driven by a jaunty piano and heartfelt singing. It's a fine rock song, which more than can be said for much of what follows. 'Shooting Star' tries to replicate the rootsy verse / power-chord chorus combination of 'Feel Like Makin' Love' but its married to a lyric that is the most maudlin crap I've come across in quite some time and carries on the fine tradition of 70s navel-gazing that witnessed a slew of bands writing about the perils and pitfalls of becoming very famous and rich. Poor babies!

About the only listenable track on side two is 'Deal With the Preacher', which, although it's about makin' it with your old lady, has enough lead in its pencil to pass muster. The guitar riff in the verse is the strongest on the whole album, pugnacious and dirty. Rodgers yelps and emotes in all the right places, making the finished article a very satisfying hard rocker indeed. Had Bad Company decided to cruise to the finish line with a few more like that I'd be inclined to review Straight Shooter more favourably.

Therefore it's a genuine disappointment that Bad Company fill the home stretch with anaemic bilge like 'Wild Fire Woman', 'Anna' and 'Call On Me'. Despite superficially sounding very different, all are infected with the same strain of 'will-this-do?'-itis. 'Wild Fire Woman' (about makin' it with your old lady) plods along without much heft or purpose. 'Anna' is insultingly poor, a torch song that contrives to sound more like a nursery rhyme than a tender paean to the track's titular subject ("I found me a simple woman..." - fucking embarrassing). 'Call On Me' commits to nothing other than being both boring and lethargic, and has no business stretching out to six minutes. Not even Rodgers can salvage these stinkers, and on 'Anna' he even sounds a bit pitchy.

As an epilogue to this I will say that I caught Paul Rodgers live at a Dutch rock festival in 2004 and he was outstanding. He both looked and sounded incredible, which is definitely not a given for many artists of his vintage. Even though the 2019 version of me can't quite discern the charms of Straight Shooter that were apparent to me in 2001, nevertheless I retain an affection both for the album and Bad Company. If you're a classic rock aficionado give it a spin, especially if you're tryin' to make it with your old lady.

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