CLASSIC ALBUM: BAD COMPANY-STRAIGHT SHOOTER.

Classic Album Bad Company-Straight Shooter.

Just a year after supergroup Bad Company was formed, they were already one of the biggest bands in Britain, and their eponymous debut album was well on its way to selling five million copies in America alone. Bad Company  reached number one in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum five times over. In Britain, Bad Company reached number three, and was certified gold.  For Paul Rodger, Simon Kirke, Mick Ralphs and Boz Burrell their lives were transformed.

That was despite each of the four members of Bad Company having already  been members of successful bands. Vocalist Paul Rodger and drummer Simon Kirke were previously, members of Free while guitarist Mick Ralphs and bassist Boz Burrell had been members of Mott The Hoople. While Free and Mott The Hoople were commercially successful, the success that Bad Company was enjoying would surpass this. 

From their 1974 debut album Bad Company, right through to 1979s Desolation Angels, Bad Company were one of the biggest selling bands on both sides of the Atlantic. Their first five albums sold an estimated 13.8 million albums in America and Britain alone. It seemed that Bad Company could do wrong. That proved to be the case when Bad Company released their sophomore album Straight Shooter and pickuped where they left off on their eponymous debut album.

Given the commercial success of Bad Company the band’s record company Swan Song and manager Peter Grant were keen to strike while the iron was hot. They decided that Bad Company should return to the studio as soon as possible. So, in September 1974, Bad Company found themselves back in the studio.

Recording of Straight Shooter, Bad Company’s sophomore album was scheduled to begin at Clearwell Castle, Gloucestershire, England, in September 1974. That’s where Bad Company began recording eight new songs, written  by the four band members. 

For Straight Shooter, Paul Rogers penned Shooting Star and Call On Me and he also cowrote Feel Like Makin’ Love, Deal With The Preacher and Wild Fire Woman with Mick Ralphs. He also contributed Good Lovin’ Gone Bad, while Simon Kirke penned Weep No More and Anna. These eight tracks became Straight Shooter.

At Clearwell Castle, the band began work in September 1974. Bad Company’s rhythm section of drummer Simon Kirke  and bassist Boz Burrell were joined by Mick Ralphs on guitar and keyboards. Lead vocalist Paul Rodger played guitar and piano. Bad Company worked quickly, recording and producing Straight Shooter’s eight songs during September 1974. They also recorded Whisky Bottle, which became the B-Side of Good Lovin’ Gone Bad which was another Paul Rogers and Mick Ralphs composition. Once these tracks were recorded, recording engineer Ron Nevison mixed Straight Shooter.

Mixing of Straight Shooter took place during December 1974. Ron Nevison mixed Straight Shooter at Air Studios in London. While this was happening, Straight Shooter’s iconic cover was being designed.

London based art design group Hipgnosis was chosen to design Straight Shooter’s cover. They had already designed legendary covers for Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, The Alan Parsons Project, Electric Light Orchestra, Al Stewart and T-Rex. Bad Company were Hipgnosis’ latest high profile client. For Straight Shooter, Hipgnosis pulled out all the stops and Straight Shooter’s iconic “rolling dice” cover, would become a classic album cover. It was a cover befitting a classic rock album. The question was, had Bad Company just recorded their second classic album? Bad Company held their breath until the critics delivered their verdict.

Review copies of Straight Shooter were sent out to critics and after they had time to digest Bad Company’s sophomore album, it was time for the critics to deliver their verdict. Unusually, there was no consensus. Different critics responded differently to Straight Shooter. Some thought that Straight Shooter as a much better album than Bad Company.  Partly, this was because, the members of Bad Company maturing as songwriters. However, one thing that divided critics was how to describe Straight Shooter?

Many people, including music critics, described Bad Company as a hard rock group. However  other critics weren’t convinced and felt that Straight Shooter wasn’t heavy enough to be described as a hard rock album. Their reasoning was that Paul Rodger’s voice wasn’t strong enough and that the music didn’t have a hard enough sound. Other critics cited the ballads Shooting Star and Feel Like Makin’ Love as proof. Surely, a hard rock band they argued didn’t sing ballads? Bad Company did, and this proved a successful formula.

Good Lovin’ Gone Bad was chosen as the lead single from Straight Shooter. When it was released in March 1975 it only reached number thirty-six in the US Billboard 100. This was a disappointment for Bad Company as greater things had been forecast for Good Lovin’ Gone Bad. However, this proved to be teething problems for Bad Company.

When Straight Shooter was released on April 2nd 1975, it reached number three in Britain, Canada and the US Billboard 200 charts. Straight Shooter was certified gold in Britain and Canada. In America, Straight Shooter sold over three million albums and was certified triple platinum. Bad Company were now one of the biggest rock bands in the world. It seemed they could do no wrong. 

Feel Like Makin’ Love was released in July 1975, and became the second single to be released from Straight Shooter. It reached number twenty in Britain and number ten in the US Billboard 100. Bad Company, like Led Zeppelin before them, were more popular in America than their home country, Britain. That had been the case with their eponymous debut album, Bad Company, and was the case with Straight Shooter.

Good Lovin’ Bad opens Straight Shooter and straight away, Bad Company kick loose and return to their hard rocking best. The thunderous rhythm section of drummer Simon Kirke and bassist Boz Burrell kick loose are joined by Mick Ralphs’ blistering, searing guitars. Soon, Paul Rodger delivers a powerhouse of a vocal. How anyone could question how he lacks the power to front a hard rock band seems incredible. He hollers and struts his way through the lyrics revelling in the line: “baby I’m a bad man.” Behind him a glorious wall of sound unfolds, providing the backdrop to a hard rock vocal masterclass.

Just a chiming guitar opens Feel Like Makin’ Love, where Bad Company through a curveball. The guitar is joined by a  tender, needy vocal as Paul Rodger sings: “when I think about you, I think about love.” Meanwhile, the three part harmonies and an understated rhythm section accompany Paul. However, this proves to be no ordinary ballad. Crunchy, rocky,  guitars are briefly unleashed. Mostly, though Bad Company show their sensitive side on what’s a beautiful ballad.

A guitar ascends the arrangement to Weep No More, climbing above the swathes of lush, cascading string and braying horns. Soon, the rhythm section and  a tack  piano sets the scene for Paul Rodger’s vocal. By now, the arrangement is heading in the direction of blues rock. Flourishes of piano, washes of Hammond organ and  the guitar see to that. Soon, swathes of strings almost dance in delight as Paul Rodger sings of his imminent homecoming.

Shooting Star is another of Straight Shooter’s ballads and tells the story of a rock star who lived fast and died young. Inspiration for the song came from the lives of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. There’s several similarities to Feel Like Makin’ Love. Again an acoustic guitar is used extensively. Then there’s the use of three part harmonies. The other similarity is how Bad Company veer between their rocky and understated sounds. This proves a winning combination. Especially, with guitarist Mick Ralphs unleashing some of his best licks. Everything is in place for Bad Company’s timeless homage to the three members of the twenty-seven club.

Deal With The Preacher sees Bad Company kick loose from the opening bars and they’re at their heaviest. Machine gun guitars accompany hypnotic drums and a probing bass as Paul Rodger delivers another strutting, swaggering vocals. It can only be described as a powerhouse, complete with whoops and hollers. Guitarist Mick Ralphs delivers some blistering licks which are among his best  on Straight Shooter. The same can be said of Deal With The Preacher which is a stunning slice of classic seventies rock allows Bad Company to showcase their considerable skills.  

Bad Company drop the tempo on Wild Fire Woman and reign in the power slightly. Still drummer Simon Kirke and bassist Boz Burrell provide the heartbeat. Guitarist Mick Ralphs fires off rocky licks and when Paul Rodger’s vocal enters, his lived-in vocal is a bit more understated. Washes of Hammond organ and blistering guitars accompany his vocal. Before long, he kicks loose, and combines power and passion as the rest of Bad Company match him every step of the way. When his vocal drops out at the bridge, the rest of Bad Company jam. This inspires him to return with another of his trademark vocal powerhouses as he vamps his way though the track to its rocky crescendo.

Anna was one of the tracks that divided the opinion of critics and forty-five years later that seems somewhat unjust. It’s a soul baring ballad where once again, Bad Company show their sensitive side. Paul Rodger’s emotive, heartfelt vocal takes centre-stage while the rest of Bad Company drop the tempo and play within themselves as the rhythm section, guitar and Hammond organ frames the needy, soul-baring vocal.

Call On Me closes Straight Shooter.  A piano and washes of panned guitar set the scene for Paul Rodger’s vocal and soon, the rhythm section and harmonies are added to this ballad. Again, Bad Company play within themselves. When  a guitar solo replaces the vocal Mick Ralphs doesn’t unleash a blistering solo. It’s as if Bad Company were keen to keep the volume consistent throughout on this underrated ballad,

For Bad Company, it was never going to be easy following up their 1974 eponymous debut album which was one of the biggest selling albums of 1974. It transformed Bad Company into one of the biggest British rock bands of the seventies. 

The former members of Free and Mott The Hoople had only formed Bad Company a year earlier, and then signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label. Led Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant, became Bad Company’s manager. He was the perfect man to guide Bad Company’s career and advised Bad Company to get back in the studio straight away, That was why in September 1974, Bad Company recorded their sophomore album Straight Shooter. It was released in April 1975, just ten months after their debut album, Bad Company.

On its release, Straight Shooter divided opinion. There was no consensus. Some critics argued that Straight Shooter was a better album while others argued that it wasn’t a hard rock album. That is partly true. Straight Shooter features a trio of ballads which  shows a very different side to Bad Company. They’re no longer the hard rocking swaggering rock band and instead show their sensitive side. Then on Call on Me, Bad Company reign in their hard rock sound and produce an A.O.R. sounding track. The rest of Straight Shooter finds Bad Company unleashing their hard rock sound. It’s Bad Company in full flow and that was and still is a glorious sound.

Forty-five years after Straight Shooter  was released the album sounds as good as it did back in 1975.  It’s an album that has aged well and has stood the test of time. Straight Shooter could be called a timeless rock album. It was certainly hugely successful.

Eventually, Straight Shooter sold over three million copies in America alone. Across the world, Bad Company, the latest British supergroup were enjoying critical acclaim and commercial success with Straight Shooter, the second classic album of their career. For five years and five albums Bad Company could do no wrong and this musical behemoth sold over fourteen million albums and released two classic albums, including 1975s Straight Shooter.

Classic Album Bad Company-Straight Shooter.

 

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