Tuesday, 25 August 2015

"Straight Shooter" by BAD COMPANY (2015 Rhino/Swan Song 'Deluxe Edition' 2CD Set – Jon Astley and Richard Digby Smith Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Shooting Star..."

There can't be many FREE and BAD COMPANY fans the worldwide that don't look misty-eyed at the cool Hipgnosis cover art for 1975's "Straight Shooter" and feel a quickening of the pulse and parallel movement in their ever so tight leather pants (well maybe not so tight in 2015). Bad Company’s self-titled debut from 1974 and this "Straight Shooter" (their 2nd smash album on Island Records in 1975) were always going to get 'Deluxe Edition' treatment at some point - and a 40th Anniversary seems like as good a time as any. It’s just that few of us could have expected such a bonanza of properly classic 70ts Rock on Disc 2 - because this is a wickedly good 2-disc 'DE' when a lot in the last few years have felt superfluous to requirements or worse - callous cash-ins. Here are the loaded dices...

UK released April 2015 – "Straight Shooter: Deluxe Edition" on Rhino/Swan Song 081227955533 (Barcode is the same) is a 2CD set and breaks down as follows:

CD 1 – Original Album (2015 Remaster) – 38:49 minutes:
1. Good Lovin' Gone Bad
2. Feel Like Makin’ Love
3. Weep No More
4. Shooting Star
5. Deal With The Preacher [Side 2]
6. Wild Fire Woman
7. Anna
8. Call On Me
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 2nd studio album "Straight Shooter" – released April 1975 in the UK on Island ILPS 9304 and in the USA on Swan Song SS 8413. It peaked at No. 3 on both charts.

CD 2 – Bonus Tracks: Alternate Takes & Unreleased Songs – 68:48 minutes:
1. Good Lovin' Gone Bad (Alternate Vocal & Guitar)
2. Feel Like Makin' Love (Take Before Master)
3. Weep No More (Early Slow Version)
4. Shooting Star (Alternate Take)
5. Deal With The Preacher (Early Version)
6. Anna (Alternate Vocal)
7. Call On Me (Alternate Take)
8. Easy On My Soul (Slow Version)
9. Whisky Bottle (Early Piano Version)
10. See The Sunlight (Previously Unreleased Song)
11. All Night Long (Previously Unreleased Song)
12. Wild Fire Woman (Alternate Vocal & Guitar)
13. Feel Like Makin' Love (Harmonica Version)
14. Whisky Bottle – non-album track, B-side to "Good Lovin' Gone Bad' released as a 7" single in March 1975 on Island WIP 6223 in the UK and Swan Song SS-70103 in the USA

A clever touch in the foldout Deluxe Edition digipak is the photos adorning the inner flaps (they were on the inner sleeves of the original LPs). The leaning over the crap-table photo with the band dressed up in duds was taken by Aubrey Powell – but for some reason the US and UK inners had slight differences. The one used on the left flap of the digipak is the American version where Simon Kirke (on the far left) has just flung the two dices and they’re caught in mid air – the right flap has the UK variant where the dices have settled on the table (both showing sixes). What's also noticeable is that terrible photo of their posteriors that was on the other side of the LP inner sleeve is AWOL completely (someone clearly wants to forget that photo). The other inner flaps show master tape boxes and both CDs sport the Swan Song logos. The 20-page booklet is superbly laid out with new liner notes from band expert DAVID CLAYTON (author of "Heavy Load: The Story Of Free") and wonderful repros of French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian and Yugoslavian singles in rare Picture Sleeves (as well as other relevant memorabilia). Clayton (who coordinated and compiled the release) discusses the album's making and better still – gives a song-by-song breakdown of the Alternates so you know their musical history. Very tastefully done...

JON ASTLEY did the Remaster for the album at Close To The Edge Studios in the UK from the original production tapes - while RICHARD DIGBY SMITH did the Alternates and Bonuses on Disc 2 (mixed from the original multi-tracks). GEORGE MARINO did the original Remaster in 1994 and bluntly it's hard at times to hear the difference except that the Rhythm Section is clearer – a subtle warmth to the Bass and clarity to the Drums. What you can't mistake is the sheer power of the original RON NEVISON Production - this album sounds amazing - and Rocks for all the right reasons. Those who haven't heard it before on CD will be in for a treat...

Featuring Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke of Free on Vocals and Drums, Boz Burrell of King Crimson on Bass and Mick Ralphs from Mott The Hoople on Guitar - BAD COMPANY was virtually a Rock Supergroup right from the get go (apparently they took their name from a 1972 Jeff Bridges film). "Straight Shooter" is short as an album but oh so sweet (probably their best record). To tempt the market a month before the LP’s release Island Records put out the kick-ass "Good Lovin' Gone Bad" in March 1975 as a 7" single with the non-LP "Whisky Bottle" on its flip. It rose to a respectable 31 in the UK - but for such a Mick Ralphs winner you would have expected a better position. When the album turned up in April 1975 and the public realised how good it 'all' was – it sold in truckloads and leapt up to No. 3 on both sides of the pond. And with killer ballads like "Weep No More", "Anna" and the epic boy-does-good-then-dies storytelling of "Shooting Star" – somehow the lyrics of this song alone echoed the British band's fortunes. They were indeed ‘shooting stars’ – suddenly Bad Company had became huge. And being on the same label as Led Zeppelin in the States (Swan Song) and having the same maverick manager (Peter Grant) – helped proceedings too. By the time the sexy Rock Riffage of "Feel Like Makin' Love" hit the streets in August 1975 on island WIP 6242 – fans were digging the blistering axework of Side's 2 "Deal With The Preacher" and the funky swagger of “Wild Fire Woman" – as catchy a tune as Paul Rodgers and Mick Ralphs have ever penned. And the whole shebang sounds rip-roaring. But then you're hit with a genuine shock – nearly 70 minute of unreleased goodies on Disc 2...

CD2 - what's noticeable (and I'm sure this has been picked by many fans) is just how like FREE Bad Company sounded in rehearsal rather than the slick Rock machine of "Straight Shooter". There's a thrilling roughness and loose feel to these outtakes that makes you think you’re eavesdropping on a band recording greatness. Even though the earlier version of "Deal With The Preacher" (March 1973) lacks the magnificent riffage of the finished 1975 version – there's a gorgeous keyboard break and you can hear the amazing rhythm section of Burrell and Kirke for real this time. Simon Kirke's "Anna" has always been a pretty song – but here on the Alternate Vocal version Paul Rodgers gives it a really Soulful go and makes you appreciate what a great singer and interpreter he is (still sounds and looks great). Rodgers also keeps the keyboards going on a very rough version of "Call On Me" – the worst recorded of the lot.

Fans will know that Paul Rodgers' "Easy On My Soul" is a FREE track that turned up on their 6th album "Heartbreaker" in 1973. Here Bad Co. gives the songs a 'live-in-the-studio' spruce up and you can hear why – there's great stuff going on in the song as it boogies funkily along (I'm loving this outtake the most). We then get a barroom brawl version of that wicked B-side "Whisky Bottle" which was apparently marked as a master but never used (I'm glad – I think the version they did use is far better). That's not to say this take isn't worthy - it is. Here we get a Snafu/Micky Moody type slide guitar from Mick Ralphs and its properly great. Its at this point that things really take off with the inclusion of two new songs left in the can for 40 years – "See The Sunlight" and "All Night Long" – and both are fabulous. For "See The Sunlight" Ralph cranks up the boogie through those Island Studios Leslie Speakers and at times it feels like really good Foghat with Paul Rodgers on the mike. It's surmised that "All Night Long" sounded too much like "Movin' On" from the 1974 debut LP - but actually it feels like a lesser version of “Good Lovin' Gone Bad" to me – but in a really good way.

How cool is to hear one of the album’s hero tracks "Wild Fire Woman" in Alternate Form – here it features both different vocals and guitars and is just brilliant (you can hear the band cooking). It cleverly ends on a lethal double-whammy – a Harmonica Version of "Feel Like Makin' Love" and the finished mix of the kicking B-side "Whisky Woman". Then we get broadsided. Originally used on a short Promo Film of the band doing the single – the Alternate "Feel Like Makin' Love" has all the huge Production values of the finished article but different Vocal passages and at 2:46 - suddenly a lonesome cowboy Harmonica comes sailing in making Bad Co. sound like "Jailbreak" Thin Lizzy a year before the 1976 event. All the huge guitars are there and more – Ralphs letting it rip towards the end – and it even has a little Zeppelin "Physical Graffiti" mellow guitar moment as it fades out - wow - what a total winner this is. The released version of the rare "Whisky Bottle" B-side only cements this DE’s 5-star status.

Their following albums "Run With The Pack" (1976), "Burnin' Sky" (1977) and "Desolation Angels" (1979) somehow all fell way short of the opening salvo of "Bad Co." in 1974 and its best buddy "Straight Shooter" in 1975. But this 'Deluxe Edition' finally reminds us why we loved them in the first place...and how. No fallen angels here...

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