Wednesday, 6 April 2016

"Bad Co." by BAD COMPANY (2015 Swan Song/Rhino 'Deluxe Edition' 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Yeah That’s The One!"

Rhino used to be a force in the reissue world – a label genuinely worth getting excited about. Then they seemed to lose the WEA contract that gave them so many superb reissue sets and for the last decade have treaded water with reissues of 'what they can do'. But since their excellent multiple issue of Van Morrison's "Moondance" and the equally brilliant Captain Beefheart 4CD Box Set "Sun Zoom Spark" – they’re back. This time we get two superb 2015 2CD 'Deluxe Editions' of classic rock gems from the Free/Mott The Hoople offshoot band BAD COMPANY - their "Bad Co." debut from 1974 and the equally brill follow-up "Straight Shooter" from 1975. And both are hoisted up by their tight pants with genuinely exciting Remasters and lots of Previously Unreleased outtakes actually worth owning. Here are the bad boy details…

UK released April 2015 – "Bad Co." by BAD COMPANY on Swan Song/Rhino 081227955540 (Barcode is the same number) is a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Remaster and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (34:58 minutes):
1. Can't Get Enough
2. Rock Steady
3. Ready For Love
4. Don't Let Me Down
5. Bad Company [Side 2]
6. The Way I Choose
7. Movin' On
8. Seagull
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut LP "Bad. Co." – released June 1974 in the UK on Island ILPS 9279 and Swan Song SS 8410. It went to No. 3 in the UK and No. 1 in the USA.

Disc 2 (61:49 minutes):
1. Can't Get Enough (Take 8)
2. Little Miss Fortune (Demo Reel 1)
3. The Way I Choose (Demo Reel 1)
4. Bad Company (Session Reel 2)
5. The Way I Choose (Version 1 including False Start)
6. Easy On My Soul (Long Version)
7. Bad Company (Session Reel 8, Take 2)
8. Studio Chat/Dialogue
9. Superstar Woman (Long Version)
10. Can't Get Enough (7" Single Edit) (Non-Album Version - UK 7" single released May 1974 on Island WIP 6191)
11. Little Miss Fortune (Non-Album B-side to "Can't Get Enough" - UK 7" single released May 1974 on Island WIP 6191)
12. Easy On My Soul (Non-album B-side to "Movin' On" - US 7" single released January 1975 on Swan Song SS-70101)
13. Can't Get Enough (Hammond Version)
NOTES: all tracks on Disc 2 are Previously Unreleased except 10, 11 and 12 that first appeared in March 1999 on the 2CD set "The 'Original' Bad Co. Anthology" on Elektra.

The 20-page booklet is excellent – liner notes from Free expert DAVID CLAYTON that fill in all the blanks about Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke from Free, Mick Ralphs from Mott The Hoople and Boz Burrell from King Crimson. The two-page centrespread features trade adverts for the album's launch, the UK debut single "Can't Get Enough" and 1974 British tour dates. There's Spanish, Dutch, French, German and Japanese pictures sleeves for "Can't Get Enough" (all different) as well as the US debut 45 "Movin' On" on Swan Song. The British inner gatefold of Hipgnosis photos (live shots with their names beneath) and American inner gatefold artwork (a head shot of the band – no names) are featured on Pages 2 and 3 and Pages 18 and 19 respectively (they differed). There are song-by-song explanations of the 13 Bonus Tracks - 10 are Previously Unissued outtakes – the other three non-album B-sides that first showed on CD in 1999. The potted history goes into meeting Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant, how the band's seeds were sown as early as 1971, their conquering on America right from the outset. Even the see-through CD trays have master tapes beneath them and the flaps are covered in cool memorabilia. It's very tastefully done…

JON ASTLEY has handled the Remasters and RICHARD DIGBY SMITH the mixes from for Disc 2 (done at Close To The Edge in November 2014). They’ve had access to the original multi-track production tapes and does it show – always a slightly odd sounding album – like it could have been better – here we get real muscle and power. Tracks like "Rock Steady" is startling and the utterly infectious - "Movin' On" is the same.

The album opens with a total winner and obvious single "Can't Get Enough" – it made 15 in the UK but like the album went top five with a bullet in the USA (no 1 on Cashbox's chart). In fact as the liner notes state – five of the eight tracks here still get played on American FM – "Rock Steady", "Bad Company" and "Movin' On" being amongst them. The "Ready For Love" track has huge punch now and Rodgers plays all instruments on "Seagull". Mel Collins plays Saxophone on "The Way I Choose" while 60ts gals Sue and Sunny provide backing vocals to the hurting "Don't Let Me Down". Mick Ralph's axework throughout all eight numbers is the business – economic and to the point (he adds  keyboard work to "Ready For Love") while Rodgers has one of the best voices in the business and that rhythm section gels like a well-oiled machine. What a winner for a raw debut LP – and 1975's "Straight Shooter" was even better in my book...

You get a true sense of what a great band they were from Track 1 of Disc 2 – a rollicking Take 8 of "Can't Get Enough" that has wicked studio chatter and a slightly different vocal to the finished item (this is thrilling stuff and feels like a real discovery). The demo reel of the B-side "Little Miss Fortune" is an early version and is therefore only o.k. – a band searching for something but not quite there yet. Still when you hear the finished article (Track 11 on Disc 2) – you realise how much they polished that thing to make it swing (very impressive). I actually prefer the Demo Reel 1 of "The Way I Choose" which extends the polished album cut from 5:06 to 6:40 minutes. There's just something more soulful in its raw delivery – his simply vocals and those wicked guitars give it a mini epic feel. Mick Ralphs also gets to solo more as it fades out which is tremendous stuff (someone excitedly shouts "...that was great man!" at the end of the take).

"Bad Company" from Session Reel 2 features more piano up front and again I can't stop playing the sucker over the LP cut. FREE fans will know "Easy On My Soul" from their last studio album "Heartbreaker" when it first appeared on Side 2 in late 1972 (another great Paul Rodgers song). Here we get a thrilling Bad Co 'long version' of the single B-side version recorded during the "Straight Shooter" sessions in November 1974 (it's the flip of the second single "Movin' On"). Because it stretches to 6:15 minutes as opposed to the single version at 4:41 minutes (single version is Track 12) – Rodgers gets to vamp it up with his vocals. What's also noticeable is the huge improvement in sound quality that came with the 'Shooter' sessions – this thing sounds amazing. That melodic change where he sings "...I want to tell you my story…I want to tell you I’m flying…" is just so damn good and Ralphs plays a guitar blinder on it (this outtake is undoubtedly a real highlight on here). "Bad Company" is Take 2 and with the next version being the one used for the album – the band is in full swing – and at 5:33 minutes swaggers along in that sexy Bad Co way. "Studio Chat/Dialogue" clocks in at just 23 seconds and is a discussion about high-hats and dogs!

"Superstar Woman" originally appeared as a Previously Unreleased album outtake (recorded Nov 1973) on the 1999 2CD Set "The 'Original' Bad Co Anthology" on Elektra Records. That version was cut to fit - here we get the unedited 'Long Version' at 6:11 minutes. It has a duet vocal between Rodgers and Ralphs in portions and is another winner. The 7" single edit of "Can't Get Enough" cuts the LP version down from 4:15 to 3:30 minutes with an early fade. It was issued May 1974 in the UK on Island WIP 6191 and on Swan Song SS-70015 in the USA - announcing the album with a ballsy kick. Both "Little Miss Fortune" and "Easy On My Soul" are non-album B-sides ("Easy On My Soul" was the flip of "Movin' On" in the USA on Swan Song SS 70101) and easily as good as anything on the album – and in my not so humble opinion actually better (they sound brill too). It ends on a great curio – a Hammond Organ version of "Can't Get Enough" which runs to 4:41 minutes. They've taken the final album master and mixed in a Hammond Organ into the background for our delectation (mostly to the right of the speakers) and I'm digging it big time.

"...Yeah that's the one..." – Bad Company are heard to shout at the end of that 'Hammond Organ' version of "Can’t Get Enough" on Disc 2. Too damn right. Along with "Straight Shooter" (see separate review) – these are the best Rhino Deluxe Editions I've had the pleasure of hearing in years. Way to go boys…and more please...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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