BAD COMPANY: BURNIN' SKY (1976)
1) Burnin' Sky; 2) Morning Sun; 3) Leaving You; 4) Like Water; 5) Knapsack; 6) Everything I Need; 7) Heartbeat; 8) Peace Of Mind; 9) Passing Time; 10) Too Bad; 11) Man Needs Woman; 12) Master Of Ceremony.
Apparently, this album was recorded so quickly after Run With The Pack that they even had to delay the release a few months — so as not to let two records compete on the charts at the same time. But what am I saying? Compete? Only in terms of whichever one manages to bore the maximum shit out of you. And by now, even the fans were getting tired: Burnin' Sky peaked at #15, ten positions below Run With The Pack, and its only single of any importance (the title track) went no higher than #78. For a band that placed 100% of its faith in record sales, the sky must have been burnin' indeed.
But then again, what else do you expect from a record that allows itself to build a seven-minute long track on a four-note bass riff? ʽMaster Of Ceremonyʼ may feature plenty of absent-minded organ punching, a distraught, echoey Paul Rodgers vocal that seems to betray traces of pot, and even an occasional sax solo or two, but they are just fooling you: it is really all about the «doo-dum... doo-dum! doo-dum... doo-dum!» Nazi torture assault on your brain. Seven bleeding minutes of a pseudo-funky, pseudo-gritty pseudo-jam whose only purpose is to let you know: «Yes, we can make long improvisations that are every bit as minimalistic as our singles!»
The rest is divided more or less equally between rote, unmemorable, trivial rockers and rote, unmemorable, trivial ballads. The title track, believe it or not, is also based on a four-note riff that is nearly the equal of ʽMaster Of Ceremonyʼ, and it happens to be the hookiest thing on the whole album, with Ralphs' electronically treated solo briefly reminding the listener of the existence of such a thing as «danger». But ʽLeaving Youʼ, ʽEverything I Needʼ, ʽMan Needs Womanʼ, etc. — does anybody need to hear these songs even once? Trust me, the music inside is about as appetizing as the mega-inventive titles.
Straining my already tired mind, I can perhaps acknowledge that there is a bit of pretty acoustic picking on ʽMorning Sunʼ, and the joint effort of the phasing effect between verses and the pastoral flute interludes is enough to at least recognize the song as something on which these guys might have worked, meaning it at least creates an atmosphere (in comparison, something like ʽPeace Of Mindʼ doesn't even begin to create one — just blunders about in a mid-tempo puddle of generic country-pop pianos and electric guitars).
Come to think of it, I may be slightly downplaying the band's will for change. There is really a noticeable increase in all sorts of instrumentation that is not hard rock guitar: folksy acoustic melodies, pianos, saxes, even synthesizers (including synthesized strings). None of which helps, unfortunately, because the basic ideology and style remains the same: SMUT (Simple Music for the Undemanding Toiler). Sometimes I think that the job must have really been a hard one — the guys had so many things to unlearn about their playing, I almost feel like pitying them. However, not even this kind of pity should stay our thumbs from going down. This is an album that was born begging for a thumbs down.