BAD COMPANY: RUN WITH THE PACK (1976)
1) Live For The Music; 2) Simple Man; 3) Honey Child; 4) Love Me Somebody; 5) Run With The Pack; 6) Silver, Blue & Gold; 7) Young Blood; 8) Do Right By Your Woman; 9) Sweet Lil' Sister; 10) Fade Away.
Bad Company established the general style. Straight Shooter provided the vector — milk the formula until the udder runs dry. Run With The Pack gave a clear overview of how much milk there was in the first place: barely enough to fill two albums, certainly not enough to fill three, unless one is ready to mix milk with other, less appetizing, bodily substances.
The most telling thing about the whole project is that they couldn't even settle on an original composition for a lead single: the final choice fell on a cover of Leiber/Stoller's ʽYoung Bloodʼ, a twenty-year old Coasters chestnut already interpreted by plenty of people. For a questionable, but audacious «theatrical» interpretation, check out Leon Russell's performance on George Harrison's Concert For Bangla Desh. The song is essentially a lyrical joke that does not work at all if there is no «rock theater bit» included (deep bass on "you better leave my daughter alone...", etc.) — how was it at all possible for these guys not to understand that? Rodgers just sings the song, Ralphs just plays the guitar melody — no interesting twirls, not even a goshdarn solo.
Of course, once you have listened to all the other songs, the faceless cover of ʽYoung Bloodʼ might no longer seem all that faceless. The band is at a genuine loss for vocal or instrumental hooks. The songs are so amazingly generic, repetitive, monotonous, simplistic, that it is hard to believe this was not the band's intention — if you ask me, I'd suggest that Run With The Pack was planned as a «super-simple» record, with all of its songs written, rehearsed, and recorded during one 24-hour session, just because I do not want to think that badly of the people responsible for it: they are all experienced and respectable musicians, after all.
One thing that would agree very well with this hypothesis is that the lyrics on most of the songs aren't even laughable, because there ain't much to laugh at. ʽSimple Manʼ (what a surprising title!) repeats almost the exact same verse/chorus sequence three times in a row, and that verse? "I am just a simple man, working on the land / Oh, it ain't easy / I am just a simple man, working with my hands / Oh, believe me". Is this supposed to imitate the aura of a salt-of-the-earth folk song? When was the last time these guys actually consulted any real lyrics of well-known folk songs? ʽHoney Childʼ: "Well the first time that I met you, you were only seventeen / But I had to put you down, 'cause I didn't know where you'd been". Nice start, Mr. Rodgers. ʽLove Me Somebodyʼ: "Love me somebody, somebody love me / Take me for what I'm worth / But only love me, but only love me". What is this, 1962? The age of Merseybeat? If so, how come this is sung within the framework of a James Taylor-type ballad?
Top prize goes to: "Give me silver, blue and gold / The colour of the sky I'm told". I could somehow get used to «silver, blue and gold» as the colour of the sky (as highly debatable as that is), but there is something about this I'm told, clearly just stuffed in at the last moment to make it rhyme, that irritates me to no end. Yes, it is true that even after the Bob Dylan revolution lyrics are not necessarily supposed to be paid attention to within a rock song. But if the main strength of your band stems from the soulful vocals of your frontman, it is your patriotic duty to fill up these vocals with something at least a little bit above primitive, clumsily stated trivialities. Why even watch Spinal Tap, when you have the real thing going on here?
Now if you really, really, really like the two first Bad Company albums, you might still want to check out the third one. ʽLive For The Musicʼ is at least a real groove-based hard rocker, with a properly enflamed solo and an oddly proto-disco-shaped bassline. ʽHoney Childʼ, were it taken tongue-in-cheek rather than seriously, could have fit in on one of the early ZZ Top records, with its creaky Billy Gibbons-type guitar tone. The chorus of ʽSilver...ʼ, despite the atrocious lyrics, is the album's only moment of attractive guitar pop charm, and there is some simple, but melodic slide guitar and mandolin (I think?) work to make it stand out from the rest. And Rodgers' vocal parts on the formulaically «dark» ʽFade Awayʼ still have that fatalist ring. Just forget everything your mama — or your teacher — ever taught you about the English language, and you'll be fine.
That said, for each single «nice» moment there will be at least two crimes against taste. Do you, do you, do you, do you wanna waltz and waltz and waltz to the endless mantra of "do right by your woman, she'll do right by you"? Do you want to learn how many different shades of emotion can be concealed within the syntactically uncomfortable construction "but only love me" if it is repeated six times in a row? Do you want to sit through three and a half minutes of the limp-rock blandness of the title track just to hear the band's latest and greatest innovation: a heavy strings-enhanced arrangement for the coda? I know I don't, and, in accordance with the principle of «do right by your readers, they'll do right by you», Run With The Pack receives a certified thumbs down from the bottom of my heart, provided the heart can have thumbs at all. Granted, there is at least some ground for redemption here. The next several years would flood it altogether.
Check "Run With The Pack" (MP3) on Amazon