BAD COMPANY: STRAIGHT SHOOTER (1975)
1) Good Lovin' Gone Bad; 2) Feel Like Makin' Love; 3) Weep No More; 4) Shooting Star; 5) Deal With The Preacher; 6) Wild Fire Woman; 7) Anna; 8) Call On Me.
Progress-schmogress? The second album picks up where the first one left off, then performs a nice 360-degree curve over eight songs — why change a winning formula while the market is still hot? Straight Shooter sold just as well as the debut album, if not better, and solidified the band's reputation as providers of highest quality third-rate hard rock for the masses even further. It may be hard for some people to understand how an album as generic and trivial as Bad Company could ever have a successful sequel in the same style. But it does.
The two hit singles are not quite up to this band's highest standards: there is nothing here that repeats the subtly dangerous grumble of ʽRock Steadyʼ or the sly seductive restrain of ʽReady For Loveʼ. In fact, Rodgers is playing his cards even more in the open now: when he is not screaming his head off, he is either crooning or «narrating» (ʽShooting Starʼ), and although, technically, it all goes well, the «mystical» effect that this man's voice may sometimes produce is almost never felt on this record. Not that a lot of Bad Company fans would ever want to hunt for it, of course.
Still, ʽFeel Like Makin' Loveʼ has a strange charm to it, probably hidden in the transitional folds when the acoustic verse melody flows into the hard rock riff of the chorus (stealthily appropriated from a theme from Tommy, mind you). And the band still has a way to come across as respectably cool when you no longer expect it — midway through, the catchy, but unexceptional «semi-power ballad» becomes a psychedelic rocker, as Mick Ralphs suddenly lets fly with a series of wailing, echoey solos that most fans of the single probably wouldn't even need, as long as they could simply sing along with the chorus. Those last two minutes of the song are easily my favourite part of the album.
ʽGood Lovin' Gone Badʼ, the other big one, got itself some wildly distorted, sludgy guitar, which could indicate a movement towards «glam» territory, but not for these guys — one step forward and they could have turned into KISS. They do make sure that the lyrics are «polite», the intonations are ecstatic and emotional, but not «brutal», and the sound does not stimulate active headbanging. And the main hook is the title itself, of course: "good lovin' gone bad, yeah yeah yeah!" just sticks, and there's nothing you can do about it except shoot yourself.
But the album eventually loses momentum, just as Bad Company did. For starters, ʽShooting Starʼ is an arena-oriented anthem dedicated to the memory of «Club 27», and it does not work well beyond the verses — the verses are sung by Rodgers with a touch of emotional honesty, upon which the weak, unconvincing chorus seriously lets the song down. Ralphs repeats the ʽFeel Like Makin' Loveʼ trick with some explosive soloing at the end, but this time, there is no rock solid riff to go along with it, so it doesn't come off with the same effect (and besides, where's the fun of a new discovery?).
The album's most in-your-face ballad, ʽAnnaʼ, was contributed by Simon Kirke, and is probably the band's first real duffer. Slow, languid, devoid of invention, hanging exclusively upon Rodgers' ability to pull off a sentiment, and that coda? "I found me a simple woman, a simple woman for a simple man" — a line that might be passable when hidden within one verse out of three or four, but there is a certain paradox when one tries to focus the listener's attention on a line like that: the trick is, it stops being simple, becoming forcedly pretentious. Like yeah all right, we all know that Bad Company are a Simple Band writing Simple Songs for Simple Fans who easily associate with Simple Men trying to find themselves some Simple Women. Which would beg the question: what the heck's wrong with complicated men and women?
In fact, the only song on the second side that rises slightly above mediocre is ʽDeal With The Preacherʼ, where Ralphs digs deep into his heaviest tone and Rodgers raises as much fuss as on ʽGood Lovinʼ. Next to its crunch and energy, the far slighter ʽWild Fire Womanʼ does not qualify at all; and as much as ʽCall On Meʼ tries to reach the skies with its solemn piano chords and wailing guitars (the coda almost reads like a poor, poor man's ʽWhile My Guitar Gently Weepsʼ), it still has a hard time leaving the troposphere. If not for Rodgers, all of these songs wouldn't even be worth mentioning, but even his presence cannot save them from mediocrity.
Still, by and large, Straight Shooter honestly performs everything the people expected from it, so none of these complaints make too much sense. In fact, I should probably even reward it with a thumbs up, especially considering how much more adequate and even inspired this record is compared to whatever would follow. But, like its predecessor, it still begs the question — these guys were so obviously capable of so much more, individually and collectively; was it merely for the money that they were lowering standards, or did they perceive their actions as some sort of High Mission? As in, take all the fun out of rock'n'roll?.. Because this is not just «simple» music — it is deadly stern, with far more seriousness than these hooks could possibly take.
Check "Straight Shooter" (MP3) on Amazon