BAD COMPANY: HOLY WATER (1990)
1) Holy Water; 2) Walk Through Fire; 3) Stranger Stranger; 4) If You Needed Somebody; 5) Fearless; 6) Lay Your Love On Me; 7) Boys Cry Tough; 8) With You In A Heartbeat; 9) I Don't Care; 10) Never Too Late; 11) Dead Of The Night; 12) I Can't Live Without You; 13) 100 Miles.
If Dangerous Age was Bad Company's Permanent Vacation, then Holy Water is its Pump. Of course the gross figures are incomparable, but look at the tendency: Fame And Fortune – US No. 106, Dangerous Age – US No. 58, and Holy Water going all the way up to No. 35! Hitting platinum heights! And the title track going all the way up to No. 1! Holy water indeed!
Honestly, though, this next try is a little better cooked than the previous. There are all sorts of funny little rip-offs, from Aerosmith to Michael Jackson, that are fun to spot; the truck stop anthems are gone (unfortunately, the power ballads are not); and the overall proportion of sticky riffs and quasi-fun singalong choruses has also increased. Basically, Holy Water is as good a pop metal record as this band would ever be capable of putting out — its «rootsiness» is long gone now, all of it squeezed out, filtered and concentrated in a brief two-minute long acoustic ditty that finishes the album on a most surprising note — drummer Simon Kirke's first lead vocal on a Bad Company record (and the guy actually shows more soul than Brian Howe, but somehow, that doesn't come off as such a big surprise for me). Other than those few seconds of hearkening back to the good old days when the rock of America absorbed its strength from the salt of the earth, it's all strictly under the rule of hair, hedonism, and high technologies.
But you gotta give hair and hedonism their due — those first ten seconds of ʽHoly Waterʼ really kick ass. That's one really mean bluesy guitar roar from Ralphs, and the song is genuinely impressive until it gets to the chorus, when it just becomes catchy, but loses the thunder-and-lightning potential as the ballsy riffage gets lost behind the fruity vocal harmonies. But it isn't the only relative highlight: ʽStranger Strangerʼ opens out on another fine riff, and adds sharp slide lead work to its advantages; and even though ʽDead Of The Nightʼ is not about zombies, as I had hoped in utter vain, it is still dominated by guitar crunch rather than poppiness.
ʽFearlessʼ is odd, somewhat of a cross between generic AC/DC and the funky wobble of ʽ(Dude) Looks Like A Ladyʼ; ʽWith You In A Heartbeatʼ is more in the style of Jackson's ʽBeat Itʼ; but then the gentlemen get their revenge by previewing Genesis' ʽI Can't Danceʼ with ʽI Don't Careʼ (really, there is a curious similarity between the riffs, although probably not enough to override chances of sheer coincidence). All of this is silly rather than stunning — clumsy attempts at coming up with their own hard rock formula — but at least they had enough sense to cut down just a bit on the machismo angle, focusing less on the «nasty» lyrics and more on the riffs.
Still, don't get me wrong: the simple fact that Holy Water might be the peak of the Howe years does not mean it can be honestly recommended. Why listen to a bunch of mediocre old pros try to sound like Def Leppard when nobody has so far deleted the Def Leppard catalog? Why listen to an album where, in the first song, the singer tells you that he is walking on holy water, and then in the very next one, he already could walk through fire? If they themselves don't really know all that well what they are walking through, how can anyone else?.. Maybe they should have released a Simon Kirke solo album itself. Somehow, "Hey little girl, I love you so, I'd walk a hundred miles to let you know" sounds more humane here than everything before it.
Check "Holy Water" (MP3) on Amazon