Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bad Company ~ Company Of Strangers

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: AOR rock, country, classic rock
Label: EastWest
Year: 1995
Home: n/a

Members: Robert Hart ~ vocals
Mick Ralphs ~ guitar
Simon Kirke, Dave Colwell ~ guitars
Rick Wills ~ bass

Additional: Jeff Bova, Steve Smith ~ keyboards
Jody Linscott ~ percussion
Paul Carnes ~ mandolin


BC is, in my mind & I think for most, impossible to separate with blues belting frontman Paul Rodgers. I recently had a collection of cassettes long forgotten in a basement dumped my way. In it was this later day album by BC. I had totally forgotten, if I even knew, that Rodgers didn't always sing with BC. Actually, the only original band members at this time are ex-Mott The Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs & Rodgers former Free bandmate Simon Kirke on drums. Three blond haired John Wetton lookalikes 80's rockers fill in the gaps. For me, without Rodgers this isn't BC. As it is, only eight of the thirteen songs have a writing credit by either Ralph or Kirke so its even one step further from being BC as I them. BC disbanded in the late 70's after churning out classics "Feel Like Making Love" & "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love". Ralphs & Kirk kept the name alive in the 80's with an array of quasi-anonymous fill-in musicians. Robert Hart is the second singer in this reformed era & would record this & Stories Told & Untold before Rodgers reclaimed his role for some outstanding live engagements that, I believe, show off his voice better than any of the studio album. But, there's great controversy among fans what exactly this is. Is it BC in anything but name only? Tony Iommi did the same through an array of albums that were him under the name Black Sabbath, while countless other groups have done the same such as the Yardbirds, Chicago, Asia, Starship & too many more to count. Of course, honestly, if Simon Kirke released an album on his own few would pay attention, but if BC does an album suddenly there's sales, or theoretically should be. It comes down to the discussion of what is a band? Is it the key songwriter or frontman, regardless of who else is in the band? Is it the most popular members? Is it the classic line-up, whether that's the original or not? Is it a particular sound? If everyone but Mick & Keith left the Rolling Stones, is it still the Rolling Stones? Or, was Pitrelli, DeGrasso & original member Ellefson still Megadeth without frontman Dave Mustaine. If Paul & Ringo reunite is it the Beatles? Is it still Herman's Herman's with Peter Noone & new faces? It's hard to say & obviously there's little room here for that multi-faceted debate. I'd like to suggest that the way to approach revived bands like this - out of context of the past. There's no way anything put out by this later BC line-up is going to rate as high as the past ... there are flukes to this example like the new Journey, but even then Steve Perry's shadow remains for most people & the hits are from the earlier days. But, I'm not sitting here listening to this & then pulling my recordings of the original line-up so the comparison is only in my memory not an intensive listening session. I'm just looking for an enjoyable album to listen to for an hour. Does this line-up of BC do the job? Do I enjoy it regardless of the past, forgetting about the past? I have to say - yes. Maybe it helps to separate the past, for BC anyway, because the music is not necessarily what I'd expect to hear from the troupe. The classic BC was a gutsy blues band. This is bluesy but has a bit of a surprising Americana almost country feel (i.e. "Little Mother", "Loving You Out Loud") prominently via vocalist Hart. It's feel good blues without being too bluesy & Americana without being too bar band-ish. It's safe middle America music perfect for the radio. I can imagine hearing this on the radio & seeing my dad, who was never that familiar with BC to start with, saying it's pretty good & wanting to know who it is. The solos aren't wild & far from being adventurous to the point of wondering if BC was ever anything but Rodgers. It's got a steady beat that doesn't ever move to fast or slow or churn out any chord changes that have anything memorable about them. It's the Allman Brothers Band or maybe a light Kenny Wayne Shepherd (i.e. "Clearwater Highway"), with only moments hinting at the past (i.e. "Gimme Gimme", "Down & Dirty", "Pretty Woman"). BC may have had some folksy roots but it never had Nashville roots ... the next album would actually be recorded in Nashville & feature guest country singer Vince Gill. So, one can imagine where BC might have gone if Rodgers hadn't returned. This is one of those albums that interesting not for what it offers, but for what it doesn't. It's interesting for how it makes you feel ... a bit lost. It's not bad, it's not great, it's certainly not embarressing as some revivals are, but it's not BC as any might define BC. If BC moved away from the Americana & back to their British roots vocalist Hart is actually a good replacement for Rodgers. You can hear Rodgers in him at times, but he's not given the time to stretch with this material. Thus, not just is one feeling lost but also feeling like what potential was here was lost, particularly with Hart. Of note, Hart went on to Manfred Mann's Earth Band & was in Band Of Snakes with ex-Whitesnake members & has toured with XBad Company with some other revival BC members including guitarist Dave Colwell this album. In the end, I wouldn't be embarressed to recommend this album, if for no other reason than to discuss how we view bands with long lives. Let alone, given the credentials I just laid out for Hart & the fact that he's a good singer, how we view those musicians stuck in someone else's spotlight. They may be great but we never give them the chance & sometimes neither does the music. & ironically, Hart is the best thing this line-up has going for it. Of note, the follow-up album would feature re-recordings by this line-up of old BC songs with a few new songs, so Company Of Strangers is the last full length studio album by BC. It's not a bad swan song. Though, I'm sure someday we'll see them return. Nobody stays away anymore.

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