The bluesiness is back, but time wasn't on their side
29-year old wallflower | West Lafayette, IN | 11/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When Bad Company decided to reform only 4 years after disbanding in the mid-1980s, albeit without easily-identifiable lead singer Paul Rodgers, it seemed like a good time to do it. After all, the kind of hard rock that dominated the decade owed some debt to Bad Company helping make it the stuff of hit singles as well as best-selling albums. Even without Rodgers, the band still had some commercial success to speak of, though it was with the more generic gloss-rock that was so 1980s, containing very little of the bluesiness that won Bad Company a contract with the Led Zeppelin-owned Swan Song Records. When 1992's HERE COMES TROUBLE only managed a solitary hit with "How About That", lead singer Brian Howe was jettisoned in favor of Robert Hart & it was with him that Bad Company recorded 1995's COMPANY OF STRANGERS.With Hart, Bad Company had a good chance of recapturing (if not exactly duplicating) the husky, blues-soaked style of Paul Rodgers, for Hart's voice was just as bluesy as his & not as all-purpose as Howe's. For COMPANY OF STRANGERS, Bad Company was now a quintet with original members guitarist Mick Ralphs & drummer Simon Kirke, Hart, second guitarist Dave "Bucket" Colwell (who played on HERE COMES TROUBLE, but was not a full member until this album) & bassist Rick Wills (formerly of Foreigner). Even with an expanded line-up, COMPANY OF STRANGERS was still the band's most stripped down & rootsy album in ages, which is reflected in the songwriting, emphasizing simple blues-based themes like betrayal, finding & losing love, and just getting crazy for a good time.The title track starts the album out on a strong note with a midtempo groove that Bad Company easily gets comfortable in. On first listen to Robert Hart's voice, you'd think that the band picked up where 1982's ROUGH DIAMONDS left off & the arena sound of the Howe-era music had never happened. The theme of this song is repeated in various forms on other tracks like "Judas My Brother" (which Hart penned himself & like most reviewers have said, is pretty darn good) & "Abandoned & Alone". Sometimes you just need to take stock of who your friends really are.When not thinking about those things, Bad Company creates some of their most infectious rockers in quite a while with good-time ditties like "Clearwater Highway", "Gimme Gimme", "Down Down Down" (someone likes to repeat their words), "Down & Dirty", "Pretty Woman" & "Dance With The Devil". The members of Bad Company may not exactly be spring chickens anymore, but that doesn't mean they can't still seek out a good time & these tunes could easily make you want to go out & paint the town.Most of Bad Company's latter-day hits were with sanitized power ballads, so COMPANY OF STRANGERS has a few slower numbers, but here, they sound less like a case of "let's get this on the radio" & more about true emotion coming through. "Where I Belong", "You're The Only Reason" & "Loving You Out Loud" are appropriately heartwarming, but not enough to make you question the band's masculinity. Even men with tough exteriors can mask hearts of gold. Only the acoustic "Little Martha" doesn't quite measure up to standards. By 1995, bands like Bad Company were no longer scaling the charts as they had been & alternative/grunge was the main focus of critics & fans. Because of this, a strong effort like COMPANY OF STRANGERS fell through the cracks where it should have been thought of as a considerable return to form. But maybe Bad Company itself was starting to see the writing on the wall & after 1996's STORIES TOLD & UNTOLD (a mixture of new songs with re-recordings of old classics sung by Robert Hart), the band had all but separated again.However, Paul Rodgers would rejoin Bad Company again by the end of the 1990s & record 4 new songs with the original line-up for their ORIGINAL BAD COMPANY ANTHOLOGY set. By the time of 2002's MERCHANTS OF COOL live album (with 2 new studio songs), only Rodgers & Simon Kirke remained (Mick Ralphs & original bassist Boz Burrell perhaps decided to bow out). Even if Ralphs & Burrell don't decide to return, here's hoping that a new Bad Company studio album with Rodgers singing on it will be in the future. In the meantime, COMPANY OF STRANGERS shows that if they did it right, Bad Company could succeed without Rodgers as frontman extraordinaire, especially if that lead singer was not too far removed from the Paul Rodgers school."
Bad Company Returns To Its Roots With A New Singer
The Footpath Cowboy | Kingston, NY United States | 02/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On COMPANY OF STRANGERS, Bad Company replaces lead singer Brian Howe with the Paul Rodgers-influenced Robert Hart, returns to its roots in the Memphis-Chicago-Texas-St. Louis-Louisiana-Detroit-Philadelphia-Kansas City blues/R&B/soul/rock & roll axis, and releases its best album since 1979's DESOLATION ANGELS. Gone are all the pop affectations of the last five albums, replaced with a raw, dry sound reminiscent of the first three albums and any number of Southern boogie bands. There are numerous great rockers here, but the most riveting moment is the ballad "Little Martha", a sad tale of child mortality that reminds me of seeing children's tombstones while hiking around historical sites to get in shape for my favorite female celebrities. I'd love to ask a cute girl for a dance to this one and the first five with Rodgers, even if this girl doesn't quite fit that "little mold" that others think she should."
4 1/2 STARS
Eric J. Weik | Dyersburg, TN | 02/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of Bad company's better cds, their first with their new lead vocalist. Gone is the loudness of their late 80's early 90's cds (most of which were good). The group has returned to their roots, but this time around the writing is better, better produced, and the singing 10 times better, a shame the public didn't think so. Some outstanding songs on this cd, "Clearwater Highway", "Down and Dirty","Loving You Out Loud", "Your the Only Reason", and the title track. Nice change of pace for the band. Shame this lineup didn't stay but for one more cd."
Bad Company is back, for the 1st time
rocky49152 | Lyndhurst, OH USA | 08/02/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this up ... used from a thrift shop and put it into my car cd player. What I was expecting was more innocuous and inoffensive warbling by another Richard Marx sound-alike (ie. Holy Water... etc) to drive, study, or work by.What came out of the speakers was what you heard in the 70's... only better. Bad company rediscovered their bluesy style, but the writing here is superior, in my opinion, to anything they did even on their classic albums. Check out "Clearwater Highway", and "Judas My Brother" in particular.It's too bad that they destroyed their following with 4 albums of Corporate trash. Many people who would love this album will never know about it."
Simply the best, they did it again....
rocky49152 | 09/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It took me three times to understand that this was some of the best music I have heard from them. I consider simon & mick to be badcompany, but with robert's voice they seem to create a whole new sound. also really listen to the words,there great...."