Rock’s Classics :: Bad Company – Bad Company

Rock’s Classics returns after a short hiatus with an embodiment of what it meant to make rock music in the 1970s


Bad Company

Bad Company © John Rockwood

Taking a trip back to arguably one of rock’s heyday years of 1974, Rock’s Classics takes a gander at the hard rock classic “Bad Company” by Bad Company. Often considered by many to be a band that could and perhaps should have delivered more, Bad Company seemed to tap into a mentality and way of life that perfectly epitomised the early 70s rock scene. With their screaming lyrics and heavily amped guitars, Bad Company stood at the very edge of making a bloody charge at immortality, “Bad Company” was one of their war cries.


Formed in 1973 as the result of the remaining members of Free, vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke. Mott the Hoople’s Mick Ralphs on guitar and Boz Burrell formerly of King Crimson, it seemed that this band of plucky young rockers who had cut their teeth in what are considered some of the best seminal rock bands of their age, could do no wrong. The initial result of their meeting and cutting of their first album, Bad Company was a record deal with the newly formed Swan Song, a lucrative if not chaotic side project of Led Zeppelin. This deal also secured the services of Zep’s manager, one Peter Grant, the towersome former wrestler who is considered to be the pioneer of the rock band’s management system we know of today.

Thus in 1974, the band released their eponymous debut album much to the critics and fans of the member’s previous band’s enjoyment and pleasure. literally ladened with what are considered classic rock staples and anthems, “Can’t Get Enough,” and “Movin’ On” could probably justify a Rock’s Classics article to themselves, it was the self styled album and band leading song “Bad Company” that would secure itself as being the definitive sound for the band itself and the perfect calling card for the artists and their work.

Written by Kirke and Rodgers, the main basis for the song’s inspiration is taken from the Jeff Bridges western movie released a few years previously. Designed as an anthem for any rebelling soul and individual thinker, the lyrics deal with the somewhat regretful and remorseful narrator who acknowledges his rebellious and free way of life, ultimately not repenting but admitting it what he or she ultimately wants. This, accompanied by Ralphs guitar work in which he lumbers through the whole song with a heavy fisted dread, perfectly countering the flamboyant and wistful vocals from Rodgers. The percussion section and echoing piano/keyboard, also from Ralphs, paint the perfect picture of an Old West wilderness, the place in which the narrator has either decided or accepted will be the place of his final fight, a life spent on the wrong side of the tracks ending in the same way.

The solo, one of Mick Ralph’s best and a tribute to a rock guitarist often left off of most popular and talented lists, comes thundering out of this musical wilderness like a stampeding stallion. Erupting much like the protagonists frustration and temperamental nature, the solo works its way up and down the fret board in a controlled chaos, the voices of a thousand generations of rogues and renegades uniting as one distorted, amplified Marshall voice.

In all, “Bad Company” is not a song that is overlooked, nor is it a song that is underappreciated or unheralded by critics and fans of the hard and classic rock movements. It is a song that is a perfect embodiment of a band, era and genre that was perfectly master crafted and delivered to the mass public, of which they ate it up. Although Bad Company would go on to produce a total of twelve studio albums, the line up changed on an almost yearly basis at one point during the 80s and 90s, the band’s spirit was never truly captured again than in this album and thus within it this track. A great pity as many rock bands before and after Bad Company would attempt to come close to encapsulating all that they stood for but in the end, none were as close as Bad Company were, all of the time.

Jonathan Whitelaw


The band are still going strong so check out their official website: http://www.badcompany.com

Rock’s Classics :: Cream – Badge

Wiping the dust off of one of rock’s most underplayed classics from the late 1960s


Cream

Cream © Forbes magazine

Rolling on with the irreverent look and tribute to rock music’s greats and giants, the clock is rolled back rapidly as we are hurtled through time to 1969 with Cream’s “Badge”. Considered by many to be the height of Cream’s short lived but hugely important and influential reign as Britain’s premier rock music group in the late sixties. Included on their final album, appropriately titled Goodbye, “Badge” has the backing of Eric Clapton and George Harrison’s writing talents coupled with influences from Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, the last two the remaining members of the band along with Clapton. This, almost unbelievable, grouping of some of the best talents of the era come together to create an underrated and vastly uncelebrated classic of rock and roll.


The music industry and scene was changing in 1969, a turbulent and whirlwind change to cap off a decade that was dominated by the rise and rise of popular music, alternative and underground scenes and the emergence of so many different genres of new music. It is therefore no surprise that a band like Cream had achieved stellar success, not least, making a superstar out of Eric Clapton and assuring his place as one of the greatest guitarists all the way through until today. Thus when the band decided they were to progress their own separate ways, their final aptly titled album Goodbye was decided that each member would individually write a song, coupled with their normal writing collaborations with each other.

The outcome for Clapton was “Badge” in which the sultan of guitarists consulted his close friend and contemporary George “heartbeat of The Beatles” Harrison. During a late night jamming session, the two were able to complete the basic lyrics and chord layouts of the track. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr then inadvertently stumbled into the session, his intoxicated ramblings apparently responsible for the very 60s line “I told you ‘bout the swans, that live in the park”. The title of the song remains somewhat cryptic, with plenty of theories having been spawned over the years. One common theory is that the title is an anagram of the standard tuning of the guitars used during the production, those being EADGBE.

The truth in reality, however, is much simpler. Apparently, according to the late Harrison during an interview conducted previously, he stated that it was in fact a simple handwriting mistake. Having written bridge between sections of the chords and lyrics, Clapton and Starr, who could perhaps be forgiven for having had one too many cherrys, read the line as badge. Hence the song was titled and a legend was born, albeit through intoxicated means but hey, its rock and roll!

The true beauty of “Badge” is not in the various stories and history that surrounds the song but more in the actual music of the song itself. Acting as an unassuming little track in the middle of the Goodbye album, “Badge” offers the listener an insight and encapsulation of the late 1960s sound as a whole. Clapton’s lead guitar is strummingly brilliant before switching to his electrically charged, hauntingly resonant lead that erupts into the fiery solo. Ginger Baker’s almost muffled and subdued drums give the song a depth that reassures the listener that despite this journey of heartfelt love and possible heartbreak, not all things are that bad and there is a safety net. Couple these effects with a distant, almost forgotten piano that seems to faintly reach out and merely dust the listener like a light stroke on the back of one’s neck and the atmosphere and world that “Badge” creates is complete.

The song and the album as a whole proved to be a fitting swan song for one of the most important bands that Britain ever produced, not just in the 1960s but well beyond. Although looking back on their discography now, it could arguably be seen as being ever so slightly dated, the majority of the songs being relatively raw and, dare it be said, watered down versions of what the indiviual artists would produce in the future. A case in point would be that “Badge” arguably the best that Cream produced, is often regarded in the shadow of Clapton’s other solo bursting, fret board flying classic “Layla” that would appear only a year later as part of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominoes, his next venture.  With credits such as one of Rock’s greatest love song and Grammy’s coming out of its ears, it is with no real surprise that songs like “Badge” are often overlooked for the much wider “Layla”. This should not take away from “Badge” or its popularity amongst the music community, solidifying it as one of Rock’s classics and certainly one of its most under played and unappreciated.

Jonathan Whitelaw


For more information on Eric Clapton or Cream’s 2005 reunion, check out their official websites. The track is also available from iTunes: http://www.cream2005.com/ and http://www.ericclapton.com

Album Review :: ’77 – 21st Century Rock

Hailing from the sunny shores of Barcelona, a new wave of old rock gets ready to devour the recently resurrected scene.


'77

'77 - 21st Century Rock © Listenable Records / Weight Recordings

As a general rule of thumb employed by most things in life, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In music, however, this does not always suffice as imitation can often lead to a somewhat black balled attitude held towards any artist seen “copying” other artists in either sound, style or material. The world of hard rock, thankfully, does not adhere to these or any other rules. It is with great pleasure that Spanish rockers ’77 release their first fully fledged album 21st Century Rock, a sleazy hard rock album that harkens back to the golden era of the late 1970s where singers were hairy, bare chested beasts, drummers were drunk and guitars sweated spinal fluid as their fingers danced across the fretboard.


Hailing from Barcelona, Spain, ’77 are the latest produce in the vein of classic rockers AC/DC, KISS, Alice Cooper and The Scorpions. With their bold as brass approach to sleazy licks, lyrics and riffs, this refreshingly old take on rock music makes the listener feel like they have travelled through a temporal portal in the fabric of the space time continuum, landing smack down in the middle of 1978 and desperately seeking a pair of crotch hugging jeans, a main full of hair and a fetching fur lined, sleeveless denim jacket… rivets and all.

Kicking off their debut album, ’77 take to the studio with “Gimme Rock n Roll” a less than original sounding title for what is essentially a classic blues based rock number, designed for driving down roads at loud volume. More of the same is continued with “Hardworking Liar” and “Shake it Up”, the latter being a much meaner sounding, growling number, the screaming lead guitar, an SG of course, of LG Valeta careering over the lumbering and brooding rhythm like an angry eagle on the hunt.

The highlight of the ten track album comes with the eponymous “21st Century Rock”, its initial ghostly guitar intro a testimony to the musical ability of the band and their producers. Designed as the group’s anthem, this final offering from their debut album is a wonderfully crafted, lyric heavy song destined to get audiences sweaty, raucous and jumping for joy as the upbeat tempo makes the listener tap their feet uncontrollably along in time. The solo is a blistering blast all across the fretboard and the backing vocals from the percussion section reiterate the down and dirty nature of the band and its roots in working class, pub rock.

Upon listening to 21st Century Rock it is easy to slip the rose tinted glasses on and regard it as nothing more than a less than fractious tribute to the rock scene of the late seventies. Despite the title of the album, it would appear that ’77 are very much still in love with an era of music that has long since faded into memory. Lead singer Armand Valeta has the uncanny ability to sound very much like the late, great Bon Scott in both pitch and tone, something that has not been achieved since Scott’s death in 1980. However, it should be noted that this is not necessarily a bad thing so long as the fans and music industry do not regard this as nothing more than a tribute as opposed to an original band trying and playing their best. It is therefore an important point to be noted that ’77 ARE an original band, who have opened for Airbourne on their Spanish legs of a world tour, and should therefore be treated thusly.

21st Century Rock is an excellent album for fans of the sleaze and hard rock genres of music. Although not well documented in recent years, it is therefore refreshing to hear a raw and guttural form of this type of music. Excellently produced and ingeniously and lovingly crafted, ’77 are a band on the up who deserve as much mainstream success as they dare to achieve.

Jonathan Whitelaw


For more band information, availability of the album and tour dates check out their website: http://www.myspace.com/seventysevenrocks

Rock’s Classics :: Def Leppard – Photograph

Sheffield’s answer to Bon Jovi give us a taste of their talents as we focus our lens on “Photograph”


def leppard

Def Leppard © Def Leppard

The plundering of rock’s heavily ladened vault of classics continues with a distinctly metal flavored favorite from Sheffield’s finest, Def Leppard. From the height of their popularity in 1983, “Photograph” has become one of the most distinct and easily recognizable tracks from a band that achieved most of their success across the pond in the USA than in Britain. Taking into account their vast repertoire of hits and popular anthems from a career that has spanned thirty three years, “Photograph” remains one of the most popularly played rock songs on American and British radio stations since its first release in the early eighties.


Def Leppard has a somewhat mixed opinion in fans of the classic rock genre. Sometimes considered too metal to be harder rock, the ever raging debate as to where hard rock ends and metal begins is a seemingly unanswerable question, bands like Def Leppard, AC/DC and others seemed to spend the decade of the eighties continually crossing the divide and releasing material, sometimes on the same album, that was ambiguous and genre hopping. Thus with the release of Pyromania in 1983, Def Leppard capped off their monumental rise to prominence with as ambiguous an album that could be possibly created.

Consisting of songs such as “Foolin” and “Rock of Ages”, Def Leppard’s third studio album would prove to be the catapult that would propel the band into the mainstream in the US and everywhere else almost immediately. With a cleanly produced sound that emulated American rock bands such as Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, Def Leppard were very quickly embraced by the early dawn of the hair metal fans that were emerging on the music scene. “Photograph” however had the advantage of being a song firmly rooted in a classic rock topic, lyrics and three-chord riff with the production values and overall sound of the emerging soft metal genre.

Produced by the now legendary “Mutt” Lange, “Photograph” is a song that immediately grabs the attention of the listener with its streamlined guitars and almost rattled percussion, the distinction between the instruments and sections of the band being stark and defined. Written as a tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe, lead singer Joe Elliot and the rest of the band; Rick Savage on bass, Steve Clark on guitars, Pete Willis, who was dismissed part way through recording of the album but not before laying down all rhythm sections for songs, and finally “Mutt” Lange all contributed to the creation of the song. Elliot’s vocals are typically on form, his relatively high voice lending a perfect compliment to the glossy production of the song and album as a whole. The song immediately entered the band’s set list for the subsequent tour for the Pyromania tour and was decided to be the lead single from the album although all would be hugely successful.

It would be the live versions of this song, however, that would ultimately lead to its immortalisation into the classic rock archive. Since its live debut in 1983, “Photograph” ingrained itself as a must see event and part of Def Leppard shows and set lists. The height of this popularity came in its live recording in the Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield in 1993 as part of a much wider concert that was seen as a huge thank you and praise to the band’s hometown roots and original fan base. The performance is, quite frankly, fantastic; Elliot and the rest all on top form, obviously driven on by the sold out home crowd. It should be noted that by this point, drummer Rick Allen had lost his arm in an accident but did not let this mar his performances, a customized drum kit rigged up for him as he rose, and continues to rise, to the challenge. A testimony to the songs enduring popularity is the recent collaboration in 2008 where the band teamed with the country and pop star Taylor Swift, “Photograph” amongst a number of Leppard hits. Although not as good as the original version or subsequent live performances by the band, the introduction of a popular singer from another music genre no less has introduced the song to a whole new generation of fans. It is with a great shame then that the song was not as big a hit in the UK compared to its huge success in the US, a fact that disappointed lead singer Elliot. Nonetheless, “Photograph” remains an underrated classic from an era of rock music that can so often be dismissed as filled with pulp and corporate garbage.

Jonathan Whitelaw


As ever, discography, tours and band info can be found on the official website: http://www.defleppard.com

Album Review :: Airbourne – No Guts, No Glory

No change please, we’re rockers. Airbourne’s return to studio work stands and delivers.


Airbourne

Airbourne - No Guts, No Glory © Airbourne/Roadrunner Records

In a world dominated by uncertainty, it is important to appreciate the smaller, infrequent moments that often can pass us by. With a volatile financial climate, seemingly constant threat of imminent doom and the frankly violent level of boredom offered by the likes of The X Factor and other degenerates, it is heart warming to be treated to the brilliantly performed, excellently produced and wonderfully fun latest release from hard Ozzy rockers Airbourne.

Since they emerged on the major market in 2006 with their debut album Runnin’ Wild Airbourne have quickly rocketed up the rankings and become one of the world’s most popular hard rock acts of the last ten years. Aligned very much in the style of the countrymen AC/DC and with frequent nods to other such classic rock gods as KISS, Van Helen, Bad Company and Whitesnake, these lads certainly know how to get a good party going. With a deliciously grimy blend of pseudo blues based, three chord riffs, eye wateringly accurate bass and a drum line that boils the very beer in your belly, Airbourne consistently deliver in the studio and on the road where they have been relentlessly touring since Runnin’ Wild debuted. It is therefore with great anticipation, excitement and aplomb that their second album No Guts, No Glory hits the shops in Europe on March 8th, April 22nd globally.

Kicking off the album with three traditional rock tracks are “No way but the hard way,” the album’s first single release, “Raise the Flag” and the oddly haunting “Born to Kill” the last of which opens the album with a creepy, screeching solo guitar intro before crunching down to a hard as nails, beaten and bruised rock anthem. Continuing in the vein of their previous album, and those of their aged predecessors, No Guts, No Glory is seeped in the style of songs that, as so many have said before, “The wives don’t get to know about”. Concentrating on all the debauchery, hard drinking, smoking and illicit bad behaviour that hard rock has built its own reputation on, the album more than heartily delivers on both the theme and playing styles that fans have now come to expect of this band. It is perhaps only a shame then that only really Airbourne and a very small handful of others are still producing this style of music. Honourable mention of course go to The Answer who, although not nearly as hard or successful, have at least remained true to the hard rock vein, more than can be said of the likes of Wolfmother and The Steroephonics.

As fine and dandy hard rocking, questionably easy riffs and shouty lyrics can be, No Guts, No Glory also aptly displays the wide array of talent Airbourne have when it comes to pace, lyricism and durability. Widely publicised during the build up to the release of this album, lead singer/guitarist Joel O’Keeffe stated that the band lived in the studio, eating, sleeping and existing during the recording of the album, much akin to the likes of Bruce Springsteen during his heyday. With high octane numbers like “It Aint over till its Over,” “Devils Child” and “Rattle your Bones,” the last two only available on the special edition album, it is surprising and refreshing to have a track like “Bottom of the Well” where the tempo is much more relaxed and melodic, the passion and conviction still very much present.

Couple these along with an epic range in subject matter and the album that stands at a whopping thirteen tracks, eighteen on the special edition, delivers on pretty much every front. The excellent summer anthem “White Line Fever” is sure to be played all throughout the warm months on rock stations the world over. This unashamedly crass feast of excess is stark in comparison to the endearingly heart felt “Steel Town” an ode to working class cities and towns and the bands’ own little tribute to their heritage and lifestyles and their audience.

In all, No Guts, No Glory is an excellent, triumphant return to the market for Airbourne. With a subsequent world tour following and the band gaining an excellent, healthy fan base all over the planet, Airbourne are very much poised to take the step from being sole soldiers on the hard rock front lines to upper echelon, fully fledged members of the community. It is often said that any artist, in any genre, needs a really good, solid, stand out studio performance on which to fundamentally launch their careers from. Now, it would seem, Airbourne have just that.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s website: http://www.airbournerock.com

Album Review :: Airbourne – Ready To Rock

Australia’s Hard Rock heirs to the throne’s often overlooked EP is a lost gem, tragically overlooked.


Airbourne

Ready to Rock by Airbourne © Airbourne

With their second full album now less than a week away from general release here in Europe, April 20th in the States, Airbourne are the latest and most recent rock success story form Australia. Where their first album Runnin Wild was a success story all across the globe, this up and coming piece No Guts, No Glory is set to sky rocket their popularity. However, for more discerning fans there is the EP Ready to Rock available for consideration and definitely worth listening to.

Hailing from Warrnambool in Australia, this four set outfit consist of Joel and Ryan O’Keeffe on lead vocals/guitar and drums respectively, rhythm guitarist David Roads and bassist Justin Streets, all young, fun loving guys who have a penchant for debauchery, hard drinking and all kinds of fornication. It is no surprise then that they have been described by many as being heavily influenced by AC/DC, their first album often unfairly antagonized and mocked as being too much of a tribute. However, with a massing fan base, there would appear to be a vast majority of listeners out there who would claim that to be a good thing, the other ozzy rockers now pushing on a bit.

Having achieved their popular status from their first album Runnin Wild it now often overlooked that it was their inaugural EP that brought them to the attention of Capitol Records. Released in 2004, Ready to Rock heralded a triumphant debut into the less than populated world of heavy rock. With traditional sounding “Three Chord” riffs, Airbourne hearken themselves back to a simpler, cruder time when rock music was in its infancy.

The eponymous opening track “Ready to Rock” coupled with “Stand and Deliver” are run of the mill hard rock songs, the brothers gelling well with the percussion and rhythm section, a solid foundational opening for the rest of the EP. Other excellent sounds come in the form of “Come on Down” a great little pub anthem and a must for any pre-night out warm up playlist. “Runnin’ Hot” and “Women on Top” which, as the popular advert used to say, does exactly as it says on the tin. The jewel in the sweaty, static and beer soaked crown comes in the form of “When the girl gets hot (The love don’t stop)”. Apart from having a frankly awesome classic rock title and subject matter, the opening, almost haunting guitar riff of Joel O’Keeffe leaves the listener wondering how this band had gone so long without being snapped up by a major record label. Couple that with the frankly brilliant production behind both the song and the rest of the album, the boys do an excellent job of getting the right mix of sleazy, grimy sounding Gibson SG with thunderous drums and a thumping bass line.

In all, although perhaps more of a tribute to AC/DC and other classic rock bands that made the mid seventies to early nineties so memorable for this music than their first official release, Ready to Rock is never the less a wonderful introduction to the Australian outfit. Not as widely available as it perhaps should be, the songs on the EP are slowly and surely being bled into the western market via exclusive downloads and bonus tracks on re-releases of the Runnin Wild album. The upcoming album, released March 8TH, and subsequent tour are set to send Airbourne into the upper echelons of hard rock stardom and with a lot of life and fight left in this band, let us hope that they are ready to accept the responsibility of being hard rock’s royal dynasty for the next four decades.

N.B Look out for the review of No Guts, No Glory coming soon.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s official website at: http://www.airbournerock.com

Album Review :: The Alan Weuters Alliance – This is My Life

An alternative sounding, New York based folk rock group offer up their first foray into the mainstream market.


The Alan Weuters Alliance

The Alan Weuters Alliance - This is My Life © Cherrybomb Records

For those who would like to enjoy a more alternative, softer, riff based rock album, The Alan Weuters Alliance’s This is My Life is the perfect place to start. Blending an enchantingly harmonising and layered sound with rich lyrics and storytelling, this New York based group is a wonderful introduction to more contemporary folk and classic rock.

The first thing that is individual about The Alan Weuters Alliance is the seemingly stark individual sound that the group has been able to produce on what would appear to be a shoestring budget. The eponymous Alan Weuters is a thirty five year veteran of the New York music scene, playing with some great musicians including Steve Coronel, an original member of KISS’ Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley’s original group; Wicked Lester. With a distinctly higher-toned voice and electro/acoustic sounding folk guitar, This is My Life is a perfect introduction to the band that seeks to promote themselves internationally.

The opening three tracks of the album emerge to the listener like an old boat, sifting through the morning mist, the introductions of “This is my Life,” “Living on the Edge” and the “Aquariana” have the listener tapping and bobbing with the upbeat riffs and lyric ladened track which follows. Although not primarily based on the softer sounding folk oriented style, “Great Accuser,” “Troubles (For the rest of your life)” are much more bluesy and harder rock based, the latter a fine example of the versatility of playing style, song writing and riff work. This song also provides a wonderful solo towards the end of the track, the only problem being that the chorus has been layered over it. This does not however detract from the clearly brilliant playing style of Alan as he takes the fret board for a walk.

Primarily dealing with the lonesomeness and sometimes hardships of existence, This is My Life is a twelve-track album that takes the listener through the broad spectrum of life’s emotions. Acting like a road weary muse to the listener, the band sings and plays with real emotion invested into the songs. As so often can be the case when dealing with folk based music, folk rock especially, the message can seem rather hackneyed and clichéd. Abandoning the more resentful and patronizing tone, This is My Life is a much more fun sounding, jollier offering to the market.

Aligning themselves with the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and John Lennon as both influences and contemporary sounds, The Alan Weuters Alliance is worth more than a brief listen. Providing the listener with a wide array of material that is sure to suit longer standing fans of folk and harder rock along with casual listeners. The wonderful, harder hitting cover of Simon & Garfunkle’s “Sounds of Silence” is the highlight of the album. Not to detract from the rest of the material there, the thought of a cover being the best track in this case does not signify less quality of the rest of the album, pays a respectful homage to the original and the band justice. For those who would like an alternative sounding but more traditionally based folk rock album, The Alan Weuters Alliance’ This is My Life is the perfect place to start.

Jonathan Whitelaw


Check out the band’s official website on myspace and record label site: http://www.myspace.com/alanwautersalliance, http://www.cherrybombrecords.com/artist_detail.php?id=4