Album Review: Bad Company – Company of Strangers (1995)



Bad Company parted company with their second vocalist Brian Howe in 1994 and as founder member Paul Rodgers was not interested in returning set about finding a new frontman. Rumour has it that a friend of bassist Boz Burrell phoned him up and put him on to Robert Hart. Burrell then returned to the rest of the band and proclaimed “I’ve found us a new singer and he’s better than Rodgers”. Personally I’m not sure how true that is but there was certainly some animosity between Rodgers and Burrell throughout the eighties and nineties. One thing I am sure about though is that as good a singer as Hart is he is certainly not better than Rodgers. However having said that it will no doubt surprise many people who know that I rate Rodgers the greatest rock singer ever to hear me proclaim Hart a worthy replacement (far more worthy than Howe) and state that this album is actually better than some of the Rodgers fronted ones.

In fact the whole “Company of Strangers” episode came as something of a surprise to me. Way back in the mid nineties I was spending a lot of time in France and music unbelievably went on the back burner for a short while. Anyway I was back in England and visiting a muso friend in Leicester when someone came in to the studio and said Bad Company are playing Rock City in Nottingham (only a short drive away) tonight. Anyway it didn’t take long for us to decide to go and take a look despite the fact that we were all of the opinion that Bad Company without Rodgers was more than a little lame. Most of us being able to recall the disappointment of the tour with Deep Purple in 1987. Howe made few friends …. enough said. On the plus side though Nottingham is always a very welcoming town and the chance to see Mick and Simon in a small venue was too good a chance to miss. We arrived just in time and within minutes of us getting a drink and taking up our positions the band were on. After about two minutes my mate turned to me and said “Who’s that singing ….. its certainly not Howe …. he’s too good.”

The main difference for me between this and the Howe fronted albums is that musically it sounds like Bad Company again and not the Foreigner tribute band that Brian Howe and Terry Thomas had turned them into. Just listen to the similarities between the Bad Company album Holy Water and the Foreigner one Unusual Heat and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m not going to go into a track by track analysis but the opening title track penned by Hart and drummer Kirke is classic Bad Company. Had it been recorded by the Rodgers fronted line up it would have been on the radio as frequently as ‘Feel Like Making Love’ or the track ‘Bad Company’. In fact in many ways its is ‘Bad Company’ part two. Some great guitar work from Ralphs and second guitarist Dave Colwell helping to build the song into a classic. There is even a slower paced bridge a la ‘Deal With The Preacher’ to highlight Hart’s outstanding vocal ability. Honestly, as a track it is as good as anything put out by the classic line up. Similarly ‘Abandoned and Alone’ is very much in the same vein as ‘Ready For Love’ from their superb debut album.

The other eleven tracks are a nice mixture of fast paced rockers and more gentle balladic type tracks. That is the whole success of the album for me as it just has the good feel of a Bad Company album about it with constant pace and mood changes.

To conclude then, as as bigger fan of Paul Rodgers and Bad Company as anyone all I can say is don’t let “oh if Rodgers is not on it it’ll be rubbish’ prejudices prevent you from enjoying what is a mighty fine rock album …… and if it helps remember that it was on the record companies insistence that they kept the name Bad Company anyway.

© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM June 2011.

About Martin Leedham

Music critic, Horse Racing Tipster, Hapless Dreamer, Defender of the Underdog
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1 Response to Album Review: Bad Company – Company of Strangers (1995)

  1. michael cristian says:

    I didn’t like it. THE ALBUM SUCKED! Although, I admire Paul Rodgers, I prefer the BRIAN HOWE era of BAD COMPANY! I’ll never forget this album experience though. I had bought the tickets to a BAD COMPANY concert in Houston, TX. I was very excited! I thought I was well on my way to seeing my rock hero=BRIAN HOWE! Two days after I bought the tickets, I was listening to the radio, when I heard the DJ say, “Here’s the new one from Bad Company! WITH A NEW LEAD SINGER!” …WHAT? …WHAT??? A NEW LEAD SINGER??? HOW IN THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN? NO WAY! …I was on my way to see my hero BRIAN HOWE! HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO ME??? HOW COULD THEY GET A NEW LEAD SINGER WITHOUT MY PERMISSION???!!! …But I had no choice. I had already purchased the tickets! So I went to see my favorite rock band …DISAPPOINTED!!! -Michael Cristian (loyal fan of BAD COMPANY)

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