‘Rough Diamonds’ builds on Bad Company’s AOR friendly nature of 1979’s ‘Desolation Angels’ to provide the stepping stone between their mid 70’s blues rock style and the outright AOR assault of the 80’s Howe era.
Written by: Lee South Africa
ARTIST: Bad Company
ALBUM: Rough Diamonds
LABEL: Swan Song
SERIAL: 90001-1 (USA), SSK 5941 (UK)
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Paul Rodgers – vocals, guitars * Simon Kirke – drums * Boz Burrell – bass * Mick Ralphs – guitars
TRACK LISTING: 01 Electricland * 02 Untie The Knot * 03 Nuthin’ On The TV * 04 Painted Face * 05 Kickdown * 06 Ballad Of The Band * 07 Cross Country Boy * 08 Old Mexico * 09 Downhill Ryder * 10 Racetrack
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Bad Company had enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance with their 1979 platter ‘Desolation Angels’, filtering some AOR ingredients into their usual blues rock style. After the tired sounding ‘Burnin’ Sky’ album, a major hit single and double platinum album represented just the shot in the arm they required.
Some darker times were just ahead though, starting with the untimely death of John Bonham, which caused manager Peter Grant to withdraw from sight. He’d pretty much lost interest by all accounts, so no support or guidance was forthcoming there. Next up was the murder of John Lennon, which apparently had a profound effect on the band, especially Paul Rodgers.
By the time Bad Company decamped to Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey to record ‘Rough Diamonds’, they were clearly not in the best space. Rumours abound regarding a punch up between Rodgers and Burrell, as well as Rodgers playing lead guitar on some of the tracks he wrote. As we all know, unsettled recording sessions don’t always result in poor albums, so what was the outcome in 1982?
Lead off track and minor hit ‘Electricland’ gets out of the blocks in typical Bad Company fashion, their familiar blues rock approach dressed up in AOR trimmings though. They swagger through midtempo verses before upping the intensity and AOR factor at chorus time, that hook reminiscent of late 70’s Foreigner. I especially enjoyed the way they massaged some synth into proceedings, adding that extra AOR class.
The track seems to deal with a feeling of alienation and bewilderment in a world gone completely nuts, possibly a reference to the senseless murder of John Lennon. A perfect hybrid of their established style with AOR ambitions then.
‘Untie The Knot’ by comparison is outright AOR, with just a hint of west coast into the mix, hard as that may be to believe. An easy melody leads into an even easier chorus. As simple as it is devastating, and the guitar solo break sees the band kick up into a kind of hypnotic AOR power surge, again leaving me with that Foreigner feeling. The long dormant coffee meter now redlining on all AOR levels.
‘Nuthin’ On The TV’ cools things off just a touch, in terms of quality. Sounds like a Molly Hatchet outtake at times, and the horn blasts were probably not required. The surprise package comes in the all too brief choruses, where they switch to that synth rich Le Roux type hook, at times it feels like two songs merged. Not quite at the level of the opening two cuts, but it still has it’s moments.
‘Painted Face’ resets the focus on pure AOR, with the ghost of their 70’s style still present in the mix. Period Foreigner comes to mind again, especially in the guitar hook and graceful melody. An unexpected keyboard/vocal scat solo adds spice to proceedings, and the staccato synths in the second half add extra AOR magic. A quality chorus seals the deal on a serving of classy AOR espresso.
‘Kickdown’ brings on the west coast AOR shuffle, that piano hook amusingly predating Dakota‘s ‘Angry Men’ by two years! Once again the 70’s Bad Company style is still present, sharing sonic billing with the welcome new AOR direction for a fusion that works a treat. Great song.
‘Ballad Of The Band’ is a different animal, and most certainly not a ballad. This is a proper rock & roll tear up that could’ve been lifted off Duke Jupiter‘s 1981 DJ1 platter. Good fun but hardly up to the stellar AOR standard of side one.
‘Cross Country Boy’ is ever so slightly funky and full of horn blasts, celebrating that rustic down home style, but only the clever tempo switches impress. Nothing to report on the AOR front. ‘Old Mexico’ reprises the theme at a slower tempo, an olde western tale with just a hint of Pure Prairie League and Amazing Rhythm Aces in attendance.
‘Downhill Ryder’ rights the ship though, AOR back on the agenda and some very busy synth hooks, bordering on frisky. Here the boys are revisiting the template that worked so well on side one – blending the 70’s blues rock approach with updated AOR tendencies. The understated chorus is a perfect example, making its melodic impact in a simple context.
‘Racetrack’ is even better, seeming to combine period 38 Special with some vocal harmonies from their own ‘Straight Shooter’ songbook. Really enjoying the synth hooks and tasty guitar licks, thoroughly AOR. A mid song switch brings on a downtempo coda that’s pretty much a vocal tour de force for Rodgers, closing the album in stunning style.
There you have it, this is often the overlooked orphan in the original six Bad Company albums. I’m certainly not claiming it’s an outright AOR album, nor is it a classic. However, there is more than enough evidence of a shift toward AOR so that 1986’s ‘Fame And Fortune’ was not such a sudden one eighty degree turn.
‘Rough Diamonds’ builds on Bad Company’s AOR friendly nature of 1979’s ‘Desolation Angels’ to provide the stepping stone between their mid 70’s blues rock style and the outright AOR assault of the 80’s Howe era. On the commercial front it reached the Billboard top 30 and as stated above, ‘Electricland’ was a minor hit. ‘Painted Face’ also enjoyed significant airplay in the States, and would have made a strong follow up AOR single.
However, with Bad Company imploding there was no tour to support ‘Rough Diamonds’ and it quickly disappeared from the charts. A strong selling compilation ’10 From 6′ would fill the gap before Bad Company were back for the landmark AOR classic ‘Fame And Fortune’. Meanwhile, ‘Rough Diamonds’ may just have some pleasant surprises for the AOR minded among us.