Last week Brian Howe (R.I.P.) passed away from a heart attack at his home in Florida. He had a stint fronting Ted Nugent, and was on the short list to replace Lou Gramm as the lead singer in Foreigner (which would have been a perfect fit in my opinion), but he is best known as Paul Rodgers’ replacement in Bad Company. Rodgers’ shoes were huge ones to try and fill, but for 8 years Brian did a pretty damn good job.
I haven’t played this cd in years, and on the first listen I notice that the lower end isn’t there. Brian has a pretty high pitched voice, and it seems that this combined with the late 80’s, early 90’s mix and early digital sound leave a bit to be desired. I crank the bass to 11 and re-listen. That is leaps and bounds better, so off we go.
Holy Water – The guitar work is ace, the drums pound, and with the aforementioned bass cranking we can actually hear hired hand bass man Felix Krish’s bottom end (huh). This song was on all the radio stations in 1990, and for good reason. The church choir like, back and forth harmonies in the chorus, the instrumentation, and Brian’s voice elevate this one to the top.
Walk Through Fire – This reminds me of some of the better 80’s era Don Henley songs. Brian’s voice is sort of a cross between Lou Gramm and Don Henley, so this song fits right into that mold. A feel good song about doing whatever it takes for the one you love. I heard it just as I started dating my wife, and it hit the nail on the head.
Stranger Stranger – With guitar work riding along the Rocky Mountain Way and Felix Krish doing his best bass impression of David Tyson’s Black Velvet bassline. The bouncing back and forth between Brian and the background singers, and the aforementioned bassline are the tops for me on this one.
If You Needed Somebody – This was the huge single off of this album. It was in the Top 40 in both the rock and even crossed over into the pop charts. A really amazing song that still holds up today. I loved it so much that it was one of the songs in my wedding. The lyrics perfectly fit into the time in 1990 when I first saw my wife. One of those songs that throws you back to your youth, and better, less quarantined days.
Fearless – Has an almost Malcolm Young sounding guitar thing going on. When I read the credits and I see thanks being thrown out to Brian Johnson and Cliff Williams I get sort of an aha moment.
Lay Your Love On Me – I read somewhere that Mick Ralphs was especially upset that he had no songwriting duties on this album, and even refused to go on tour after the album was released(he was replaced in the videos and for the tour by Jeff Whitehorn). The credits list him as the sole writer of this song (as well as co-writer on 3 others), so I’m not sure. I will say it fits into the theme of love that this album exudes. It has a sort of 80’s Bon Jovi theme going on, which sounds really great. Lay Your Love(Hands?) On Me. Ok, I get it.
Boys Cry Tough – This is one of those songs that tell a story. In a Bon Jovi meets Skid Row kind of way. Tommy and Gena. Ricky’s the wild one. No, this time it’s Bobby and Mary, but it is a great song like the one’s mentioned.
With You In A Heartbeat – The chugging beat that the lead and rhythm guitars(done admirably by producer Terry Thomas) exude, and the vocal mixes between Brian both singing alone and with a supporting cast elevate this song for me.
I Don’t Care – More of the same vocal sparring between Brian and the background Peanut gallery and some pretty cool plinkety plinking of the cymbals set this one apart for me.
Never Too Late – If ever there was a song that sounded exactly like Lou Gramm, this is it. This song could have slipped onto Foreigner 4 and no one would have objected.
Dead Of The Night – My AC/DC like guitar riffing going on. That is always the key to success in my books. The album jacket should have been thanking Angus and Malcolm as well, if even just for the inspiration.
I Can’t Live Without You – It has kind of a weird(in a good way), sped up Night Prowler meets Richard Marx thing going on at the beginning, but morphs into a chanting fist pumper along the love theme again.
One Hundred Miles – Whoa!! This song takes a complete u turn from the rest of the album. Drummer Simon Kirke sits behind the mic on this one and does a really great job on this pretty little song. Sort of a like if The Beatles were transported to modern times and were fronted by an older James Taylor.
It’s a wonder this album was even made. There was so much in-fighting involved. Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke were at odds with Brian Howe and producer Terry Thomas. The 2 remaining original members of the band were basically phoning it in, but yet it all worked. Apparently the band manager, Bud Prager was the key to keeping this band together. How very Van Halen sounding. It’s funny to me how albums I love (Black Sabbath – Mob Rules springs to mind) seem to have been made during great adversity. Perhaps the saying about how nothing in life comes easily is fitting.
This album has a lot of sentimental value to me. I could have easily have gave it a 10 and called it a day. It’s not entirely perfect, but it was perfect for me during the 90’s, and is pretty damn close to perfect even now. Many people will complain that this wasn’t the “real” Bad Company, or that it was maybe a little softer, but I like it anyway. The lack of a proper bottom end does knock it down a notch, but that was a sign of the times, and not the bands fault. Rest In Peace Brian, and thank you so much for fronting Bad Company during trying times, and for being a small part of my wedding day.