There’s something incredibly special about seeing your favorite band live. It’s even more special when you see them with their complete original lineup — something that’s becoming even more rare these days. Whoever was lucky enough to see Bad Company on tour in 1976 witnessed a powerful moment in rock and roll history. Just as they reached the top of the music scene, the original Bad Company: Mick Ralphs, Paul Rodgers, Boz Burrell and Simon Kirke all took the stage together for a leg of concerts that included one of the most authentic and mysterious live recordings of all time, Live In Albuquerque 1976.
It was 1976 when Bad Company released their third album, Run with the Pack, which lead them to hit the road for their “Burnin’ Through America” tour. Though guitarist Mick Ralphs recorded the tour’s Albuquerque show in October of 1976, there was no official album release until 2006 — making Live In Albuquerque Bad Company’s first and only live album released from the seventies. And as if fans hadn’t been waiting long enough by this point, the album was immediately withdrawn a short time after its release. Copyright issues are apparently a bitch, and if you didn’t snag a copy back then, there’s a good chance you don’t even know it exists. I bought mine for $30 on eBay, which seems like a steal compared to some prices I’ve seen. ($70 and up!) If you’re interested, there’s only a couple more available at the price so be sure to claim it ASAP.
Live in Albuquerque starts off loud with cheers from the crowd and wolf-like barks from the band behind the curtain. The energy immediately skyrockets just as the first song, Run with the Pack’s signature “Live for the Music,” starts up. By belting out the carefree lyrics, Paul Rodgers is able to set the scene right for the entire show: “When the night times comes I’m ready to rock and roll my troubles away.” And that’s just what they do.
The overall sound on this album is incredible, and I can only imagine how good it must have felt to be there in the flesh, jammin’ alongside the classic Bad Company lineup. The rhythm and vocals are on point — especially during second song of the evening, the band’s classic tune, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad.” Ralphs’ guitar is killer during the solo, and as it winds down, Kirke’s drums and Burrell’s thumping bass add even more drama to the epic finish. This live version of “Ready For Love,” (my go to karaoke song) is smooth and sexier than usual, and the crowd seems to really dig it.
The entire Albuquerque setlist is a good time, from start to finish. This performance of “Young Blood” is especially fun and is my favorite out of all the live versions I’ve heard. Though the song is a cover originally made famous by The Coasters, I’m in love with the Bad Company version simply because it makes me smile. The whole band participates, mimicking the voice styles of the original song in an idolizing way. It’s one of their best songs to dance to. Next comes what Paul Rodgers calls one of his favorite songs, “Sweet Little Sister.” His voice seems a tad bit harsh here, but I feel that it compliments the mood of the song. It’s one of those sporadic jams were that kind of sound works. The vibe starts to cool down just as “Simple Man” closes in. This song is so great because it has a clear point: it’s truly the simple things in life, like freedom, that matter most.
“Shooting Star” is a crowd pleaser, and though this version is more subtle than the studio recording, the crowd goes wild just the same. During the last few seconds of the song, Rodgers goes all out, just as he does for the next song, “Seagull,” which comes from their debut album Bad Company. I love this one not only because of the lyrics, but also because of Rodgers’ powerful, soulful voice — it fills up the entire venue and the audience responds very well to it. These next live performances of “Wild Fire Woman,” “Rock Steady,” “Honey Child” and “Can’t Get Enough” are true rock and roll with a rhythm and blues twist — one of a kind Bad Company.
Without a doubt, Live In Albuquerque is a must have for any Bad Company fan. Not only for the music, but for the memorabilia. The 20-page booklet included with the CD is comprised of rare photos of the band from Mick Ralphs’ personal collection.
Bad Company still rocks hard today, but without original bassist Boz Burrell, who died shortly after Live In Albuquerque’s 2006 release, there’s an empty void — just like there is without The Who’s Keith Moon, The Doors’ without Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek and Led Zeppelin without John Bonham. It’s a sad reality that these historic rock and roll moments will never happen again. But it’s comforting to know that these moments will never die. They will forever continue to be played, praised and passed down from generation to generation for years to come.