One of the most successful touring acts of the 1970s and perhaps the epitome of the “classic rock” group, Bad Company neglected to provide its fans with a live document during its initial 1973-1982 run with Paul Rodgers. Attributable largely to Peter Grant’s disdain for such records, the absence of an official release recorded during the 1970s plagued Bad Company’s output until 2006. To this day, the band’s half hour segment on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert (1974) endures as the only substantial footage from the era and, incidentally, stands on its own as a hell of a show. Only thirty years late, the convincing Live in Albuquerque 1976 double album (supplied from Mick Ralphs’ personal collection) showcased the exceptional March 10 show in its entirety and, despite the lack of favorites “Movin’ On” and “Silver, Blue, and Gold”, faithfully reproduced a stop on the Run With the Pack tour with no discernible overdubbing or editing. Very slight hissing persists due to the unaltered soundboard recording, but this should in no way detract from the listening experience and is quickly forgotten as the performance begins. The extended renditions of “Ready for Love”, “Can’t Get Enough”, and “Bad Company” alone are almost worth the wait, and their absence up until 2006 seems inexcusable after just one listen. Nearly each track improves upon or at least matches its studio version; “Live for the Music” makes for an even more bruising opener live, “Rock Steady” picks up a perfect drum intro, and “Young Blood” arguably comes across better without studio polish. However, for undisclosed reasons, the album was withdrawn shortly after release with the speculation tending to blame Rodgers. Despite a slightly flat opening to “Feel Like Makin’ Love”, his contributions throughout are exceptional.
The drought officially ended with last year’s Live in Concert 1977 & 1979, a comprehensive release culled from performances at the Summit Auditorium in Houston (staged two days after Led Zeppelin’s soundboard-preserved stop) and London’s Wembley Stadium, respectively. Though both shows can only improve one’s estimation of the group’s abilities, Live in Albuquerque 1976 remains the finer album overall. With set lists heavily favored toward Burnin’ Sky and Desolation Angels, In Concert more than adequately represents Bad Company’s latter-day efforts at, regrettably, the expense of the first three records. Consequently, “Wild Fire Woman”, “Deal with the Preacher”, “Seagull”, and half of the Run with the Pack material–all arguable highlights of the Albuquerque set–fall by the wayside. Furthermore, the duplicate performances from Houston and London do not really surpass their 1976 counterparts in quality or alter significantly the arrangements. Meanwhile, any potential apprehensions on Rodgers’ part that may have contributed to the ill fate of Albuquerque seem ridiculous given that album’s superiority. In fact, even the Capitol Centre-sourced encore of “Hey Joe” (included in the Wembley set) pales in comparison to another performance captured that year at the same venue as a radio broadcast/soundboard. Regardless of your preference, both releases provide entertaining, technically accomplished evidence establishing Bad Company’s stature among the greatest groups of the era.