Bad Company teaches the value of consistency — tempered, that is, with due regard for changes in fashion. The band played reliable hard rock from 1974 to 1982, then broke up. It returned in 1986 with a new singer who, by accident or design, had exactly the kind of voice the newly popular hard rock of the late ’80s demanded. Paul Rodgers, the former Bad Company vocalist, was solid and earthy, rooted in rock tradition and in the traditions of the blues and country music that rock evolved from. Brian Howe, the new boy, sounds sharper, leaner, more urgent, and more electric. He typifies hard rock in the age of Axl Rose, in which country boys relocate to the city to test their strength against the urban jungle.
This new record — extended for the CD era — has 13 songs, which makes Holy Water less consistent than the last (”Dangerous Age,” released in 1988) because few bands can write 13 good songs for an album. But it’s amazing how effective the first eight or so are, how proudly their choruses ring out, how infallibly their lyrics evoke perennial hard-rock images: the flames of love (”Walk Through Fire”), the one woman whose love provides salvation (the title cut), the rebel girl headed for trouble (”Fearless”). A lighthearted love song called ”100 Miles” — in which drummer Simon Kirke sings and plays halting acoustic guitar — eases the album to an offbeat close. But fans will buy this record for Bad Company’s comforting brand of hard rock. They won’t be disappointed.