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"Just for now, little lady, shine on me"
|Main Category:||Pop Rock|
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|Starting Period:||The Artsy/Rootsy Years|
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'I don't know if they're coming through on the acoustic guitars, but it's... an Apple band, Badfinger'. That's the way George Harrison introduces these lads on the famous Concert For Bangla Desh, and although he didn't really mean it, this saying pretty much defines everything important about Badfinger. An Apple protege and, for some, the direct 'inheritors' of the Fab Four's pop style that managed to carry it on through the early Seventies, Badfinger were misunderstood, misled, miscalculated and mispigeonholed - one of the most unhappy and successful pop/rock bands in existence.Now first of all, let's get some things straight. Judging by what I've heard, Badfinger weren't a 'superb' band by any means; the 'Beatles legacy' claim was, frankly speaking, nothing but hype, due more to the band's image and close association with the Beatles than to their actual songwriting, arranging and lyrical abilities. Their melodies were solid, but not exceptional and definitely not groundbreaking. Their idea of resisting 'progressive' tendencies of the early Seventies (a thing they shared with certain other pop mini-giants of the era like Big Star and the Raspberries) might have been welcome; after all, it's always nice to see a genre living on and nicely interacting with newer ones. Keep it fresh and keep it cool, in other words, and that's what Badfinger were trying to do. Unfortunately, Pete Ham and Joey Molland were no Lennon/McCartney; much too often they just copied their idols in style, not in essence; and, coupled with the fact that pure pop was really unfashionable in the early Seventies, this led to the band's untimely end and Pete Ham's (and later Tom Evans') untimely demise. Moreover, I just don't buy all the talks about Badfinger 'continuing the spirit of the Beatles' simply because there is no such thing as the 'Beatles spirit'. And even if there is, this should rather relate to the Beatles' constantly treading new waters and demonstrating new musical horizons; contrary to this, Badfinger never bothered with finding anything new, instead retreading into the happy pop formula of, well, the Beatles somewhere around 1964-65. If anything, these guys were a slightly updated version of the Hollies rather than the Beatles, only worse, since their albums aren't as strong as the Hollies' prime records of the mid-Sixties. But don't get me wrong: I have no hard feelings towards the band, and I'd even say that they're pretty underrated. Not exactly forgotten, but rarely given their due by music listeners. Trust me, they're at least more exciting than Oasis could ever hope to be. The following qualities redeem the band, to a certain extent: 1) Badfinger were a fascinating band just because of their very nature - youthful, naive, charming, and humble, far from both the metaphysical pretentions of arrogant progrockers, the macho poses of hairy hardrockers, and the fake superstar complexes of shining glamrockers. They just wrote simple love and life songs, and had enough talent to make them likable, memorable and exciting. The band's image, thus, is what really sets them apart from their contemporaries and gives additional spice to their music. 2) They also managed to acquire a wonderful sound - no experimentation or weird techniques, just plain simple pop-rock with sparkling acoustic guitars, tinkly pianos and simple, but effective drum patterns; at the same time, they did know how to rock, and sometimes managed to sound loud and gentle at the same time. From this is born the style known as "power-pop". The term itself is rather vague, of course - to my knowledge, the difference in between 'power-pop' and 'soft rock' lies somewhere in that 'power-pop' is pop bordering on rock, while 'soft-rock' is rock bordering on pop - but since Badfinger are almost universally recognized as fathers of the genre, that gives you a clue. When somebody asks you to define 'power-pop', tell 'em something like 'Ever heard Badfinger? Now that's prime power-pop to you'. 3) Finally, while most of their albums are indeed rife with filler, Badfinger have still left behind a more or less solid musical heritage. Like I said (and probably will go on saying three thousand times more in the actual reviews), it's not that talent was oozing out of every hole of every band member; add to this the fact that the pop genre as such had been ninety-percent depleted by the beginning of the Seventies, and thus it's a miracle that the band actually managed to place all of their hits in the charts and make them still listenable, memorable and enjoyable today. The tragedy of Badfinger lies in that they were hopelessly out of time. Their peak of activity fell upon the period when pop had been firmly replaced by more fresh and unexplored genres like prog or hard rock. And due to management problems that were terrible indeed, they never managed to capture that part of the audience that had always preferred pop music to any other genre. Methinks that if they hadn't signed up with such a fluke organization as Apple, been cheated and mistreated by greedy managers, deprived of all their royalties, used up and squeezed out by corporate industry, or experienced such a stupid marketing strategy (their last record, which was supposed to be able to really keep them going strong, was pulled from the stores several weeks after its release), the world could have easily skipped the Carpenters and the Osmonds, and general public tastes would be far more laudable. But perhaps Lord God has his own way... Lineup: the original lineup consisted of Pete Ham (vocals/guitar/piano), Mike Gibbins (drums), Ron Griffiths (bass), David Jenkins (guitar). These were formed in 1968 and named the Iveys; in 1969, after signing up with Apple, the band changed the name to Badfinger. By this time, Tom Evans replaced Griffiths on bass, and Joey Molland replaced Jenkins. This classic lineup recorded three albums on Apple, before it folded and they were forced to sign a new contract with Warner Brothers. Molland quit in 1974, over the band's continuous lack of sales, quarrels and unhealthy atmosphere, and the band dispersed; shortly afterwards, Pete Ham hanged himself. Molland and Evans reformed the band in 1978, releasing two more albums, but this only resulted in Evans' own suicide in 1983. The band was really formed under an unlucky star. The 'classic' lineup has released six albums, five of which I currently have in my possession; I'm still looking for more, so keep coming back.
Listenability: 3/5. Badfinger
were tremendously inconsistent - they rarely wrote BAD songs, but they
were only 'apprentices' when it came around to hook-filling their albums.
Resonance: 3/5. Pete Ham can move you, can't he?
Originality: 0/5. Well, they DID symbolize 'power-pop', but we all know who actually invented power-pop, don't we? Those four dudes from Liverpool. Go on and tell me stuff like 'Anytime At All' isn't 'power-pop'.
Adequacy: 3/5. Rather lame when it comes to rocking, which they really tried.
Diversity: 1/5. Not to be scolded, though.
Overall: 2.0 = D on the rating scale.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 8
This is really puerile. Well, whaddaya want? The guys hadn't taken any songwriting lessons from the Beatles yet!Best song: COME AND GET IT
Track listing: 1) Come And Get It; 2) Crimson Ship; 3) Dear Angie; 4) Fisherman; 5) Midnight Sun; 6) Beautiful And Blue; 7) Rock Of All Ages; 8) Carry On Till Tomorrow; 9) I'm In Love; 10) Walk Out In The Rain; 11) Angelique; 12) Knocking Down Our Home; 13) Give It A Try; 14) Maybe Tomorrow; [BONUS TRACKS:] 15) Storm In A Teacup; 16) Arthur.
This is supposed to be a soundtrack to the movie Magic Christian, as the title suggests, but actually, it isn't. Just three of the songs out of the fourteen tracks made it onto the soundtrack. A few others had been recorded specially for the album; and in order to pan it out, Apple Records chose six 'best' tracks from Badfinger's debut as the Iveys, the Maybe Tomorrow LP, and this resulted in an extremely patchy and inconsistent record which is certainly not the place to begin your Badfinger infatuation from. By all means, this is not really Badfinger, as the band at that point lacked crucial member Joey Molland; he actually joined before the album was released, but never got the chance to play on it, let alone contribute something of his own.The first track on this album is by far the best known and the most accomplished - ironically, it was written by Paul McCartney in something like about half an hour, after which he gave the acetate to the band telling them not to change a note. You can still hear the original Paul-sung version of 'Come And Get It' on the Beatles' Anthology III: Badfinger's version definitely repeats it note for note, even if the production is naturally fuller. Still, whoever the song belongs to, it is an endearing, harmless pop number boasting the usual McCartney catchiness, and none of the other melodies here even come close to matching it. Because let's face it: before they were 'adopted' by the Fab Four, the Iveys were a raw, unexperienced, unprofessional light pop outfit with serious cabaret, bubblegum and pure schlock leanings. The liner notes to the record say that this is 'the most Beatle-sounding of the Badfinger releases', but in reality, it's their least Beatle-sounding. Frankly, I doubt if the Beatles would ever have bothered writing such pathetic sugary crap as Evans' 'Angelique' or such pathetic Broadway-style throwaway as Pete Ham's 'Knocking Down Our Home'. The main problem here is that Badfinger are way too mellow even for their own usual style; patches of talent still grow through the thistles of routine arrangements and completely derivative melodies, but patches are patches, after all, and it's a real wonder how the band actually made such a radical transition on to their patented power-pop style of No Dice. The six old Iveys' numbers are practically all dismissable - if this was considered their best material, I'm shuddering at the very idea of what the worst material really sounded like. Ron Griffiths' boppy 'Dear Angie' is probably salvageable (although the same melodic approach was later put to better use on 'Believe Me'); and Ham's 'I'm In Love' is also acceptable bubble-gum, redeemed by a decent amount of innocent youthful energy. However, like I already said, 'Angelique' and 'Knocking Down Our Home' are ridiculous; 'Maybe Tomorrow' sounds like a hookless Bee Gees ballad; and 'Beautiful And Blue' relies too much on strings and sappy harmonies to make a true impression. Badfinger's main strength are the wonderful ringing guitars and the wonderful vocal melodies; these songs only hint at what would less than a year become the standard for all the power-pop combos. Out of the later songs, the two rockers, 'Midnight Sun' and 'Rock Of All Ages', are moderately tolerable; 'Rock Of All Ages' actually shows that Badfinger knew how to rock out from the very beginning - the hysteric, but somehow convincing vocals kinda remind me of Slade's Noddy Holder (really!), and the rhythm section has certainly got it. It got it got it got it got it. Great guitar solos, too. But the best of the lot are certainly the Evans/Ham collaborations 'Crimson Ship' and 'Carry On Till Tomorrow' - the kind of melancholic, stately ballads that are probably the main reason for which people still turn to their Badfinger records in hours of doubt and darkness. 'Carry On Till Tomorrow', in fact, is the only sincere introspective ballad on the whole album - everything else sounds like it'd been written pro forma; but here, Pete Ham creates a truly gorgeous atmosphere, and the band (more exactly, the producer Mal Evans) compensates for the lapses of taste with a majestic strings arrangement that certainly takes you places - if you wish to. Still, two or three excellent tracks can't compensate for the overall weaknesses of the album - and neither can the two bonus tracks, another hard-to-find Iveys' pop-rocker 'Storm In A Teacup' and the totally idiotic 'Arthur'. (I can perfectly understand why the latter track was previously unissued - it's easily the worst embarrassment in the entire Badfinger catalog, with moronic 'Brit-comedy' lyrics and a 'parodic' nursery-rhyme melody that would be perfectly suitable for a Benny Hill show. So much for trying to ape the Kinks, guys - their 'Arthur' was certainly different). In all, we simply must say a late 'thank you' to the Beatles and to all the guys on Apple Records who were able to see the talent in these lads and actually point them into the right direction. I don't know whether the radical change of sound was also due to Joey Molland's apparition, but there's a very high probability that it was Joey who led the guys away from the unimaginative schlock and onto more daring and respectable territory. Come to think of it, any territory would be more daring and respectable. Much as I like to overrate the underrated, I can tell you that this bleak collection is definitely no From Genesis To Revelation. It's not exactly horrid, but it's sterile and - worse of all - has almost no identity of its own, whatsoever. Pick up a few Carole King records instead. Or a good Broadway show soundtrack. Eh?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11
Glorious power-pop, but the softer stuff is kinda unremarkable: 'ear-candy', is that the right term?Best song: WITHOUT YOU
Track listing: 1) I Can't Take It; 2) I Don't Mind; 3) Love Me Do; 4) Midnight Caller; 5) No Matter What; 6) Without You; 7) Blodwyn; 8) Better Days; 9) It Had To Be; 10) Watford John; 11) Believe Me; 12) We're For The Dark; [BONUS TRACKS:] 13) Get Down; 14) Friends Are Hard To Find; 15) Mean Mean Jemima; 16) Loving You; 17) I'll Be The One.
This was Badfinger's real debut album - Magic Christian Music was, after all, just a soundtrack, even if it did contain 'Come And Get It'; and it pretty much set the rules for the entire game. The CD re-issue presents the album to us in all its splendour, adding a whole five bonus tracks and sounding just as fresh today as it sounded thirty or more years ago (except that I'm not at all satisfied with how badly the bass guitar is mixed - sometimes it seems to me that Tom Evans specially pulled up the controls while the others weren't looking). The problem is, if you don't pay real attention, the songs will certainly all end up sticking together in one undiscernible mess: the stylistic variety is not at all overwhelming. And that would be a pity, as on closer listen it becomes obvious that some numbers here are better than others. What should we blame it on - accidental strike of fortune or lack of talent to make a fully consistent record? Now here's a truly rhetoric question for you. Go and ask Pete Ham. (On second thought, better not).In any case, the first half of the album, with the exception of the unremarkable, pedestrian ballad 'I Don't Mind', is near-perfect; an EP like that would probably be the embodiment of all the perfection of power-pop embodied in a compact, blistering collection. The best of the bunch is arguably the soulful, pathetic (in a good sense) ballad 'Without You', an Evans/Ham collaboration that was later covered by Harry Nilsson and nearly became known as his song; at least, the All-Music Guide states that the Mariah Carey version is 'a reworking of Harry Nilsson's 'Without You''. Blah. The song is great: minimalistic, based around emotional guitar playing (gotta dig that Harrisonesque solo!), while the vocal melody, of course, brings reminiscences of McCartney, but also of the Hollies in their balladeering prime; anyway, it's probably a perfect number to play when making a proposal, keep that in mind. Another keeper is 'Midnight Caller', again, equally strong and equally reminiscing of McCartney - I guess I'm getting repetitive, but hey, it's the second generation of the Beatles we're talking about, are we not? Anyway, on 'Midnight Caller' Pete Ham even modulates his voice after Paul's, and one can't get away from the facts. This time around, though, the song's an ode to an aging prostitute - and apparently it's one of the most consolative and tender odes to aging prostitutes ever written (and unsurprisingly, there's been quite a few). The rocking numbers display just as much energy and inspiration - 'No Matter What' was the hit single, and it's kinda funny: right after Ham's McCartney impersonation on 'Midnight Caller', he gives out an adequate Lennon impersonation (circa late 1963/early 1964) on 'No Matter What', which is sometimes called the first, and most basic, power-pop anthem ever written. Let me therefore remind you that the only difference of this style from Lennon circa late 1963/early 1964 is that the guitars are louder and crunchier - everything else, the tonalities, the chords, the vocal harmonies, are the same. The same and quite worthy, too: the chorus ('knock down the old grey wall...') is irresistible, and Ham's powerful vocal onslaught will make you forget all the pretense and just rock around like a silly little kid. 'I Can't Take It' is more Hollies than Beatles - mostly due to the guys' high-pitched harmonies, plus Joey Molland throws in a fast, gut-spinning solo - the guy's obviously a first-rate guitar player, far more experienced and fluid than Harrison ever was. He doesn't construct his solos as well, and not all of the notes are as effective and resonant as Harrison's, but he wins in the energy and speed department, and that's no small deal for a hardcore pop band. Finally, 'Love Me Do'... yeah, 'Love Me Do', but not the Beatles' tune, just a stolen Beatles title; anyway, it's just a cheerful piece of catchy boogie where the boys rock out in a Fifties' manner and have the utmost fun, a thing that's rarely evident on a Badfinger record, as the lads were far more often sad and contemplative, even in their loudest rockers, than cheerful and playful. Witness the mad, crazyass solo that Ham beats out of his Gibson! Unfortunately, the second side kinda sucks. (It's the regular thing with Badfinger: seems like they just were putting the songs on the albums in order of their appearance and recording, and the further they got, the less inspiration they retained). 'Blodwyn' is a forgettable, primitive folk chant, saved by the whisker by a nice touch of slide guitar; 'Better Days' veers into country, exploiting generic countryish rhythms, but this time without any slide guitars, and that's certainly not genuine Badfinger territory; and 'It Had To Be' is way too disjointed for a ballad and lacks true hooks. The band recaptures the rocking power briefly on the blistering 'Watford John', though, and churns out a credible 'Oh Darling' rip-off ('Believe Me'); but then they lose it one more time on the acoustic 'We're For The Dark'. And I'd be really hard pressed to choose my favourite among the bonus tracks - none of them seem to present the listener with anything interesting, if you don't count that 'Get Down' is the most hard-rocking number on the whole record (far from the best, though). Which only goes to show, of course. Well, how long can one babble about a solid, but not stellar power-pop album? There are some good compilations out there, so if they include most of the tunes off the first side, you might as well skip this one. But for a pop junkie, No Dice is a must.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
The band going heavy without a cause. Poor lads.Best song: TIMELESS
Track listing: 1) Apple Of My Eye; 2) Get Away; 3) Icicles; 4) The Winner; 5) Blind Owl; 6) Constitution; 7) When I Say; 8) Cowboy; 9) I Can Love You; 10) Timeless; [BONUS TRACK:] 11) Do You Mind.
No, not that ass, but sure can't fully stomp out that association. What an embarrassment. In every, every, every, dang every respect. Starting from the album title, of course ("...been enjoying Badfinger's Ass all evening..." - doesn't that sound nice?), going on through the actual music and ending with the fact that the album was originally delayed and then issued as Apple crumbled into dust: in fact, Ass is said to be the company's last ever release before it ceased to exist. Thus, it got even less promotion than the previous three records, and served as a worthy precedent for Badfinger's subpar treatment on their next record label, Warner Brothers. I mean, Badfinger's fortunes were never all that pretty, but here they really nosedived - commercially and psychologically, it was all downhill from now on.As for the actual music, it's not really all that bad. But there is one big problem, duly pointed out by most of this record's critics: Badfinger are now trying to draw on hard rock influences, and complement their Beatlesque pop with a string of lumpy heavy rockers (of course, only relatively heavy - this ain't no Black Sabbath, for sure) in a style that they aren't all that familiar with. Obviously, this was a desperate move in order to "commercialize" their music, and above all, to help them finally penetrate the US market: the band toured the States extensively that year, and got a clear picture of what kind of music was prevalent at the time. But alas, Badfinger were far less skillful in that respect than even Paul McCartney, who usually gets all the kicks as soon as he starts 'rockin' out'. I mean, just look at them - simple, innocent folkish lads making sweet, innocent music, as light as a feather, and for them to reinvent themselves as grizzly arena-rockers? Changes of style can be tolerable, but there are limits to everything. That said, these songs aren't bad or anything. It's just that they don't stick out: like Brian Burks wisely pointed out, there were simply way too many heavy rockers at the time, and by sacrificing their poppy identity, Badfinger simply diffused themselves among the faceless crowds of second-rate hard rock and glam bands storming the charts all over the world at the time, without any hope to storm the charts themselves. Worse, this stuff doesn't hold up to time as effectively as the 'glossy pop' of the previous records. What reason does one have to listen to tracks like 'Get Away', 'The Winner', 'Blind Owl', and 'Constitution' today? I'd better go to the real thing - put on some Free or some Deep Purple instead. It really pains me to see the guys whip out their fuzz boxes and wah-wah pedals, grow some scuzzy moustaches and "rip away". Bah. A big problem is that Pete Ham, the band's "face", is mostly absent throughout. His are only the two compositions that bookmark the album - and, not surprisingly, they are better than almost anything on here. 'Apple Of My Eye' is really moving, and the song's genius is in that it can appeal on two different levels: either as a song of lost love or as a metaphoric farewell to their record label. Either way, it has some traces of the old Badfinger glory, with beautiful twists in the vocal melody that emphasize the song's melancholic, solemn bliss. But even better and even more majestic is the album closer, which, strange enough, happens to be the most pretentious song the band ever recorded, with lyrics that Pete Sinfield wouldn't have rejected if somebody slipped 'em into his briefcase. The seven minute length is perfectly justified: the band goes for a gloomy, cathartic, 'I Want You'-style coda, with heavy guitar soloing over the ever deepening, howling wind, and this is about the only time of the album when their heaviness is fully justified: Pete really lets go, delivering masterful passages of power, beauty and sorrow, which is as perfect a goodbye for Apple as can be. Elsewhere, it's Molland and Evans on parade, and it's them that contribute all those stupid rockers, one after one. At times, the band is so shattered it falls into fits of stupidity - 'Cowboy' is as lame a country-western sendup as possible, with stupid bubbling noises and dumb lyrics. But every once in a while, even the Hamless members muster their forces and deliver something rich. Molland's 'Icicles', for instance, is a true pop classic: the lyrics suffer a little from preachiness, but the melody is catchy and near-impeccable. Likewise, 'I Can Love You' and 'When You Say' are tolerable, though not any better than the filler tracks on earlier records. But one can't really get rid of the feeling of mediocrity - it pursues you throughout, and only gives way when you step onto Pete Ham territory. As if to make matters worse, the album's been continuously out of print in the States. In Europe, however, a CD edition is available, together with the bonus track 'Do You Mind', a Molland poppy original that is, unsurprisingly, much better than almost anything else on here. It is definitely worth hunting out for Badfinger fans, but otherwise, don't worry; you'll find most of the best stuff on compilations. Although you'll probably never get 'Timeless' on a compilation.
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10
Pretty hookless pop, if you ask me - Badfinger catches the lightweightness, but misses the spine.Best song: I MISS YOU
Track listing: 1) I Miss You; 2) Shine On; 3) Love Is Easy; 4) Song For A Lost Friend; 5) Why Don't We Talk; 6) Island; 7) Matted Spam; 8) Where Do We Go From Here?; 9) My Heart Goes Out; 10) Lonely You; 11) Give It Up; 12) Andy Norris.
Badfinger's self-titled album is often considered to be their worst ever, recorded in a state of financial and artistic transition. They had just broken up with Apple and moved to Warner Brothers - a company far more powerful but far less interested in real music. It is indeed an ominous sign that the working title of the album was originally For Love Or Money...The big problem is that much, horrendously much of the material is painfully generic - very even, very professional, very slick and very unexciting, like a quiet sea without even a single teeny-weeny ripple on it. Even when the band lets down its hair on a few admittedly 'raucous' rockers, it always seems as if they were doing that stuff just like that, pro forma - you wanted us to sound loud, you got what you wanted. Part of the blame is often put on producer Chris Thomas, who was no Todd Rundgren and couldn't exploit Badfinger to their best, instead relying on pre-existent, dusty formulas. But, after all, it's only part of the blame, and if he's really guilty, then how come the record is opened so powerfully with two unquestionable pop masterpieces? Because the album's first two songs should rank along with Badfinger's best work ever. Pete Ham's gorgeous, tear-inducing ballad 'I Miss You' opens the record; based on a simple, yet hard-hitting piano line in the 'Imagine' style, wonderful pleading vocal intonations in the 'Fool On The Hill' style, and the charming line 'and a thousand jesters couldn't make me smile' in the 'Ballad In Plain D' style, it's bound to get you going. And it's immediately followed by the upbeat, bouncy power pop gem 'Shine On', where the Pete Ham-Tom Evans duet rises to astral heights in a romantic, joyful chant. Unfortunately, from then on it's all downhill, and I can't really explain why - the rest of the album doesn't even have a tenth part of the emotional tension in any of these tracks. No, it's not that there are any bad songs, none at all, unless you push me up against the wall and try to determine what I really mean under 'bad'. But there are problems, problems and problems. Like I said, the rockers are mostly pro forma: Joey Molland's 'Love Is Easy' seems bouncy and uplifting on the surface, but the more I listen to the multi-tracked guitars forming the skeleton of the song in order to understand why I'm still not impressed, the more I get convinced that it's just a clear case of a band not knowing what to do with an interesting musical idea they got - and Joey's vocals are very poorly mixed, too. Same goes for 'Island', except that it's slower and, well, if 'Love Is Easy' goes nowhere, 'Island' just heads straight for the shredder. And 'Give It Up', which in the grand George Harrison tradition (apparently, the lads were still hot from working on All Things Must Pass) of 'Let It Down' alternates from a lazy acoustic shuffle to a climactic heavy-rocking, wall-of-sound chorus, just dryly recycles the formula without anybody being really interested. The acoustic shuffle is idle, sloppy and bored, and the climax sounds far closer to generic mid-Seventies tuneless hard rock than to George's passionate pomp balladeering. And 'Andy Norris'? The poor guys thought they could save face by closing the record with a real fast, real boogie-style number, and in another age the song could have probably gone off as a real Chinese firecracker; but on Badfinger, after all the laziness and the sloppiness and the pessimism and the butchering production, it just sounds completely fake, like some pathetic fool trying to cheer up the public at a funeral by launching into a reckless cha-cha boo or something. Maybe it can fare better on its own, though. I'll have to try that sometimes. Not that Pete Ham's other contributions are way better, mind you. He places the emphasis on balladeering, but he just doesn't get far away with it - 'Song For A Lost Friend' rambles on with not an interesting moment in sight, and 'Lonely You' just mercilessly clones 'I Miss You', naturally, to a somewhat poor effect. (Sounds pretty MORish, too, if you get my drift. Didn't the Eagles drop a coin in here somewhere?). The pleasant atmosphere of the album start does manage to be recaptured briefly on Tom Evans' 'Where Do We Go From Here', though, a solid Harrison-style ditty with Harrison-style slide guitar and Harrison-style vocals; most importantly, a Harrison-style vocal melody with an irresistible chorus. It's also the most telling song on the album lyrically: 'Telling yourself you're a loser/Like someone winning who's not/Telling yourself you're a loser/Where do you go from here?' The confessional character of the lyrics is enough for me to forgive the boys for this misstep, but I tell you, it's really hard to dig this mini-gem out of the grayish lump of the album: after some time, I just cease to distinguish one track from another and I have to pull myself by the ears or pinch myself to come back to my senses when it's time for track 8. I don't think I've named all the songs, there's more, but I'm kinda tired. It's not really all that necessary - after all, it's just mediocre power pop, isn't it. But if I were a manager of some aspiring new band that's striving to break into the studio and conquer the world in 24 hours, I'd make them listen to this record's first two songs, then to the rest of it and ask if they notice the difference. And if they wouldn't, I'd kick 'em out of the studio. And a special note: never sign up with Warner Brothers. Didn't they butcher Eric Clapton's output in the Eighties, too?
READER COMMENTS SECTION
Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12
Okay, so this is not the greatest pop masterpiece you could expect; but if you ask me, it's pretty comparable with the Beatles' earliest stuff.Best song: GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE
Track listing: 1) Just A Chance; 2) Your So Fine; 3) Got To Get Out Of Here; 4) Know One Knows; 5) Dennis; 6) In The Meantime/Some Other Time; 7) Love Time; 8) Kind Of The Load (T); 9) Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke.
'Wish You Were Here?' Nay, not that one. Of course, Pink Floyd's album of the same name that came out about a year later completely wiped out any reminiscences of Badfinger's last 'classic' record that may yet have lingered in the minds of both American and European audiences, and it's a complete and absolute shame, as Badfinger's record, while certainly lacking the atmosphere and sonic depth of Pink Floyd's album, easily beats it melody-wise: never in his life could Roger Waters have penned that much glossy, shiny, immaculate harmonic structures as these sailor-dressed boys were able to.And they managed it, indeed - after the failure of Badfinger, the band took the time and the pain to redefine and polish their sound, while producer Chris Thomas had finally learned how to arrange and record their songs without neutralizing them to a state of one undivisible, sludgey MOR mess. While I still have trouble with dissecting Badfinger into separate pieces of music, all the identities and the trademark signatures of individual members are easily seen on Wish, and the guitars and vocals are active, tasty and memorable. Yup, they sometimes overdo the harmonizing trick, over-Byrdseying the songs, but apart from that, the only problem I have with the record is that, well, this is a Badfinger record, and this means it ain't no breathtaking masterpiece: however clever and crafty these lads were, the songs never amount to the emotional heights that the Beatles could easily scale in their 'classic' period. It's every bit as good as Please Please Me, though, if somewhat less energetic and intoxicating. It's understandable, though: the band were really gripping the edge of the crevasse, and it's no wonder that most of the songs are filled with feelings of angst, fear and disillusionment which they couldn't, and didn't want to, hide. Perhaps the best example of this approach is the tune I consider to be the most hard-hitting: Molland's 'Got To Get Out Of Here', a moody, spooky acoustic-driven ballad punctuated by frightened, desperate vocals and a stately, deeply disturbing organ background - when he hits those ominous chords on the keyboard, it really sends shivers down one's spine, especially considering the circumstances under which the song was written and what would follow soon after. 'I gotta find a place/Somewhere without a race...' Yeah. As Wish You Were Here slid down the charts and the band found itself completely robbed of all its royalties, Pete Ham finally found a place - and hanged himself... But let's turn to more cheerful matters instead; after all, there's always a sunnier side to the story. The first four songs on the album are all mini-gems - besides 'Got To Get Out Of Here', Ham also contributes the upbeat pop rockers 'Just A Chance' and 'Know One Knows', the first one of which rocks harder than anything they'd ever recorded before (presumably - it's indeed very hard for Badfinger) and was probably designed to reshape the band's image as that of a friendly, pleasantly bombastic stadium-rock outfit for the upcoming generation. Well, commercial or not, the song actually works and could have even be mistaken for a Revolver outtake, although the Beatles would sure produce it slightly differently. And 'Know One Knows' just has a brilliant, catchy refrain, backed by a shiny, sharp guitar line a la Roger McGuinn, you know, the kind of poppy, cheerful, heavenly guitar line that makes you feel happy against your will. The song can also be called 'experimental', as it has some vocals in Japanese (presumably the translation of the chorus) inserted in the middle of the song. Meanwhile, Mike Gibbins' 'Your So Fine' is just standard fare lightweight pop in the vein of 'Shine On' - catchy, bouncy, slightly childish, and featuring a terrific slide guitar solo; what else is needed for perfection? As things progress, though, Badfinger are found messing around with song structures and length, creating several extended epics and slightly overblown anthems: indeed, the second side finds the band moving away from the stereotype of 'lightweight pop' act; and even if the tunes are still way too simple and, well, generic (in a good sense here) to be considered true art-rock, they are surely advanced enough. It's almost as if Badfinger were decidedly moving in the steps of their more notorious forefathers - the Beatles and the Beach Boys, complicating the music and making it more serious and less immediately accessible. I can't exactly say that they succeed: one can't get rid of the thought that all of the 'epics' - Ham's 'Dennis', Gibbins/Molland's 'In The Meantime/Some Other Time' and Ham/Molland's 'Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke' (yeah, they decide to splice some of the songs into medleys) - are overlong and overall their melodies aren't as strong as the shorter tunes' ones. But they aren't bad, either: 'Dennis' gets saved by the emotional heat and the beautiful falsetto coda, 'In The Meantime' is just as catchy as anything else, and 'Meanwhile Back At The Ranch' is so obviously ripped-off from the second side of Abbey Road that it almost makes me laugh... if it didn't wanna make me cry. Add up the two lovely short tunes - Molland's pretty ballad 'Love Time' and Evans' Harrison rip-off 'King Of The Load (T)' (no, don't shrug your shoulders, it really sounds a lot like late period solo Harrison, and that's a compliment) - and you'll get yourself a more or less clear understanding of why the record is often considered Badfinger's masterpiece. The effort is indeed admirable - repeating myself, I'll remind the gentle reader that Badfinger's members weren't exactly amazing songwriters, but they sure knew their stuff, and despite all the financial and artistic troubles, they managed to bring it all together and produce a record that is not just listenable but almost managed to reinstate faith in the potentials of Beatlesque pop at a time when the world had already begun losing faith in the potentials of progressive and glam rock, the two leading currents of the day. With a little more common sense, a somewhat more effective management and a somewhat more optimistic view on life, the band would possibly be able to make an even bigger breakthrough than they ever managed - but supposedly nature is cruel and its laws are unbreakable: Beatlesque pop was doomed in the mid-Seventies, and instead of soaring up, the band crashed down. What a nasty irony of fate. Well, just don't forget to commemorate Mr Ham with a minute of silence, now that you've read this review. And try to discover the record somewhere in among the old piles of used up vinyl in your local store; apparently, it's only available on CD as a Japanese import. Warner Brothers are dirty freaks (when will they properly issue their Beach Boys catalog, by the way?)
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Year Of Release: 1979
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9
A nice, but unspectacular comeback. The amazing thing is, could you expect even a nice comeback for Badfinger IN 1979????!!!Best song: LOST INSIDE YOUR LOVE
Track listing: 1) Airwaves; 2) Look Out California; 3) Lost Inside Your Love; 4) Love Is Gonna Come At Last; 5) Sympathy; 6) The Winner; 7) The Dreamer; 8) Come Down Hard; 9) Sail Away; [BONUS TRACKS:] 10) One More Time; 11) Send Me Your Love; 12) Steal My Heart; 13) Love Can't Hide; 14) Can You Feel The Rain.
Okay, I know a nine is a pretty low overall rating. In fact, when I reviewed Ass and Badfinger and gave them the same low rating, I felt more negative than positive - the guys were obviously below their full potential, either giving up to public taste for Ass or giving up to their own depressions on Badfinger. But when I got Airwaves, my initial reaction was, like: 'Hmm?... A Badfinger record in 1979? Without Pete? Just Evans and Molland? And some other new suspicious guy who looks like a drugged-out Bill Wyman on the back cover? And why are they sporting all those electric guitars? Ah well, at least it ain't gonna cost me a fortune.' Frankly, since Badfinger never were a fantastiwastic group from the start and by 1979 they'd lost a crucial member, not to mention completely missed the time, I wasn't expecting much, and for a long time I didn't even dare to put this on - I didn't want to do the band a disfavour and 'grace' the page with a super-low rating, if only out of respect for poor Pete's memory.Eventually, though, I brought myself to the necessity of putting this on. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised! Indeed! No, this certainly wasn't a hidden miracle or anything, but it was really really nice. Evans and Molland did a good job - and eventually, it even did a little better on the charts than their previous two albums despite most of the music sounding completely out of fashion in 1979 (the usual thing with the poor band). That means it still flopped, of course, but the very fact that it did something on the market, and even brought out a minor hit (either 'Lost Inside Your Love' or 'Love Is Gonna Come At Last', I don't remember which - both deserved it), does mean something after all, now doesn't it? The album shows that Evans and Molland missed the punk/New Wave thing completely; apart from a few production gimmicks and some nasty synth overdubs (which are mainly evident on the bonus tracks here), this sounds exactly in the vein of Ass - moderately heavy rockers mixed with twinkly pop ballads. Evans and Molland wrote most of the songs, with two more contributions by Joe Tansin, who also played some guitar on the album; I can't quite understand if he was considered an official band member or not, but at least he was drafted full-time, so he probably was. Lots of session players are also involved, with Nicky Hopkins making several deserved apparitions on piano. And the result? Side one is very good. The two rockers that open and close it are unspectacular, but enjoyable - particularly Evans' 'Look Out California', which is perhaps one of the band's best ever attempts at playing some straight, uncompromised rock'n'roll, with delicious guitar solos and everything. As for Tansin, he contributes 'Sympathy' and immediately proves himself worthy of the B status: the song rolls along excellently, with solid hooks and tasty slidin' guitar rrrolls contrasting with the vocals. But the supposed mini-classics are the two softer songs. 'Lost Inside Your Love' is heartfelt, deep and introspective, with trademark Badfinger piano and trademark Badfinger backing vocals. It's one of those miraculous McCartneyesque numbers that really earned Badfinger its reputation and continue to represent their reputation better than anything else. And 'Love Is Gonna Come At Last' is their attempt at a Hamless 'No Matter What' (as a statement, of course, not that the melodies are similar) - nowhere near as powerful, but still filled with dippy hooks and sweet slide guitar. Sounds very much like George Harrison in a particularly silky mood (well, that's how most mid-Seventies Harrison sounds anyway), and that's a plus to me. Unfortunately, Side Two kinda refuses to continue the same marvelous vibe, and lets the album down. Where 'Sympathy' was so interesting due to the unstandard guitar work and the song's dark, compassionate mood, Tansin's second contribution, 'Winner' (not a re-recording of the song from Ass), is just a faceless pop rocker where nothing seems to work - it's kinda bland, with the band neither in a good nor in a bad state of mind. Molland's two songs are rather boring, as well: 'The Dreamer' is atmospheric, but lacks hooks, and 'Come Down Hard' goes nowhere. Another rocker, but it's not danceable like 'Look Out California', and it's not desperate, like 'Sympathy'. And what's a rocker supposed to be if it ain't danceable or desperate? Or angry, for that matter? The guitar solo is good, but pro forma this time. Bad song. Kiss used to have a lot of these, and I never could find a proper use for 'em. Fortunately, Evans comes to the rescue and closes the album on a good note with the moving, gentle 'Sail Away' (one of the very few songs of that name that's decent enough, actually). The new CD re-issue adds a few bonus tracks; for some reason all of them are written by Tansin, but none come close to matching the grasp of 'Sympathy'. The countryish stomp of 'One More Time' is nice, if generic (for comparison - Paul McCartney later based his far superior confessional anthem 'Put It There' on the same rhythm), and I actually feel moved by the Christine McVie-ish 'Send Me Your Love', but the other three are dull synth-pop thumpers that nobody needs to hear in order to go on living a healthy and productive life. The High Court resume: this album ain't half bad, but it has serious defects going on for it. Too short (without the bonus tracks, it clocks in at slightly over thirty minutes), too filler-based and too lightweight. Still good, and if you're a classic Badfinger fan and are deciding whether to bother or not, then please bother. You won't be disappointed. They did one more after that, and then Tom Evans killed himself. Brrr. I feel kinda fidgety reviewing this band.
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