It was great news that Apple decided to reissue their four Badfinger albums and give them a remastering. The first CD release of "Straight Up" dates back to 1993, and although the sound on the old release was great, this is a clear improvement.
The number of bonus tracks is the same, but it must be noted that four of them are different. These come from the originally unreleased Geoff Emerick produced follow-up album to "No Dice" from late 1970. This album has never been released in its entirety. But with the previously unreleased bonus-track on this release, along with the digital download only version of "Sweet Tuesday Morning" it is now possible to compile your own version of that album. A great sham that the album was never released, as it would really have been a great album, that might have secured Badfinger even more recognition.
The long period between the releases of "No Dice" and "Straight Up" did not help the band sustain their popularity, so when the group finally did release "Straight Up" around new year 1972, they more or less had to start over again. They did manage to return to the charts with the two great singles from "Straight Up", "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue", but bad management meant that their succes more or less ended there; but that's another story.
Actually among the bonus-tracks you'll find two great singles that never were. Both were stronly considered; "Name of the Game" even was given catalog number in both the U.K. and in the U.S. ( Apple 35 / Apple 1833 ). "Name of the Game" is one of Pete Ham's very best songs, which really deserves recognition as a classic. "I'll Be the One" wasn't even released until 1993, which is just as sad, as it's an extremely cacthy song that captures the folky trends of the time, and has a feel very much like that of early Lindisfarne.
Three of the bonus-track are released here for the first time ever. They're all great additions to the Badfinger song catalog, and deserve a few comments each.
The legendary unreleased Pete Ham song "Baby Please" is actually a group composition, but clearly with Pete Ham in the lead. Pete sings this great boogie-rocker and also delivers some great lead-guitar. A song worthy of Status Qou.
Tom Evans' "No Good at All" is a straight forward blues-rocker, with great vocals from Tom and some great slide guitar from Pete Ham.
"Sing for the Song", also written by Tom Evans", is probably the strongest composition of the three. Unbelieveable that it wasn't released at the time. Apple really did a bad job there, missing potential hit-songs and shelving first class material. "Sing for the Song" is a Beatles-influenced, very much in the vein of the "Magical Mystery Tour" approach. Note that this time Pete Ham excels at the piano. By the way the track-listing of the unreleased 1971 album is supposed to have been like this:
Side One: Suitcase ( Molland) / I'll Be the One (Badfinger) / No Good at All (Evans) / Sweet Tuesday Morning (Molland) / Baby Please ( Ham/Gibbins/Molland) / Mean, Mean Jemima (Molland) Side Two: Name of the Game (Ham) / Loving You (Gibbins) / / Money (Evans) / Flying (Evans/Molland) / Sing for the Song (Evans) / Perfection (Ham) - An album that really deserve an official release in its entirety.
There are fine and informative liner notes written by Andy Davis. A strongly recommended release.
By the end of 1971 Badfinger had actually recorded two albums since the release of "No Dice". The first remains unreleased to this date!. The second was released in February 1972 ( a bit earlier in the USA ), and was titled "Straight Up". Apple did not like the sound of the original album - they wanted a more polished sound. The rejected album had been produced by Geoff Emerick, and in spring 1971 George Harrison expressed wish to produce the band. Of course this was an offer that could not be rejected. George finished 4 tracks before he had to pull out to work on the Bangla Desh concert . To finish the album Todd Rundgren was recruited. Rundgren went through the recordings done with Emerick and Harrison and did some remixing on some of the tracks. Furthermore 7 new recordings were done for the album, which ended up to be Badfinger's most "produced" album - maybe along with "Wish You Were Here" - and it's indisputably among their finest. This album is one of their best loved, and it ranks among the greatest albums to come out of the seventies. Pete Ham is the main contributor of songs to the album. His 5 songs on the album are all among his greatest. The two hits, "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue" are well-known ,and "Take it All", "Name of The Game" and "Perfection" are all stand out tracks. Tom Evans wrote "Money" and "It's Over" - the latter considered by many to be one of his greatest with Badfinger. Molland wrote the acoustic ballad "Sweet Tuesday Morning" "I'd Die Babe" ( an optimistic country styled George Harrison production ) and the two rockers "Suitcase" and "Sometimes" - both became part of Badfinger's standard concert repetoire. The album is very well produced by Rundgren/Harrison - a bit overproduced at times, some might say. The bonus-tracks are all excellent - Name of The Game and Perfection even better than the album-versions.
My favourites: Take it All, Baby Blue, Name of The Game (both versions), Day After Day, Perfection and It's Over
Very, very good album if you like classy 60's music. I had heard they were a good band when I was a teenager in the 60's but they were overshadowed, for me, by others. I think if the Beatles had not been around at the same time then these would have been huge, and deservedly so. Great writers too.
By the time this album was originally issued in December of 1971 (in the USA) and February of 1972 (in the UK) Badfinger were the `new Beatles' to the extent that the reviewer in the British Beat Instrumental magazine tagged the album a kind of Badfinger For Sale after the four who were fab's Beatles For Sale which only goes to show how laziness can get to the best of us.
But now (in very few ways happily) it's 2010 and we can assess this little gem on its own merits. Okay so the comparison with the popular beat combo referred to above is pertinent on Joey Molland's "I'd Die, Babe" but there's still a creative energy at work in the midst of a George Harrison production which would of course have had lazy hacks muttering `I told you so'
Every member of the band was a writer, and Pete Ham was the most telling of them. One of his contributions on this one is "Name Of The Game" which is reflective, piano-led and subjected to a criminal fade.
There's a world-weariness about Tom Evans's "It's Over" that's tempered by exultant harmonies and a guitar solo -presumably by Ham- that raises both the spirit and the shoes.
"Flying" was co-written by Molland and Evans and it's a slightly schizophrenic affair given the upbeat nature of Molland's contribution and the downbeat nature of Evans's. Despite this it's another reason for taking into no account the place that history has assigned to Badfinger, especially as they were (this writer asserts) a band whose moment never arrived despite them having hits. They had more than their share of bad luck and trouble (which probably accounts for the suicide of both Evans and Ham) but perhaps this is the moment to celebrate their legacy in a way that Nick Drake's has been. Hindsight is double-edged after all.
Monday 25 October 2010 in the UK saw 14 of the 'Apple' label Sixties and Seventies albums remastered and reissued (see list below) - alongside a first-time-ever label 'Best Of' compilation CD not surprisingly called "Come And Get It" (named after a huge BADFINGER hit penned by Paul McCartney specifically for the band). This zippy little expanded CD reissue of their 3rd album "Straight Up" is one of them.
October 2010 - Apple 5099964244020 breaks down as follows (61:50 minutes): 1. Take It All 2. Baby Blue 3. Money 4. Flying 5. I'd Die Babe 6. Name Of The Game 7. Suitcase 8. Sweet Tuesday Morning 9. Day After Day 10. Sometimes 11. Perfection 12. It's Over Tracks 1 to 12 are the Stereo LP "Straight Up" released late December 1971 in the USA on Apple SW-3387 and 4 February 1972 on Apple SAPCOR 19 in the UK (it reached number 31 on the American Billboard Top 100).
Tracks 13 to 18 are bonus tracks exclusive to this 2010 CD reissue: 13. "I'll Be The One" is a band composition that was once muted as a possible UK Apple single (no number allocated), but never released 14. "Name Of The Game" (a Pete Ham song) was also considered for a single (Apple 35), but again never issued 15. "Baby Blue" (a Pete Ham song) was also considered for a UK single (Apple 42), but again withdrawn. It was, however, released in the USA on Apple 1844 in April 1972 and rose to number 14 on the Billboard charts. With added reverb on the drums, it's presented here as the `US Single Mix' - its B-side is the album track "Flying" 16. "Baby Please" (Pete Ham/Joey Molland/Mike Gibbins song) is previously unreleased 17. "No Good At All" (Tom Evans song) is previously unreleased 18. "Sing For The Song" (Tom Evans song) is previously unreleased
Requiring extra payment, there are also 7 more tracks available via Digital Download from iTunes or Amazon - "Money (Earlier Version)", "Flying (Earlier Version)", "Perfection (Earlier Version)", "Suitcase (Earlier Version)", "Sweet Tuesday Morning (Earlier Version)", "Mean Mean Jemima" and "Loving You" (see either site for cost details).
BOOKLET/PACKAGING: The front & rear of the original vinyl LP sleeve is reproduced on the gatefold card sleeve, while noted writer and music lover ANDY DAVIS does the new liner notes for the booklet (they're all a disappointingly weedy 12 pages long - EMI pushes the boat out again people). But with what little text he has been afforded, Davis does at least fill it with properly informative details - and there are black & white studio shots of the band - PETE HAM, TOM EVANS, JOEY MOLLAND and MIKE GIBBINS. It's cute, but you do wish there was more...
PLAYERS/CONTENT: Studio wizard TODD RUNDGEN famously produced the album except for "I'd Die, Babe", "Name Of The Game" and "Suitcase" - these had GEORGE HARRISON at the controls (he also played Guitar on "I'd Die, Babe"). The `bonus tracks' were produced by GEOFF EMERICK of Beatles/Abbey Road fame - except for "Baby Blue (US Single Mix)" which was Rundgren.
SOUND: The same team that handled the much-praised 09/09/09 Beatles remasters has done this too - GUY MASSEY, STEVE ROOKES, SAM OKELL and SIMON GIBSON. The audio quality is BEAUTIFUL - a massive improvement - makes you reassess a lot of the songs.
Their 2nd album "No Dice" from 1970 is a gem, but Badfinger surpassed even that with "Straight Up" - leagues ahead of their patchy 1969 debut both in terms of songwriting quality and sheer polish. This is immediately evident on the two Pete Ham openers - "Take It All" and "Baby Blue" - the Todd Rundgren production values on the guitars and drums now so clear. "Money" with its "buys you freedom" lyrics has great chunky guitars and harmony vocals, while "Flying," sounds not unlike 10cc circa "The Original Soundtrack". The liner notes tell us that Beatle George was literally dancing in the studio during the recording of "I'd Die, Babe" - it's easy to hear why - it's a catchy little ditty and similar to own songwriting style.
Joey Molland's keyboard funk of "Suitcase" opened Side 2 of the original album and talks of the weariness of being on the road forever without too much success (lyrics above). The lovely America-type acoustic tune "Sweet Tuesday Morning" follows - it was the B-side to the only single issued off the album in the UK ("Day After Day" - 7 January 1972 on APPLE 42). But then you're hit with a triple-whammy of Badfinger songwriting excellence - "Day After Day", "Sometimes" and "Perfection". All three offer up different facets of the band's capabilities - the lovely "Day After Day" is essentially a mid-tempo ballad from Pete Ham and that it wasn't a huge UK chart hit is sort of inexplicable, "Sometimes" is a Joey Molland rocking gem that sounds like The James Gang on a roll, while the thinking man's strum of "Perfection" comes closest to that Big Star comparison of out-and-out genius. As if that isn't enough, you get superb guitar playing on the Tom Evans album finisher "It's Over" - it's all so shockingly good, it really is. And like almost all of the releases in this series, the bonus tracks are impressive too rather than being superfluous. Very, very good indeed...
Niggles - in order to give a fuller review, I paid for the extra 7 download alternate versions - and typically their quality is superb - must haves. I burned them onto a CD-R and they clocked in at 23:59 minutes - when you add that onto 61:50, you see that they could all have easily fitted onto 1CD. I've Bear Family titles that regularly push past 85 minutes with no deterioration in sound, so it's a crappy scam to have us fork out seven more pounds for versions EMI know fans will want - and badly. The gatefold card sleeve is nice to look at for sure, but the booklet and overall packaging feel lightweight (what EMI could get away with). The CD should also have one of those gauze inner bags to protect it - a problem that no record company seems to want to acknowledge (scuffing and damage). The packaging issues are minor points I know, but this otherwise brilliant reissue is docked a star for creaming fans on the download front.
One Star or Five - Badfinger have always divided people - many calling them one of the great overlooked bands of the period - others calling them lightweight (most of the first album and bits of the second). You will not call them the latter after hearing "Straight Up" - it's a crafted gem.
To sum up - recommended - especially given the brilliance of the album itself, the massive improvement in sound quality and those shockingly good bonus tracks. Shame about those downloads though...
The October 2011 Apple CD Remasters are (I've reviewed most): 1. Magic Christian Music - BADFINGER (January 1970) 2. No Dice - BADFINGER (November 1970) 3. Straight Up - BADFINGER (1972) 4. Ass - BADFINGER (1974) 5. Postcard - MARY HOPKIN (1969) 6. Earth Song - Ocean Song - MARY HOPKIN (1971) 7. Is That What You Want? - JACKIE LOMAX (1969) 8. Under The Jasmine Tree / Space - THE MODERN JAZZ QUARTET (1968 and 1969 - 2LPs on 1CD) 9. That's The Way God Planned It - BILLY PRESTON (1969) 10. Encouraging Words - BILLY PRESTON (1970) 11. The Radha Krishna Temple - THE RADHA KRISHNA TEMPLE (1971) 12. The Whale / Celtic Requiem - JOHN TAVENOR (1970 and 1971 - 2LPs on 1CD) 13. James Taylor - JAMES TAYLOR (1968) 14. Doris Troy - DORIS TROY (1970)
Despite being released on Apple with contributions from George Harrison, and with nods in the lyrics to the Beatles it would be doing Badfinger a disservice not to see them as artists in their own right. Nevertheless, maybe I'm hard to please, but this album is not as essential as some reviewers and music monthlies (5 stars in an Uncut review) would have you believe. It has its share of beatleesque harmony but it is far from fragile sounding. This is not summery pop songs by any stretch of the imagination, there is some muscular guitar, but it is approachable. 'Day After Day' is the standout track but the album is let down by pedestrian songs such as'Suitcase'. On the whole though it is enjoyable just don't expect to be dazzled. The bonus tracks contain 4 tracks of the originally planned follow up to No Dice before the group decided to start the songs again from scratch with George Harrison producing. The liner notes explain that as George Harrison left before Straight Up was completed (due to commitments to the Concert For Bangladesh) Todd Rundgren was drafted into complete the album and used material from both the original and the Harrison sessions.
I know the band came to hate the Beatles comparisons. I didn't discover this album for more than ten years after its release (it was pretty much unavailable),but I can still stay that this is a glorious album with three great songwriters, which only The Beatles (1965 to 1970) and Fleetwood Mac (1975 to 1987) have achieved in my opinion. This album is notable for its crisp production, really showcasing the band's sound better than all their albums, 'Wish You Were Here' (1974) excepted. This album sees the peak of Pete Ham's songwriting. 'Baby Blue' is just a perfect rocker, improving on the creditable 'No Matter What' from the previous album 'No Dice'. And how great was it to see it used at the climax of 'Breaking Bad', possibly the best TV series ever. Too bad Pete is not here to see this belated and great recognition. Never have understood why he did what he did,but that's another story. 'Take It All' is a moving opener, but even here he displays the lack of self confidence that would kill him in the end,along with Stan Polly's management that totally screwed them of course. Bastard. 'Day After Day' is an absolute classic. Say No More (good album from 1981, also another story :- ). 'The Name of The Game' is sublime but I'm not convinced that the George H produced version improves on the earlier acoustic driven version. Seems like he preferred the 'Isn't It A Pity' sound. Joey Molland contributes at least two classics: 'I'd Die Babe' (here George's production is superb) and the acoustic classic 'Sweet Tuesday Morning' which is perhaps his most affecting song ever. 'Suitcase' is also decent although a little too Georgified perhaps. The rest of the album is of a high standard,there is not a weak number among them, and thankfully Todd Rundgren's production is spot on. Tom Evans contributes 'Money' and 'Its Over' and both are inspired but one has to ask: why is Tom only contributing two solo songs (or less) per album from this album onwards (if not before). Unless you count outakes. Joey Molland was already becoming more of an equal songwriting partner to Pete. And Tom's lack of new material (or was it lack of interest or too many drugs? I doubt it was lack of talent) is to the detriment of all their albums post 'Magic Christian Music' (1970). But this album survives that,and stands a glorious album from 1972 when the ex-Beatles' output was at their lowest ebb. I think all four of the Fab Four must have been secretly jealous, although they would never admit it :- )
what can I say that others haven't already said? Can only imagine the kind of music Badfinger - Pete Ham and Tom Evans in particular, might have produced had they not eventually succumbed to how badly they were cheated out of what was rightly theirs.
But not to dwell on the sad stuff, I've not heard the album in it's entirity before, but the stand out track for me is Pete Ham's haunting performance of "Perfection" - which I had heard before, and for me, sums up the song itself - beautiful words, vocals, and arrangements.
The rest of the album is a good mix of old rock-style tracks and ballads, and I can highly recommend it, particularly to anyone new to their sound.
Every song on this album is fantastic - some are among the best pop/rock songs ever written. All four members got their share on this record, and that it didn't catapult the band into superstardom is a mystery (and one that probably led to Pete Ham's suicide. An all-time classic.
These guys had it all, Great songwriters and superb musicans, The tragic ending to this outstanding bands is one of the saddest in rock history, When all is said and done just marvel at the music and imagine what could have been, This album is just breathtaking,