Album Review : THE BABYS – Silver Dreams: The Complete Albums 1975-1980

THE BABYS - Silver Dreams

Cherry Red Records [Release date 06.12.19]

The Babys were indeed the launching pad for John Waite’s worldwide solo success and a key component of the CV that landed Jonathan Cain the job with Journey. But the band would never have broken up in the first place had they gotten the success they deserved.

And so enterprising UK labels, HNE & Cherry Red have got together to curate a boxset containing all 5 of the bands albums, plus the fabled unreleased 6th (or rather their first… it was recorded in 1975), supplemented by a rare live promo gig in Philadelphia c1975, all of them expanded to bursting point with bonus material… live versions, special edits and so forth. They are all here: “The Babys”, “Broken Heart”, “Head First”, “Union Jacks” and “On The Edge”, all fleshed out with up to 9 bonus tracks per album.

Relocating to California from Fulham, England, immediately after their formation in 1975 had an instant effect on the band’s writing and performing style. The music on the first 2 albums was percolated through the sound of US seventies rock, tough as teak riffing mixed in with edgy ballads.

The debut “The Babys” (1976) reflected life on the road, tightly knotted at times, frayed at the seams at others. 1977′s “Broken Heart” and 1979′s “Head First” saw them hit their stride, each yielding a Top Twenty Billboard entry. ‘Isn’t It Time’ and ‘Every Time I Think Of You’ (getting close now to 5 million You Tube views) climbed to a not-too-shabby number 13.

The Babys had a lot going for them. Waite’s distinctive vocals set the band apart from the herd, and live they were building a decent fanbase. But the inevitable downsides of human interaction led to some reshaping of the ranks. Jonathan Cain and Ricky Philips came in. “Union Jacks” (1980) came out to mixed reviews.  It seemed to resemble a musical holding pattern, a band treading water while cautiously looking for the right route forward.

Fame and fortune had touched them briefly, and they wanted it again. 1980′s “On The Edge” was to be the one. It contained some of the best writing of the new partnerships… they were becoming the consummate poprock craftsmen they were destined to be. But poor judgement somewhere included too many moody, downbeat pieces of songwriting, undercutting the soaring pop optimism of upbeat gems, ‘Postcard’ and ‘Rock’n'Roll Is Alive And Well’.

Consequently the band broke up in 1980 and went their separate ways.

“Silver Dreams” is an apposite testament to a band who seemed permanently to be on the cusp of success (for good reason), but couldn’t quite make that final breakthrough. *****

Review by Brian McGowan

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