Album review: BADFINGER – Badfinger,Wish You Were Here,BBC In Concert

Badfinger - reissues

Edsel Records [Release date: 28.10.13]

Badfinger represents one of the great tragi-histories of rock and the story is outlined again in Alan Robinson’s liner notes within this latest package.  The band were one of the first signings to the Beatles Apple label and, with a third album produced by Todd Rundgren and George Harrison, you would have thought things couldn’t get much better.

But the following years saw the band embroiled in litigation, with Warners ultimately blocking the release of their sixth album.  Sadly, guitarist/singer Pete Ham committed suicide in April 1975 and some time later bass player Tom Evans took his own life (in 1983).

The band’s musical legacy still stands proud and Edsel have brought together their fifth and sixth albums plus the two BBC In Concerts which have been previously released in 1997.

The band were sometimes referred to as Beatles-lite and their label connection could only reinforce the view.   Two of the band members actually came from Liverpool – Joey Molland and Tom Evans – and Paul McCartney supplied their first hit single in 1969, ‘Come And Get It’.

The self-titled Badfinger (1974) does nothing to dispel the Beatles likeness either.   ‘I Miss You’, ‘Song For A Lost Friend’ and ‘Why Don’t We Talk?’ for example might have graced one of the Fab Four’s later albums whilst ‘Shine On’ and ‘Lonely You’ are typical of Badfinger’s more commercial output which had one toe in the sixties and another in the seventies.

Wish You Were Here (1974) was the album withdrawn by Warners soon after release after it became evident that the band’s manager Stan Polley had misappropriated  a royalty account.  The new contract with Warners also stipulated that the band had to produce an album every six months over a three-year period which placed ridiculous pressure on a band that was at this time also touring regularly in the USA.

The album is harder hitting and more experimental than previously although still very Beatlesque.  Essentially this is beat music for the mid-seventies.  Like its predecessor, the album failed to yield a true classic (‘Come And Get It’ from their debut or ‘Without You’ from ‘No Dice’ for example) but is still full of good stuff (‘Know One Knows’ and ‘Dennis’ are outstanding) made all the more poignant by the circumstances of the recording and what was to follow.

The band also attempted something outside of their usual sub-four minute pop song with ‘In The Meantime/Some Other Time’ which has similarities to Wings and 10cc (and places the band in that same pantheon of quality, highly musical performers who peaked in the 1970s) aided here by the ambitious Chris Thomas production.

It is left to the live performances to demonstrate that the band could extemporise when appropriate and the two takes of ‘Suitcase’ particularly  are expanded from the recorded versions with excellent guitar meltdown (featuring the underrated Pete Ham).  I can remember coming home from school and switching on ‘Set Of Six’ on Granada TV in May 1972 to hear the band performing this, and being mightily impressed.

It’s a shame that these live tracks miss out ‘Come And Get It’ (which appeared on the 1997 release as a bonus recorded in 1970) and ‘No Matter What’ and perhaps less understandably their third biggest UK hit single ‘Day After Day’ which was evidently in their Granada TV setlist only a month before the June 1972 BBC recording.

Whilst new listeners are also directed to the 2010 EMI remasters of the first four Apple albums which feature bonus tracks, this 2-CD set is an excellent band overview with the live tracks demonstrating the vibrancy of their stage performance.  And, as ever, a well annotated package from Edsel and essential for any student of post-Beatles pop rock.  ****

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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