Sunday, December 8, 2013

Badfinger - Straight Up

For all the talk about the Beatles remasters, there’s a hefty amount of Apple material that could also use a quick tidying up from their original cd releases of two decades ago. Topping the list wouldn’t be a release by a former Beatle, but instead the band that seemed to be handpicked ambassadors to the Fab Four’s power pop division.

Badfinger was indeed a band that could sound remarkably similar to the Beatles, but it was 1972′s Straight Up that demonstrated how the band could actually compose material that lived up to the Beatles in terms of quality.

It’s here where you can find the band’s two most recognizable songs, “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue.” But the best thing about Straight Up is how you’ll discover that those two awesome songs are packed tightly inside a collection of equally great tunes.

It’s also impeccably sequenced, with the slow building “Take It All” introducing the album while its closer “It’s Over,” with its multi-tracked chorus and sweet slide guitar solo, appropriately wrapped up the band’s best album.

You’d never guess it, though, as Rolling Stone magazine inexplicably panned the album, deaf to Straight Up‘s pop charms and attacking the album’s lack of “rock and roll spirit.”

They’re wrong.

Straight Up has plenty of rock and roll spirit; it just happens to the spirit that doesn’t jibe with what the R.S. reviewer had in mind from a band that routinely rubbed elbows with the Beatles.

There’s “Suitcase,” the obligatory “touring sucks” song. “Sweet Tuesday Morning,” the obligatory “I’ve been all around the world but you—my lady back home—are still the apple of my eye” ballad. There’s even an eerie foreshadowing of the future financial ills (“Money”) that would plague the band and prompt half of the band’s members to take their own lives.

Yes, Badfinger was a band riddled with tragedy, and it often overshadows just how good they were during their prime. “Don’t you know there’s a song to sing / Keeping us together,” sings vocalist Pete Ham during the bridge of “Take It All,” hinting that Badfinger was still making music out of sheer joy at this point. It would be just a matter of months before they’d be writing music that faced scrutiny for its commercial potential.

With Straight Up, the band hired both a Beatles guitarist (George Harrison) and a Beatles enthusiast (Todd Rundgren) to help trim down the band’s growing repertoire to a handy dozen. But it’s the band’s own musicianship and wonderful chemistry that make Straight Up‘s twelve songs a stunning piece of power-pop and a timeless slice of post-Beatles salvos.

I played Straight Up constantly growing up. It caught the attention of my babysitter, who tried to get me to trade it for John Lennon‘s Mind Games.

I refused; Straight Up stands tall against even the Beatles’ solo efforts while reaching for the band’s lofty mid-period gems.

Guess I got what I deserved...

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

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