Friday, 25 February 2011

“No Dice” by BADFINGER (2010 Apple 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...Knock Down The Old Grey Wall...Be A Part Of It All..."

Monday 25 October 2010 in the UK saw 14 of the 'Apple' label 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 2nd album "No Dice" is one of them.

Apple 5099990580727 breaks down as follows (57:42 minutes):

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
Tracks 1 to 12 are the Stereo LP "No Dice" by BADFINGER released 27 November 1970 in the UK on Apple SAPCOR 16 and on Apple SKAO-3367 in the USA (it reached number 28 on the American Billboard Top 100). Note: "Love Me Do" is not Beatles cover but a Joey Molland original and "Without You" is the song made famous by NILSSON (Number 1 in the UK in February 1972).

Tracks 13 to 17 are all previously unreleased and exclusive to this 2010 reissue:
13. "I Can't Take It" is an Extended Version - 4:14 as opposed to 2:55minutes
14. "Without You" is a Studio Demo Version
15. "Photograph (aka "Friends Are Hard To Find')" is a Previously Unreleased Version
16. "Believe Me" is an Alternate Version
17. "No Matter What" is a Studio Demo Version

Requiring extra payment there are also 2 more tracks available via Digital Download from iTunes or Amazon - an Instrumental Version of "Love Me Do" and an Extended Stereo Version of "Get Down" (see either site for details).

BOOKLET/PACKAGING:
The gatefold sleeve of the original vinyl LP is reproduced 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 4 superb colour portraits of the band - PETE HAM, TOM EVANS, JOEY MOLLAND and MIKE GIBBINS.  It's cute, but you do wish there was more...

PLAYERS/CONTENT:
The original album was produced by GEOFF EMERICK of Beatles/Abbey Road fame (except for "No Matter What", "Believe Me" and the bonus tracks from 14 through to 17 which were produced by MAL EVANS). Unlike so many of the sessions of the time, the recordings 'didn't' include a number of The Beatles and their talented friends - so the band got to shine all by themselves.

SOUND:
The same team that handled the much-praised 09/09/09 Beatles remasters have 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.

The album opens strongly with a Pete Ham original "I Can't Take It" - rocking guitars and pumping brass - it sounds really great. It's followed by the Big Star feel of "I Don't Mind" co-written by Tom Evans and Joey Molland - a song that starts out gently and then builds into an impressive melodious tune - it's excellent. Not so I'm afraid with "Love Me Do" (no relation to The Beatles song) - it's a poor man's rocker and doesn't really work. But then you're hit with a double-whammy of Badfinger excellence - "Midnight Caller" and the sublime "No Matter What" (lyrics above). Both stand the test of time - especially "No Matter What" - surely a contender for a Top Ten position in the list 'best 7" single ever released'.

"Without You" would of course be taken by NILSSON and transformed into one of the most extraordinarily powerful cover versions ever made. I heard in a car on the radio a few weeks back in the early morning on the way into work - and to this day it moves me - its opening chords still capable of calling up a shivering memory. "Blodwyn" is a ditty while the excellent "Better Days" turned up as the B-side to the UK 7" single of "No Matter What" (Apple 31) in November 1970 - they used "Carry On Till Tomorrow" as the B on the USA 7" (Apple 1822) - a track off their debut album "Magic Christian Music". The Mike Gibbins penned "It Had To Be" is a lovely song, while the band-composed "Watford John" is a rocker written about an Apple Studio Engineer called John Smith. The last two on the album are huge favourites among fans - Tom Evans' sweet "Believe Me" and Pete Ham's acoustic "We're For The Dark" - accomplished playing, melody builders - both define that certain 'Badfinger' sound. They end the album proper on a definite musical high note.

But like the other issues in this series, the best seems to be kept until last. Having grown used to the short album cut of "I Can't Take It" - I must say that I love the way it's spread out more on the fantastically rocking 'Extended Version'. You can see why it was cut, but in 2010 I'll take the 'indulgent' version any day of the week. Then fellows the 'Demo' of "Without You" which I find more affecting than the finished track - more akin to what Nilsson did with it - it's a gem. "Photograph" is a rough rock song - it's good, but it's eclipsed big time by a sweet-as-honey Alternate Take of "Believe Me" with more Piano and Electric Guitar - what a treat. The 'Demo' of "No Matter What" is close to the finished track, but without that killer electric guitar that made it. I must say that the bonus tracks are impressive rather than being superfluous. Very, very good indeed...

Niggles - the 2 download tracks will be desirable to fans and making them pay extra dollars for them via Download is cheapskate and crappy - and as you can see from the playing time above, there was plenty of room to include them on here (they're available as hardcopy on the double-CD that comes with the "Apple Box Set"). 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). They're minor points I know, but they're worth making...

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. I'd say that if you're coming to them cold in 2014 then it's probably somewhere in between. But fans will see it differently - they will eat this reissue up big time. To sum up - I still see "No Dice" as a great album - with songmanship that shines through even now. And they repeated that craft and warmth on their next album "Straight Up" too.

Recommended - especially given the massive improvement in sound quality and those shockingly good bonus tracks.

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)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc