Friday, 12 November 2010

“Ass” by BADFINGER. A Review Of Their 4th & Final Album For The Beatles Apple Label in 1973/1974 – Now Reissued Onto A 2010 Extended CD.

Badfinger are part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


"…I’m Sorry But It’s Time To Move Away…"

By the time the British band BADFINGER had reached 1974 - and despite a fresh signing to the mighty Warner Brothers - no-one was really listening. Hence their last album for The Beatles Apple label "Ass" - which snook out just before their self-titled Warners debut - got lost in a confusing mix of conflicting material and contractual shenanigans. That doesn't mean to say that there isn't great music on worth checking out…

UK released Monday 25 October 2010 - "Ass" by BADFINGER on Apple 5099964243924 is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and breaks down as follows (53:46 minutes):

1. Apple Of My Eye
2. Get Away
3. Icicles
4. The Winner
5. Blind Owl
6. Constitution [Side 2]
7. When I Say
8. Cowboy
9. I Can Love You
10. Timeless
Tracks 1 to 10 are the LP "Ass" released 26 November 1973 in the USA on Apple SW-3411 and 8 March 1974 on Apple SAPCOR 27 in the UK (it reached number 122 on the American Billboard Top 100).

Tracks 11 to 15 are bonus tracks exclusive to this 2010 CD reissue:
"Do You Mind (Previously Unreleased Version)" is a Joey Molland song (11)
"Apple Of My Eye (Previously Unreleased Early Mix)” is a Pete Ham song (12)
“Blind Owl (Previously Unreleased Version)” is a Tom Evans song (13)
“Regular (Previously Unreleased)” is a Joey Molland song (14)
“Timeless (Previously Unreleased Version)” is a Pete Ham song (15)

Requiring extra payment, there are also 5 more tracks available via Digital Download from iTunes or Amazon – “Get Away (Bonus Track Version)”, “I Can Love You (Bonus Track Version)”, “Piano Red (Previously Unreleased)”, “When I Say (Bonus Track Version)” and “The Winner (Bonus Track Version)” (see either site for cost details).

The front & rear of the original vinyl LP sleeve is reproduced on the gatefold card sleeve (with the black and white ‘Ass’ inner bag on the inside of the gatefold), 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...

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 was produced by CHRIS THOMAS except for "The Winner” and “I Can Love You” - which had TODD RUNDGREN at the controls (Todd also produced their preceding album “Straight Up”). The ‘bonus tracks’ were self-produced by the band.

It opens well with Pete Ham and Joey Molland double – the melodic “Apple Of My Eye” (lyrics above) followed by the rocking “Get Away”. “Apple Of My Eye” was in fact chosen as the album’s lone single (March 1974 in the UK on APPLE 49, Apple 1864 in the USA) both with “Blind Owl” on the B-side. “Icicles”, “The Winner” and “Constitution” are all Joey Molland songs and aren’t great – typically dull mid-Seventies rock fare. The pretty “When I Say” by Tom Evans lifts things a bit, while “Cowboy” sounds like a poor man’s Ozark Mountain Daredevils or McGuinness Flint looking for a hit they couldn’t find. The last two tracks, however, finish the album with conviction – Joey Molland’s world-weary “I Can Love You” and Pete Ham’s epic “Timeless”. On here twice (a superb final bonus track), “Timeless” drags out its near eight minutes duration like “I Want You” that ends Side 1 of “Abbey Road” by The Beatles - it's huge in every way - with equally impressive multi-layered instrumentation.

Their 2nd album “No Dice” from 1970 is a gem, but Badfinger surpassed even that with their 3rd from 1972 “Straight Up” - leagues ahead of their patchy 1969 debut “Magic Christian Music” both in terms of songwriting quality and sheer polish. “Ass” was their last album for Apple and even then seemed like an afterthought. Perhaps with more Pete Ham compositions… It dribbled out in late November 1973 in the USA and early March 1974 in the UK - and even as it was released - they’d moved on to Warner Brothers and begun recording for them. “Ass” also used to be the easiest one of Badfinger’s valuable catalogue to find in dollar bins. In order words, it’s a good album rather than a great one.

Niggles – in order to give a fuller review, I paid for the extra 5 downloads – and typically their quality is superb. When you add their 18 minutes or so onto the 54:36 minutes playing time, 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 for God’s sake, so it’s a crappy scam to have us fork out five more pounds for versions EMI know fans will want – and badly. There’s also a MONO MIX on the promo 7” single of “Apple Of My Eye” that is nowhere to be seen.

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 least desirable of their albums could have been made into something superb with 5 more quality bonuses (there’s a 2CD set called “Complete Ass” which has 37 tracks!).

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, bits of the second and some parts of this – their 4th). But there’s still so much on here to genuinely admire and love.

To sum up – I still recommend it - especially given the massive improvement in sound quality and those shockingly good bonus tracks. Shame about those downloads though…

PS: see also my reviews for other releases in this October 2010 series:

"That's The Way God Planned It" (1969) and "Encouraging Words" (1970) by Billy Preston, "Doris Troy" (1970), "James Taylor" (1968), "Is This What You Want?" (1969) by Jackie Lomax, “Magic Christian Music” (1969), “No Dice” (1970) and “Straight Up” (1972) by Badfinger

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