Thursday, 11 November 2010

"Straight Up" by BADFINGER (October 2010 Apple 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...A Game We've Been Playing For So Long..."

Monday 25 October 2010 in the UK saw 14 of the 'Apple' label Sixties and Seventies 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 3rd album "Straight Up" is one of them.

UK released October 2010 - "Straight Up" by BADFINGER on Apple 5099964244020 is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and breaks down as follows (61:50 minutes):

1. Take It All
2. Baby Blue
3. Money
4. Flying
5. I'd Die Babe
6. Name Of The Game
7. Suitcase
8. Sweet Tuesday Morning
9. Day After Day
10. Sometimes
11. Perfection
12. It's Over
Tracks 1 to 12 are the Stereo LP "Straight Up" released late December 1971 in the USA on Apple SW-3387 and 4 February 1972 on Apple SAPCOR 19 in the UK (it reached number 31 on the American Billboard Top 100).

Tracks 13 to 18 are bonus tracks exclusive to this 2010 CD reissue:
13. "I'll Be The One" is a band composition that was once muted as a possible UK Apple single (no number allocated), but never released
14. "Name Of The Game" (a Pete Ham song) was also considered for a single (Apple 35), but again never issued
15. "Baby Blue" (a Pete Ham song) was also considered for a UK single (Apple 42), but again withdrawn. It was, however, released in the USA on Apple 1844 in April 1972 and rose to number 14 on the Billboard charts. With added reverb on the drums, it's presented here as the `US Single Mix' - its B-side is the album track "Flying"
16. "Baby Please" (Pete Ham/Joey Molland/Mike Gibbins song) is previously unreleased
17. "No Good At All" (Tom Evans song) is previously unreleased
18. "Sing For The Song" (Tom Evans song) is previously unreleased

Requiring extra payment, there are also 7 more tracks available via Digital Download from iTunes or Amazon - "Money (Earlier Version)", "Flying (Earlier Version)", "Perfection (Earlier Version)", "Suitcase (Earlier Version)", "Sweet Tuesday Morning (Earlier Version)", "Mean Mean Jemima" and "Loving You"  (see either site for cost details).

The front & rear of the original vinyl LP sleeve is reproduced on the gatefold card sleeve, 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...

Studio wizard TODD RUNDGEN famously produced the album except for "I'd Die, Babe", "Name Of The Game" and "Suitcase" - these had GEORGE HARRISON at the controls (he also played Guitar on "I'd Die, Babe"). The `bonus tracks' were produced by GEOFF EMERICK of Beatles/Abbey Road fame - except for "Baby Blue (US Single Mix)" which was Rundgren.

The same team that handled the much-praised 09/09/09 Beatles remasters has 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.

Their 2nd album "No Dice" from 1970 is a gem, but Badfinger surpassed even that with "Straight Up" - leagues ahead of their patchy 1969 debut both in terms of songwriting quality and sheer polish. This is immediately evident on the two Pete Ham openers - "Take It All" and "Baby Blue" - the Todd Rundgren production values on the guitars and drums now so clear. "Money" with its "buys you freedom" lyrics has great chunky guitars and harmony vocals, while "Flying," sounds not unlike 10cc circa "The Original Soundtrack". The liner notes tell us that Beatle George was literally dancing in the studio during the recording of "I'd Die, Babe" - it's easy to hear why - it's a catchy little ditty and similar to own songwriting style.

Joey Molland's keyboard funk of "Suitcase" opened Side 2 of the original album and talks of the weariness of being on the road forever without too much success (lyrics above). The lovely America-type acoustic tune "Sweet Tuesday Morning" follows - it was the B-side to the only single issued off the album in the UK ("Day After Day" - 7 January 1972 on APPLE 42). But then you're hit with a triple-whammy of Badfinger songwriting excellence - "Day After Day", "Sometimes" and "Perfection". All three offer up different facets of the band's capabilities - the lovely "Day After Day" is essentially a mid-tempo ballad from Pete Ham and that it wasn't a huge UK chart hit is sort of inexplicable, "Sometimes" is a Joey Molland rocking gem that sounds like The James Gang on a roll, while the thinking man's strum of "Perfection" comes closest to that Big Star comparison of out-and-out genius. As if that isn't enough, you get superb guitar playing on the Tom Evans album finisher "It's Over" - it's all so shockingly good, it really is. And like almost all of the releases in this series, the bonus tracks are impressive too rather than being superfluous. Very, very good indeed...

Niggles - in order to give a fuller review, I paid for the extra 7 download alternate versions - and typically their quality is superb - must haves. I burned them onto a CD-R and they clocked in at 23:59 minutes - when you add that onto 61:50, 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, so it's a crappy scam to have us fork out seven more pounds for versions EMI know fans will want - and badly. 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 otherwise brilliant reissue is docked a star for creaming fans on the download front.

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 and bits of the second). You will not call them the latter after hearing "Straight Up" - it's a crafted gem.

To sum up - recommended - especially given the brilliance of the album itself, the massive improvement in sound quality and those shockingly good bonus tracks. Shame about those downloads though...

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

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