Wednesday, 11 May 2016

"Magic Christian Music" by BADFINGER (2010 Apple 'Expanded' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Come And Get It..." 

Like the equally brill Big Star – Badfinger is one of those bands. Given the quality of their music and the wads of writing talent within their ranks - Badfinger should have entered the music charts on a more regular basis (especially in Blighty) - but instead have entered the realms of Music Legend precisely because they didn't succeed commercially. They charted only three singles in the UK (one with the help of McCartney) - but none of their six albums on Apple or Warner Brothers tickled the fancy of the buying public.

Formerly known as THE IVEYS – the half-British, half-Welsh band famously signed to The Beatles Apple Records in 1968 – promptly pushing out two 45s and one hastily withdrawn album. The "Maybe Tomorrow" LP did at least get release in some Europe territories and Japan - but was unissued on Apple SAPCOR 8 in the UK. A quick line-up change (Bassist and Vocalist Ron Griffiths departed to be replaced by Guitarist Joey Molland) and a re-naming to the more funky BADFINGER - their next step was to feature three of their songs ("Come And Get It", "Rock Of All Ages" and "Come On Till Tomorrow") in a 1969 comedy spoof film called "The Magic Christian" (directed by Joseph McGrath). In order to get a 'Badfinger' album out into the market place that wasn't strictly a Soundtrack – seven of the old IVEYS tunes were remixed, edited, mined for a standalone album - "Magic Christian Music". And that's where this dinky little 2010 Apple CD reissue steps in. Here are the core details...

UK released 25 October 2010 - "Magic Christian Music" by BADFINGER on Apple 5099964243825 (Barcode is the same) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (58:50 minutes):

1. Come And Get It
2. Crimson Ship
3. Dear Angie
4. Fisherman
5. Midnight Sun
6. Beautiful And Blue
7. Rock Of All Ages
8. Carry On Till Tomorrow [Side 2]
9. I'm In Love
10. Walk Out In The Rain
11. Angelique
12. Knocking Down Our Home
13. Give It A Try
14. Maybe Tomorrow
Tracks 1 to 14 are the 'British Track Line-Up' for the Stereo LP "Magic Christian Music" by BADFINGER released 8 January 1970 in the UK Apple SAPCOR 12.

"Magic Christian Music" was released 16 February 1970 in the USA on the Stereo LP Apple SW-3364 but with two less songs and a rejiggered 12-track list. To sequence the US LP use the following CD numbers:
Side 1: Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7
Side 2: Tracks 8, 9, 10, 4, 12 and 14

15. And Her Daddy's A Millionaire (Previously Unreleased Alternate Version)
16. Mrs. Jones (Remix)
17. Sali Bloo (Previously Unreleased Mono Mix)
18. See-Saw Grandpa (Previously Unreleased Mono Mix)
19. I've Been Waiting (Previously Unreleased Unedited Remix)

Requiring extra payment - there are also 6 more tracks available via Digital Download from iTunes or Amazon - "Dear Angie (Mono Mix)", "Think About The Good Times (Mono Mix)", "No Escaping Your Love (Mono Mix)", "Arthur (Remix)", "Storm In A Teacup (Mono Mix)" and "Yesterday Ain’t Coming Back (Mono Mix)" (see either site for cost details). Niggles – it won't take real fans moments to notice that the two bonus tracks "Storm In A Teacup" and "Arthur" that accompanied the first CD reissue by Apple of this album way back in November 1991 are now AWOL in physical form from this new reissue – relegated albeit in different form to the Digital Downloads.

The front and 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). But with what little text he has been afforded - Davis does at least fill it with properly informative details. It's cute for sure but you do wish there was more. But the real deal is in the Audio...

The same team that handled the much-praised 09/09/09 Beatles remasters has done this too - GUY MASSEY, STEVE ROOKE and SAM OKELL with SIMON GIBSON. The audio quality is beautiful - a massive improvement – the kind of Remaster that makes you reassess a lot of the music.

Associations - three songs from the Movie have that magic-dust Beatles connection – "Come And Get It", "Rock Of All Ages" and "Carry On Till Tomorrow" - all Produced by PAUL McCARTNEY with Macca having also penned "Come And Get It" (he plays Piano on "Rock Of All Ages' and some Percussion on "Come And Get It"). Beatles Engineer MAL EVANS Produced Tracks 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 16 and 18 - while The Beatles Producer GEORGE MARTIN orchestrated the strings on the Pete Ham song "I'm In Love". TONY VISCONTI Produced the remainder of the songs – Tracks 2, 3, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17 and 19 and NICKY HOPKINS plays piano on "See-Saw Grandpa".

Badfinger’s debut LP has always had a rep for being a tad lightweight – strung together from remnants - a good start and not much else. I suppose the best compliment you can give this CD reissue is that it makes you reassess that overly 'harsh' judgement. It opens with Hitsville UK – Macca's catchy as a Socialistic viewpoint "Come And Get It". Released 5 December 1969 in advance of the album – Badfinger's debut 45 on Apple Records APPLE 20 rose to a very cool No. 4 in January 1970 (had a rare British picture sleeve) and lasted 11 weeks on the UK charts. Its US equivalent on Apple 1815 was issued February 1970 (the album came out later there) with the same B-side "Rock Of All Ages" and did equal business – an impressive No. 7. But what amazes me is that I'd forgotten how good tracks like "Crimson Ship" and "Dear Angie" are. The remaster on "Crimson Ship" is fabulous - that sweet Bass and that huge guitar - while the vocal harmonies on "Dear Angie" are gorgeous and that strummed acoustic guitar so clear. "Fisherman" is one of the 1969 tracks 'remixed' and it feels slightly out of kilter with the two that preceded it - but on rehear - I'm digging it - and that remix has really added a warmth to the song. We rock out for "Midnight Sun" - Pete Ham riffing away like a goodun. Tom Evans contributes what has to be the most Beatlesque sounding song on the album "Beautiful And Blue" - a pretty ditty with strings that could easily have been on "Rubber Soul" albeit in a more stripped down form.

It's a wonder that Apple didn't consider the raucous Slade riffage of "Rock Of All Ages" as the next single from the album - shame that. "Carry On Till Tomorrow" is a song I used to dismiss as fay once - but I'm digging its sweet vocal arrangements here. I can easily live without "I'm In Love" but the Pete Ham ballad "Walk Out In The Rain" is shockingly beautiful - the remaster making it shine like never before. Tom Evan gets in on the love song act with his "Angelique" and does well but Ham's "Knocking Down Our Home" is dreadfully clunky. The album ends on a duo of semi-weepies "Give It A Try" and "Maybe Tomorrow" - big and epic in their own mini-series kind of way (love that orchestration on "Maybe Tomorrow"). A good album rather than a great one you’d have to say - but man those good bits...

I hadn't expected the Bonus Material to be up to much - and unfortunately some of it feels like filler - for fans only. You can so hear where The Hollies comparison comes from when "And Her Daddy's A Millionaire" comes bopping out of your speakers (great remaster though). Sounding like The Move seeking a hit - "Mrs. Jones" is good too as is the Mono Mix of the guitar-boogie tune "Sali Bloo". The audio on "See-Saw Grandpa" is unfortunately the worst on here - but it ends on a blaster - the huge guitars of "I've Been Waiting" - a genuinely great inclusion. I bought the downloads at the time for this review - despite "Arthur" sounding incredible in remastered form - the poor man's Hollies comparison is staggering - complete with whiny identikit vocals. More interesting is the 'Mono' mix of an album fave - "Dear Angie" - it's good but not a patch on the beauty of the Stereo version. For me the best here is "Think About The Good Times" - a strange Funk-Rock hybrid that at least has The Kinks at its heart. And again the shadow of The Beatles hangs over "Yesterday Ain't Coming Back" - a tune that could have been on "Magical Mystery Tour"...nice.

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. For sure this record is hardly the crafted-gems of the "No Dice" and "Straight Up" LPs - nonetheless their debut album "Magic Christian Music" deserves reappraisal - especially given the massive improvement in sound quality on offer here and some of those ragbag bonus tracks. There's magic in there folks - just gotta root it out...

PS: Monday 25 October 2010 saw 14 of the 'Apple' label Sixties and Seventies albums remastered and reissued in the UK alongside a first-time-ever label 'Best Of' compilation CD not surprisingly called "Come And Get It" after Badfinger's first hit song (penned by Paul McCartney).

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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