Monday, December 10, 2012

Magic Christian Music - Badfinger

Magic Christian Music
Apple ST-3364

This was the debut album by Badfinger unless you want to count the album they made under the name, The Iveys, in 1969.  Six of the tracks on this album were actually lifted from that earlier album although arguably they didn't select the right six.  "I've Been Waiting" in particular is better than nearly all the tracks they selected.  The British version of this album contains two extra tracks - what's up with that?  Apple records taking a page from the Capitol Records playbook and screwing American music fans?  You'd think after the way Capitol butchered the Beatles' albums that they'd be sensitive to that sort of tampering.  It was probably Allen Klein's idea.  Anyway if you can find an import copy of this album, that is probably the way to go, particularly since the two missing tracks, "Angelique" and especially "Give It a Try" are better than many of the tracks remaining on the album.  Another curious element to this album, is that although the band was a quartet only three of the members are depicted on the back cover.  The reason for that is probably that founding member Ron Griffiths had left the band after this record was recorded (to be replaced by Joey Molland).  Molland is mentioned in the text on the back but does not actually play on the record.  The only mention of Griffiths is in the song credit for his song "Dear Angie."  The most notable cut on the record is the opening track "Come and Get It" which was written and produced by Paul McCartney for the film "The Magic Christian."  It was a hit single for the band and fully displays McCartney's knack for writing insanely catchy pop fluff.  His original demo version was released on the Beatles' "Anthology 3" album and is practically identical to the Badfinger version, vocalist Tom Evans even sounds like Sir Paul.  It has the crispness and drive of McCartney's power pop songs with the Beatles.  It is followed by Evans and Pete Ham's "Crimson Ship" which also has a very McCartneyesque sound, particularly in the chorus, although it sounds more like Paul's solo work than the Beatles.  "Dear Angie" comes from the Iveys' album.  It is sung by Ron Griffiths and is a slow love song with a slightly retro feeling.  The pace increases with Pete Ham's rocking "Midnight Sun" which is driven by crunchy guitar lines.  Evans' majestic "Beautiful and Blue" with its strings and lush singing reminds me of the Bee Gees.  It is another Iveys cut.  The aptly named "Rock of All Ages" comes from "The Magic Christian" soundtrack and was written by Evans, Ham and drummer Mike Gibbins.  It is an all-out rocker with a 1950s influence that resembles McCartney's own efforts in that vein.  It is arguably the hardest rocker in Badfinger's Apple catalog and one of my favorite songs on the album.  Side two opens with "Carry On Till Tomorrow" which is another one of my favorites.  It is also from the movie soundtrack and was written by Evans and Ham.  It is a delicate song with a lovely string arrangement and pretty vocal harmonies but it also features a couple of noisy guitar breaks that disrupt its tranquil feeling.  The song is about always moving forward and not giving up, a rather noble message for an obnoxious film that is mostly about greed and degradation.  Ham's "I'm In Love" is an Iveys song with a bubblegum quality to it.  Ham also wrote the gentle and melodic "Walk Out In the Rain" which is about heartbreak.  Evans' "Fisherman" comes from the Iveys album.  It is a folk flavored song with charming pop flourishes.  Ham's "Knocking Down Our Home" sounds like it should be a rocker, but instead is a retro song with a fussy band arrangement over a bossa nova type rhythm.  It sounds like something you'd hear some guy croon in a music hall, the worst song on the album.  The album's final song, Evans' "Maybe Tomorrow," was the best song on the Iveys album.  It has a classic pop melody married to lyrics about surviving heartbreak.  It also reminds me a bit of the Bee Gees minus their sappiness.  Would have been a great song for Dusty Springfield to cover.  Despite its hodge podge construction this is an impressive debut album with several first rate songs.  Ham and Evans were both quality songwriters and the band's lush pop sound is very appealing to me.  The knock on Badfinger was that they sounded too much like the Beatles, but I don't consider that a knock, that's a virtue.  Recommended to people who's favorite Beatle was Paul.

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