BADFINGER No Dice (Capitol)
BADFINGER Straight Up (Capitol)
With their Beatle patronage (they were the biggest selling Apple signing outside the fabulous foursome themselves yes, even more successful than Mary Hopkin!) Badfinger bestrode the post-Let It Be landscape like a colossus. Yet, listening to No Dice thirty years after the fact its hard to discern the classic power pop elements that many commentators hear in the bands music.
I Dont Mind displays a gentle, George Harrison-esque wistfulness, and, given their circumstances theyre probably the only (other) band who could ever get away with writing a song called Love Me Do. The big singalong single No Matter What is bouncy enough, a bit like a pepped-up McCartney song, but its immediately undercut by their surprisingly bluff original version of Without You. Perhaps more honest for not being milked for every last tremulous drop of emotion, its maybe less completely realised and ambitious without the drama Nilsson would later bring to the song. Im genetically predisposed, though, to adore Blodwyn, which takes love spoon construction as its subject.
1971s Straight Up is almost overburdened by Beatlemania: initially produced by George Harrison, when the Concert For Bangla Desh overtook his attentions the sessions were completed under the control of one-man fab four Todd Rundgren. A smattering of bonus tracks originally recorded for a follow up to No Dice that was rejected by Apple are produced by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick (who would later bring a Sgt. Pepper sheen to Elvis Costellos finest album, Imperial Bedroom), on which George Martin provides orchestrations.
Unfortunately, though, if this is power pop theres an energy crisis goin on. Once again Badfinger are both a short distance away from and completely off the target of the kind of crystalline, melody soaked music Big Star were fruitlessly perfecting on the other side of the Atlantic at the same time, taking, for example, the glorious chorus of Baby Blue and somehow fumbling when turning it into a song. The segue of Money and Flying more pronounced between the original, Emerick-helmed versions is a tinny echo of side 2 of Abbey Road, the latters line about drinking their confidence daily sounding a little too reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkels Cecilia, but, in one of the albums more original moments, Id Die Babe foreshadows Paul McCartneys Mrs Vanderbilt. Amidst all this underachievement lies another of Badfingers nagging flashes of near-genius: Name Of The Game is a slow-burning, emotive work, as evidenced by State Of Graces swoonsome Saint Etienne-esque cover, but, as with Without You before it, here it sounds almost apologetic and demo-like, a shadow of its future self.
Much of No Dice and Straight Up sounds meticulously tailored for an early 1970s edition of Top Of The Pops, but despite the unobtrusive song craft on display this kind of down-to-earth blue jean boogie explains why glam rock just had to happen.