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 it’s hard to discern the classic power pop elements that many commentators hear in the band’s music.

“I Don’t Mind” displays a gentle, George Harrison-esque wistfulness, and, given their circumstances they’re 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 it’s 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, it’s maybe less completely realised and ambitious without the drama Nilsson would later bring to the song. I’m genetically predisposed, though, to adore “Blodwyn”, which takes love spoon construction as its subject.

1971’s “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 Costello’s finest album, “Imperial Bedroom”), on which George Martin provides orchestrations.

Unfortunately, though, if this is power pop there’s 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 latter’s line about “drinking their confidence daily” sounding a little too reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”, but, in one of the album’s more original moments, “I’d Die Babe” foreshadows Paul McCartney’s “Mrs Vanderbilt”. Amidst all this underachievement lies another of Badfinger’s nagging flashes of near-genius: “Name Of The Game” is a slow-burning, emotive work, as evidenced by State Of Grace’s 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.