Saturday, May 21, 2011

Badfinger - Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here (1974) ***1/2

A few years back a poster on a music board I frequented raved about how, "In some ways, Badfinger were better than the Beatles," and someone else quipped back, "In some ways, Neil Simon was better than Shakespeare," and thus sums up these Welsh power-popsters' entire career.  There's virtually no reason to poke into the band's catalogue at all unless you've worn yourself sick relistening to the entire Lennon/McCartney songbook for the 654th time, but seeing as overabusing the Fabs' music is an affliction that affects most pop music lovers at one time or the other, then Badfinger offer a pleasant second-hand simalcrum once you've tapped out your veins mainlining the original junk.  You see, I haven't listened to all the way through any of my Beatles albums since I don't remember, so the other night I tried listening to Revolver and Past Masters for old times' sake.  I couldn't make it past three or five songs, it started to grow physically sickening.  I fear that I may never enjoy the Beatles ever again.  That's the problem when people start making Desert Island disc lists:  your top ten albums are albums that you've memorized every note of through overplay.  Do you really want to spend your time trapped on a desert island listening to music you've already heard 500 times before?, Badfinger.  I reviewed most of their albums on my old website and feel no great need to revisit or revise those old reviews; they're not the sort of band that opinions drastically change about, not even after a decade.  Occasionally Badfinger captured, bottled, and released some of that same sparkling magic that the Beatles consistently peddled ("No Matter What," "Day After Day") but truth be told, 90% of their songs were unexceptionally ordinary.  I'm reviewing this LP because I never got around to reviewing it on the old Creative Noise.  It's tied with Straight Up as their best album, and it's certainly their most consistent: the band have got their act together, with each of the four members chipping in strong material that displays their talents at their best.  It flows together better than any other Badfinger album, feeling like a cohesive album as opposed to a grab-bag of high and low points that afflicted nearly every other Badfinger album.  The sound is more polished and modern, as well; Badfinger boldly step into the '70s, as the opening cut (and shouldabeen single) "Just a Chance," rocks power-poppingly.  "Dennis," is another highlight, a stirring ode to Pete Ham's son, and if the rest of the tunes hover in the B- to B+ range, with no real A-level knockouts, that's still not a bad level to consistently maintain throughout one forty minute album.  A couple of tracks are medley-stitches of two separate songs, and both "In the Meantime/Some Other Time," (Mike Gibbins + Joey Molland) and "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke," (Ham + Molland) are effectively rousing.  Of course this ain't Abbey Road.  But it's in the same spitting league as Imagine or Band on the Run.   

No Youtube this time, as a brief search unveils practically nothing.  37 years later, Badfinger's most consistently good album is still ignored.  Could've been a hit but the record company screwed'em over by pulling this off the shelves with no promotion.  The story of many an underrated popster's life, it seems.

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