It's been almost twenty years now since the first time Badfinger's albums for Apple were released on CD, and nearly forty since they first came out on vinyl. That a couple of these are of the best power pop records EVER shouldn't be news to aficionados, but it may be for those who vaguely remember "No Matter What" or "Day After Day," the two biggest singles for the band Stateside. The four of them together make up the must-haves of a band who were the cream of the early '70s pop crop.
Made up of some Welsh and Liverpudlian musicians who had a Beatles jones, they started out as The Iveys and even released one album under that name for Apple, the Fabs' label. (Maybe Tomorrow, which only came out in the UK and Europe originally, was issued on CD in the early '90s.) Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Mike Gibbins and later member Joey Molland changed their name to Badfinger and carried out author Paul McCartney's instructions when he gave them "Come and Get It" and told them to record it exactly the way he did on the demo. That single charted high, and Apple put out Magic Christian Music, made up of some new Badfinger tunes as well as some that had been recorded and even released the year before by The Iveys. It's not a bad album at all, what with the rockers "Rock of All Ages" and "Midnight Sun," but it's weakened by the more mainstream pop tunes included via the Iveys.
Next up came No Dice, the album that spawned one of their biggest hits, "No Matter What," which every guitarist of my age has to figure out early on as a badge of honor. Here you get some great rockers ("I Can't Take It"), some nice folk-edged tunes ("Blodwyn") and the original version of a song that became a #1 for Nilsson, "Without You." If you think that song is too over the top in the emotion sweepstakes, well, you need to hear Pete Ham sing it the way he wrote it... pure and sincere with no schmaltz. No Dice is a brilliant record, but it's their next one that is a 5/5: Straight Up.
Straight Up is the one that every rock fan should own, with "Day After Day" and the less successful but mindblowingly awesome "Baby Blue" buoying up the hit side. Even without those two songs, this album is so brilliant it hurts! All sides of Badfinger show here to perfection, with "Sweet Tuesday Morning" (a tender little tune), "Name of the Game," "Perfection," and LP closer "It's Over."
Finally we have Ass. Their last album for Apple, and Badfinger's sayonara to the label that didn't quite deliver what a more put together one would have with a band of this caliber. Ass was kicked over to the label as it was winding down its non-Beatles roster, and was virtually unpromoted by Apple or its parent company, EMI. Too bad, because Ass is another amazing album. By the time it came out in 1974, Warner Bros. was promoting their new Badfinger record, their first for the label (and not too bad, either). Ham & Co. certainly had a sense of humor in naming the record, as well as in the cover artwork, but the songs are definitely solidly melancholy, which is kind of the overriding feeling you get when listening to Badfinger. I mean, they start the album with "Apple of My Eye," a Dear John letter to Apple, very sad and very pointed, and they end the record with "Timeless," a moody rocker with a lengthy ending that neatly closes the door on this chapter of Badfinger.
All four of these reissues feature some great bonus tracks, including demos that have never been released, but like all of these types of endeavors, these releases don't include all of the same extras that the last reissues did. So if you're a big fan you gotta keep both copies (or at least burn the stray extra tracks for safekeeping). Take it from a Badfinger fiend, these are the ones to have.
3/5 Magic Christian Music, 4/5 No Dice, 5/5 Straight Up, 4/5 Ass (Apple)