Sunday, May 5, 2013
Badfinger - Magic Christian Music (1970)
This is the first studio release of the band called Badfinger, a name derived from the working title of a Paul McCartney album or a John Lennon tune called "Badfinger Boogie" depending on your source. However, this is the second studio album by the band, as the first released for Apple Records (the label owned by the Beatles) was under the name The Iveys. What is interesting is that a great deal of the material from The Iveys' Maybe Tomorrow is reminiscent of the material on this first release under the Badfinger moniker. The album opens up with "Come and Get It," a tune by Paul McCartney that was written specifically for the group. McCartney even attended the studio date when the band was recording the song. While Badfinger has been compared to the Beatles at times, it's tunes with the direct Beatles connection that may lead to this interpretation. While I won't deny the sonic similarities, I think it's important to meet the band on its own tunes and concentrate on the songwriters in the band like Pete Ham without always looking for the similarities to Beatles material. The following tune is "Crimson Ship," a driving, medium-tempo Pete Ham (rhythm guitar; piano), Tom Evans (bass guitar), Mike Gibbins (drummer) tune, that is notable for the organ during the verses and Joey Molland's solo guitar during the chorus. It is the driving rhythmic element that is one of the main ingredients of the Badfinger sound and "Crimson Ship" is a good example of such a song. "Dear Angie" is a ballad that originally appeared on the earlier Iveys release and is actually penned by a former member of the band, Ron Griffiths. The most memorable parts of the song are during the bridge when the strings become much more intense with periodic solo guitar. While the song stays mostly in minor, it's interesting to note that the tune actually ends on a major chord. "Fisherman" is a sort of musical poem that I believe is supposed to be reminiscent of a sea song and originally appeared on the earlier Iveys release. Written by Tom Evans, it may have been written during his earlier life in Liverpool or when the band was based in Swansea, Wales. Both being coastal towns, the song elements such as the sound clip of the sloshing of boots, the flutes, and the violin seem to suggest a sea song interpretation. While the lyrics are very literal, the invoke a visual scene in which the musical elements add another layer. "Midnight Sun," a Pete Ham, is a very straight-forward call-and-response rock tune. "Beautiful and Blue," first released on The Iveys' Maybe Tomorrow, is in the pop realm of the band opening with solo vocals by Tom Evans accompanied by Molland's guitar that opens to vocal harmony in the bridge. The second verse becomes denser yet as strings enter the mix, and the guitar begins accompanying with motivic material. "Rock of All Ages" is a driving, up-tempo number that shows the band exercising its "harder" side. "Carry on Till Tomorrow" sounds like it from a much earlier time during the verses with only vocals and an almost Alberti bass being played by acoustic guitar. The chorus opens up much more when the drums enter and the guitar begins strumming chords and the vocals utilize a pyramid effect to layer harmony. An Evans, Ham tune, "Carry on Till Tomorrow" shows how vast and wide-ranging the songwriting duo's ideas were. I mean, how often do you hear strings supplying a driving, rhythmic pulse under a guitar solo? "I'm in Love," a Ham tune, is a very light-hearted tune, but it shows how many styles of music Ham was exploring at the time rather than sticking with the ballads and medium-tempo songs that were generating the hits. It also originally appeared on The Ivey's Maybe Tomorrow. "Walk Out in the Rain" is probably my favorite obscure tune on the album. The song is very well crafted with the harmony changing in order to create chromatic movement in the motifs in the vocal part. It's also interesting that the bridge goes to the parallel minor, as well changing styles. Another interesting element is that after each bridge the verse becomes more layered. Originally the vocals are supplied by Pete Ham, then Molland's guitar enters the mix, and finally the whole band enters to supply vocal harmony. "Angelique," a tune originally on Maybe Tomorrow, is a very vocal heavy tune with only lightly-strummed guitar and the occasional musings of electric harpsichord providing a counterpoint line. "Knocking Down Our Home," a Pete Ham tune, is very reminiscent of theatre or even Tin Pan Alley. A verse opens the tune with Ham's voice ending on the minor seven of a dominant chord and then going into a sort of Latin rhythm accompanied by trumpet and saxophones. This track is also one that originally appeared on the earlier Iveys release. "Give It a Try" is a great medium tempo track with all of the Badfinger elements: vocal harmony, driving rhythms, and the solo guitar interjections. "Maybe Tomorrow," the title track of the earlier Iveys release closes the album. This track has songs nice moments, especially when the voices of Ham and Evans are accompanied by the strings. during the chorus. This is the album that essentially marked Badfinger's initial success that would peak with 1971's Straight Up with tunes like "Baby Blue" and "Day After Day."