Badfinger – Straight Up (1971)

Badfinger_StraightUp3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Always (and rather unfairly) compared to The Beatles (generally not a band I ever worshipped—yes, I admit, I’m a Stones fan), largely thanks to the group’s relationship with Apple Records, Badfinger was a band over which I was never overly enamored, although I always respected the group’s occasionally brilliant songwriting skills despite the somewhat-patchy albums. Plus, I sympathized with the group’s professional (legal) tragic circumstances in which Badfinger found itself (management hell—ie. greed) and the horrible personal tragedies that followed, with two of the band members sadly taking their own lives.

Nevertheless, to this day, I occasionally enjoy a few of the band’s early releases, including Straight Up, where (to me) the band’s songwriting skills truly shine. The mega-hit “Baby Blue” is perhaps my favorite single the group ever produced (apart from the excellent “No Matter What” from the previous album), and the melodic “Day After Day” wasn’t too far behind. Both exceptional tracks! The remaining tracks are mostly decent slices of melodic (and often light) Power Pop, with some of them (“Money,” “Suitcase,” and “It’s Over”) seemingly potential hits in their own right.

Additionally, on Straight Up, Badfinger’s third album, the band seemed to truly gel, with finally a welcome cohesiveness regarding its overall sound, style, and instrumentation. If only the band had been allowed to experiment and navigate its own career without the damned continual interference from its “sharky” management and the record company executive demons…ah, well, a sad tale…

Anyway, this is probably my favorite Badfinger album, one I’ve found myself playing on a semi-regular basis in recent years.

 

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Sass Jordan – Racine (1992)

SassJordan_Racine4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Sass Jordan…who, you might ask?

Plainly and simply, Sass is a female version of Rod Stewart, especially on this particular album, a down-and-dirty collection of Blues Rock tracks in the same realm as Faces. Indeed, on the final track “Time Flies,” Sass even sardonically utters the ad-libbed lyrics “Miss Judy…you’re so rude,” thus giving a firm nod to the track “Miss Judy’s Farm” from Faces’s classic A Nod Is as Good as a Wink album.

Regardless, the tracks “You Don’t Have to Remind Me,” the aforementioned “Time Flies,” “Make You a Believer,” “If You’re Gonna Love Me,” and “Cry Baby” are only a handful of the highlights…indeed, each of the eleven tracks is a gem in its own right.

Therefore, for fans of Faces-style rock with some Rod Stewart/Janis Joplin-inspired vocals along with a healthy dose of Kim Carnes, Joanna Dean, and Alannah Myles, grab a copy of this now! This Canadian singer is an undiscovered gem of a vocalist.

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Robin Trower – Bridge of Sighs (1974)

Trower_BridgeSighs5 out of 5 Stars!

It’s a rare occurrence for an album to appear on the music scene that truly possesses a unique sound/style (despite some obvious influences). Certainly Robin Trower’s debut solo album from the previous year (Twice Removed From Yesterday) contained his own particular Hendrix-inspired sound/style, but it was 1974’s Bridge of Sighs album that—with its seemingly perfect collection of tracks, its songwriting adroitness, and its overall stellar musical performances and production qualities—not only solidified the group’s sound/style, but also popularized it to the Nth degree.

The album bursts forth with “Day of the Eagle,” a classic track in its own right, loaded with Trower’s “signature guitar sound,” a rollicking rhythm in its first section, then a bluesy laid-back second half, along with a note-perfect performance from James Dewar on vocals, just the sort of track that begs to be played at top volume…and often.

Next comes the hypnotic title track, which has the power to completely mesmerize the listener, making one feel as if they’re floating on a misty river where the water had been replaced by guitar-riff magic. Simply outstanding! The song’s final “chill wind” sound effects lead perfectly into the next track, the stripped-down and mellow “In This Place,” which features perhaps the album’s most beautiful and interesting vocal melody, as well as excellently placed drum fills by Reg Isidore and sparse bass notes by James Dewar, and stunning examples of Trower’s bluesy lead guitar insertions throughout.

The funky “The Fool and Me” and the slamming “Too Rolling Stoned” (both classic gems) are further examples of just what this talented trio of musicians could do with some catchy, upbeat material. Both tracks showcase Robin’s wicked guitar riffs, as the rhythm section energetically pumps away in the background, while Dewar delivers commendable vocal performances in his unique, highly recognizable manner.

As for the remaining tracks, “About To Begin” is another dreamy ballad, while “Lady Love” is a straight-forward and catchy rocker (with cowbell included) and the blues-heavy “Little Bit of Sympathy” offers more guitar brilliance, with Trower delivering that tremendously successful “signature” sound, never sounding so perfectly dissonant and (at times) so wonderfully evil.

Therefore, with not one filler track, this album is nothing short of a 5-Star masterpiece, an album that will forever be embedded in my memory as a true classic—a stunning nostalgic moment based on my initial hearing of the album—which also had major universal consequences (ie. it musically influenced scores of other bands in its wake). So Bridge of Sighs remains, to this day, a truly special and moving experience every single time I hear it, and each repeated listening is one I actually cherish, especially since it (somehow) magically whisks me back to the year 1974 and the feelings of youth. Absolutely brilliant!

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