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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Badfinger: Day After Day


BADFINGER: DAY AFTER DAY (1974; 1990)

1) Sometimes; 2) I Don't Mind; 3) Blind Owl; 4) Give It Up; 5) Constitution; 6) Baby Blue; 7) Name Of The Game; 8) Day After Day; 9) Timeless; 10) I Can't Take It.

Amazingly, Badfinger's bad luck went on to hold the band in a tight grip even long after all the breakups and suicides. By all means, they were quite a decent little band when playing live; their goal was to establish themselves as an authentic «rock» act onstage — developing and practicing a much more rough and aggressive sound than the cuddly power pop of their studio records — and in that, they succeeded. Of course, nobody is going to mention Badfinger while listing the most obvious «gritty rock'n'roll acts» of the early 1970s, but the very fact that they can please a closet headbanger like myself (unlike, say, The Beach Boys, who were never truly able to gene­rate a genuine rocking vibe during their live shows, even though they did try occasionally) has to count for something.

Problem is, the band never got around to releasing a proper live album in their lifetime — and by the time public interest in Badfinger slowly started to grow for nostalgic reasons, most of the ar­chival recordings were either lost, deteriorated, or turned out to be unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. In 1989, Joey Molland got hold of the tapes recorded at the Agora venue in Cleveland on the band's 1974 American tour and offered them for official release on the Rykodisc label. Clai­ming, however, that the tapes were all but unusable in their original state, he went on to overdub most of his vocals... most of his guitars... some of Pete's guitars... a bit of the bass... and... well, you know. Even today, judging by some of the reviews, people still wreck their brains trying to understand if the whole thing can officially count as a real Badfinger live album, by seeking out old bootlegs  and running comparative tests.

The absolute worst thing, however, and one that really brings Day After Day close to unlistena­ble, is that Joey slapped on a thick electronic echo on all the drumwork. Maybe he wanted to have it out with Mike Gibbins, or perhaps the drum mike was indeed dysfunctional that evening, but, anyway, the result is honestly godawful: first thing you get when ʽSometimesʼ hit the speakers is this moronic BASH-BASH-BASH — and a cognitive dissonance: this is Badfinger, right? how do they get this stereotypically Eighties sound in friggin' 1974?

The effect is hard — nay, almost impossible — to overcome; the ridiculousness of the situation completely bars Day After Day from any sense of respectability. Which is sad, because the band happened to be in fine form that evening. The setlist was rather evenly spread between all the al­bums from No Dice and up to Badfinger, omitted some of the most obvious hits (ʽNo Matter Whatʼ) in favor of a few dark horses (ʽBlind Owlʼ), and the rest of the power-pop numbers were sped up, distorted, and «crunch-formed» for extra rock'n'roll excitement, bridging the gap be­tween formerly cuddly songs like ʽI Can't Take Itʼ and originally hard-rocking material like ʽCon­stitutionʼ. Quite a solid bridge, as a matter of fact.

ʽDay After Dayʼ, deprived of its piano flourishes for technical reasons, and substituting a sincere, but all too fragile and thin slide solo for the classic bit of Ham/Harrison interplay, is the only ma­jor disappointment (apparently, the band itself understood that and refused to play the song live for several years, before finally succumbing to the temptation in 1974). Minor disappointments include the lengthy jams at the end of ʽGive It Upʼ and ʽTimelessʼ: Ham and Molland are good guitarists, capable of emotionally charged lead work in the studio, but their improvisations tend to fall back on perfunctory blues-rock clichés, and there is really no reason why you should listen to a made-on-the-spot long long long solo by Badfinger instead of, say, Jimmy Page or Santana.

Still, in general, these crunchy re-modelings are quite headbang-worthy, and do a good job in de­molishing the myth of Badfinger as the «exemplary innocent wimps» of the power-pop move­ment. And it would have been a nice, recommendable album, if not for the fact that Joey decided to take care of it in 1989. Had he waited for an extra decade or so, with electronic drums finally going out of fashion and sound-cleaning technologies up a notch, Day After Day could have over­turned the bad luck streak. As it is — who knows where those tapes are now, or really just gives a damn about a better remastering job?

Check "Day After Day" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Day After Day" (MP3) on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. "close to unlistenable"
    That's what we have YouTube for. There is some very fine stuff, that indeed confirms Badfinger on stage was leaning towards hardrock now and then. You'll find some nice crunch. This one is a good example of the pro's and cons:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bidVR-eQMzg&feature=related

    The first 2½ minutes rule mercilessly; then we get one minute pointless noodling followed by very inconsisting soloing. Danm good rhythm section, with a substantial role for the rhythm guitar (something the Beatles and the Stones not always pulled off).
    This is coming from someone who sets everything against the standard of Made in Japan.
    I know live stuff from both Santana and Page that is less enjoyable.

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