Video Review – 9.5mins
The holy grail for fans of The Babys in disc 6
The Babys are one of my favourite bands, and this is because of the vocals by John Waite. I first became aware of them them in 1977 when they appeared on Top of The Pops performing ‘Isn’t It Time’. Punk had just arrived, and rock music was falling into the background, but there was something about how they looked that said to me this was a new rock band to watch out for.
‘Isn’t It Time’ has remained a firm favourite for me. The song structure and female vocals lift the song to another level. The backing vocals remind me of Bob Seger and how he uses backing vocals. However, it was the voice that stood out. It sounded so emotional and real.
After this, I went out and bought the album Broken Heart, It was produced by Ron Nevison who liked adding strings to everything (he did the same with UFO later on). However, it works, it really does. The arrangements and performance on songs like ‘Wrong Or Right’, ‘I’m Falling’, ‘A Piece of The Action’ etc. are simply stunning. The vocals are heart-wrenching in places and you can feel the angst in every phrase. A special mention has to go to guitarist Wally Stocker who channelled the spirit of Paul Kossof in much of his lead playing.
Form this point I was hooked and bought everything they did with the next album ‘Head First’ being my all-time favourite.
I have all the albums on vinyl, and the remasters via Rock Candy Records and BGO, but I was still excited when I heard about this box set from Cherry Red Records.
I knew from interviews with John Waite that extra tracks had been laid down and not included on the original albums. Two tracks from the Ron Nevison period had appeared on the ‘Essential John Waite 1976 – 86′ compilation in 1992. These were ‘Love Is A Rose To Me’ and ‘World In A Bottle’. Both are excellent, so I was hoping these and perhaps more would be included.
Well, I was to be disappointed on that score as those tracks are missing.
So what are my thoughts on this box set?
Externally it is a beautiful glossy and sturdy clamshell box. There is a group shot on the front featuring the Jonathan Cain lineup and on the back a full listing of the albums and tracks included.
Inside each album is in a replica single card sleeve. (None of the original records had gatefolds).
I have to say the first disappointment is that there is no booklet included. It would have an extra selling point to have had a 24-30page retrospective on the band by Howard Johnson (who did the Rock Candy notes) or even some history from the band members themselves. What you do get is a fold-out poster with some single covers and the track listings over a photo of the band. There is just a feeling that this choice was made as a cost-cutting exercise. It also feels that not a lot of research went into the project. I could be very wrong here, but I do think that if the band had been involved and Chrysallis Records and looked harder the extra tracks may have been found and included.
So with that out of the way, let us look at the positives because there are many.
CD1 – The Babys – 1976
Produced by Bob Ezrin this album was always a disappointment to me, apart from the opening track ‘Looking For Love’ and ‘Dying Man’ the rest of the songs lack the magic that was to follow. This disc also includes the rare B Side ‘Head Above The Waves’.
CD2 – Broken Heart – 1977
The first classic album with a 1980s drum sound three years ahead of everyone else. There is not one bad track on this the whole band (with strings!) just works on every level. The guitar sound is big and menacing with arrangements that let John Waite’s sensitive vocals cut through.
Songs like ‘Give Me Your Love’, ‘The Golden Mile’,Rescue Me and ‘A Piece of The Action’ are classic rock songs.
Extra tracks include ‘Money’ and some single / mono edits
CD3 – Head First – 1978
The album that should have seen them go into the first division. ‘Every Time I Think of You’ ‘Run To Mexico’ ‘Please Don’t Leave Me Here’ Head First’ ‘You (Got It)’ in fact every track is just stunning.
Extra tracks are again single edits. This is where the outtakes ‘Love Is A Rose To Me’ and ‘World In A Bottle’ should have been included.
The song ‘Run To Mexico’ had a crowd noise at the end of the vinyl recording, this is missing on some CD versions.
CD4 – Union Jacks – 1980
This featured a new line up and brought in the songwriting talents of future Journey keyboard player Jonathan Cain. The album was produced by Keith Olsen and the sound was just perfect for the 1980s and the direction AOR and melodic rock was heading.
Side one of the original album was just terrific, with tracks like ‘Back On My Feet Again’, True Love True Confession’ ‘Midnight Rendezvous’ and Union Jack’. I remember thinking when I played it the first time, wow this the best album I have bought for a long time. This direction continues for the opening track on side two ‘ In Your Eyes’ and then the quality drops for the final three tracks.
Extra Tracks – This is a real bonus as they include tracks from the live EP and other live tracks from Cleveland which are all new.
CD5 – On The Edge – 1980
The band were, unfortunately, fragmenting when they came to record this which is a shame as coming fast on the heels of the previous album this also had the same high-quality production values. However, the songs were not quite up to the same level. It still has some brilliant moments with ‘Turn and Walk Away’, ‘Sweet 17′, Darker Side of Town’, Downtown etc
Extra Tracks – Single edits
CD6 – Live At The Tower Theatre 1977
CD6 – The Offical Unofficial Babys Album – 1975
And this ladies and gentlemen are the crown jewels of this box set.
The 1975 album slipped out on the NEMS label in the UK when someone thought that make some money out of the band as it looked like they were going hit the bigtime.
It sounds like a very different band, and the song arrangments like on ‘I’m Falling (which was on Broken heart) are more like a heavy rock band. Some of these songs only exist here, and the original album is very hard to find. It is terrific hearing these songs without the strings and the rawness makes them sound like Bad Company or UFO.
This is where a booklet would have been useful to help put some historical background and tell the story behind how this actually came to be.
The live album is also very good as it features the original line up with some songs not available anywhere else. There are some great guitar workouts on the live material.
John Waite went on to enjoy even bigger success with Bad English later on but for many, he never bettered the timeless albums he made with The Babys.
The Babys – On The Edge (Rock Candy Remaster)
The Babys – Union Jacks (Rock Candy Remaster)
The Baby – Head First (Rock Candy Remaster)
All these come with 4000 word essays by Howard Johnson and a track by track review by John Waite
The Babys – The Babys / Broken Heart (BGO Records)
Essay by David Wells
The Babys – Valentine Baby – Live Colorado 1980
Trivia : The UFO song on Obsession ‘ Ain’t No Baby’ was rumoured to have been written about them as they felt Chrysallis was giving them more attention!.