Monday, November 13, 2017
Career In A Nutshell: The Babys!
It's a little known fact that you can gauge the true awesomeness of a band by how in-demand its ex-members are after the band breaks up. Did most of the members go on to solo success and/or constant gigs with major artists? If so, you can bet your sweet ass that those who knew talent when they saw it made sure contact ex-members as soon as they heard the news of the band's demise.
Judging by that criteria, the Babys might just be one of the greatest bands of all time to never get their due. Sure, they had some notable radio hits in the U.S., but never the kind that portrayed them in a proper light or helped them build a dedicated mass following. In fact, they didn't even write their two biggest hits, "Isn't It Time" and "Every Time I Think of You".
Since they imploded in 1980, their singer has gone on to platinum success as a solo star and frontman for short-lived late '80s supergroup Bad English, their keyboardist went on to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Gregg Rolie in Journey and co-write some of the band's biggest hits, their drummer has toured and recorded with Rod Stewart, Eddie Money and Elton John, their guitarist has also recorded with Rod Stewart and Air Supply, and, last but not least, their bass player was in Bad English and is currently in Styx.
The Babys (1977)
Despite being co-produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd), it's hard to determine what his input may have been on an album that only hints at the band's potential. Waite's vocals are buried in reverb, but still manage to cut through quite effectively on ballads "I Believe In Love" and "Laura".
The rest of the album drifts aimlessly in faceless Bad Company territory, with only "If You've Got The Time" rising above the other less-developed material. In hindsight, if this had been our first exposure to the band, we'd have probably taken a pass.
Broken Heart (1977)
Some say you can't judge a book by the cover. The same would apply to this album, as the overly effeminate cover art does little to prepare the listener for the powerhouse punch found inside. Those who can get past the weak opening track ("Wrong Or Right") are rewarded with an album full of Zeppelin-esque drum stomp and elegiac riffage, with Waite's vocals adding the cherry to this deliciously ferocious rock delicacy. Of course, its the outside material that got all the attention, with the Jack Conrad-Ray Kennedy composition "Isn't It Time" becoming the band's first Top 20 hit.
Head First (1979)
At the time of its release, the band's third album immediately felt like the product of a band in turmoil, with the glaring absence of founding member Michael Corby. Even so, the formula that worked on their second album was employed here to equal success. The band recorded another Conrad-Kennedy tune ("Every Time I Think Of You") and watched it peak at the exact same chart position (#13). The band's own "White Lightning" was a stirring, string-filled ode to illicit pharmaceuticals that would have made for a great follow-up single, but the label went with the faceless title cut instead and stopped the album's momentum in its tracks.
Union Jacks (1980)
With the addition of bassist Ricky Phillips and keyboardist Jonathan Cain, 1980 saw the band unveil its most potent lineup and, with it, comes the air of raised expectations. Thankfully, the album comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders with "Back On My Feet Again" re-introducing the band to its AOR radio audience with a confident strut. Incredibly, the song only got as far as #33 on the charts despite heavy radioactivity that has continued to this day.
Even more incredulously, the album's strongest cut "Midnight Rendezvous" didn't get within a stone's throw of the Top 40 despite almost constant radio play. Despite its hokey title, "Jesus Are You There" begged to see its own release as a single. While the band has finally put together all the pieces personnel-wise, one gets the feeling that, song-wise, they've yet to reach their peak.
On The Edge (1980)
This album is that peak, finally conquered by a band that has seemingly overcome every possible hurdle one can imagine. The track listing is a veritable "best of", but, at the time, the band;s label obviously had no idea what to do with the treasure trove of should-be singles the band delivered to their doorstep. It's no coincidence that Jonathan Cain had a hand in writing all but three of the album's ten songs.
Even so, there is no acceptable reason why the album's ONLY single (!) "Turn And Walk Away" did not make the Top 40, but its lackluster showing seems to have confirmed to the fickle forces within the label that no further singles were warranted despite the fact that "Sweet 17" and "Gonna Be Somebody" had been getting relevant AOR airplay on their own.
Adding further insult to injury (John Waite suffered a sprained knee after being yanked off the stage by a fan in a December 1980 concert and the rest of the tour scrubbed), Chrysalis assembled this "best of" compilation and then proved incapable of promoting even that as it failed to hit the Top 100 despite being packed with hits, proven radio favorites, and an inspired cover of "Money (That's What I Want).
Despite its lack of chart success, it was, for a time, the only Babys album still in-print and instrumental in introducing legions of new fans to the band well after the band had gone its "separate ways".