The BWR review of "Head First"
Badfinger - Head First: Snapper Music - Copyright ©2000
CD 1: Head First CD2: Demos/Bonus Tracks
I just received my advance copy of the Snapper Music release of Badfinger's "Head First" (The Last Sessions). My copy came with a very nice slipcase printed with front and back CD information on the slipcase. The CDs are enclosed in a clear slim-line CD jewelcase with a center partition that holds both CDs face to face. There is a very nicely done 20 page CD booklet that lists the songs and authors for all the songs. The lyrics are printed for each song along with some individual photos of each of the Badfinger line-up for these recordings: Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Bob Jackson and Mike Gibbins. You will notice right away that the theme color for both the CD booklet and the 2 CDs is green. It is an overall excellent looking package; well documented and produced. The lyrics are fairly easy to read, but the background is a bit busy for the eyes. It has been stated that Tommy wanted the original album cover to feature looking into a roaring lion's mouth and Snapper Music comes through with a really excellent CD cover for this Badfinger album. Nice job Snapper Music - great cover concept!
If you are like me and have only heard the bootleg versions of this CD, (i.e. Brilliant Road BRD003 "Head First" for example) will be in for a pleasant surprise. On the Brilliant Road bootleg CD, two complete versions of the "Head First" sessions are presented. The Warner Bros. mix and the original Apple studio mix. The Apple mix is very raw and rough mix of what the band produced in the last weeks of 1974. The Warner Bros. mix happened in early 1975 and attempted to put the rough mix into a form to present to Warner Bros. The Apple mix is known for the song intros, count-ins and background talking by the band. The Warner mix dropped those out and cleaned up the songs by balancing the vocals and the instruments.
What Snapper Music presents here is the original Apple studio mix, engineered by Phil McDonald and produced by Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise. Most of the song intros and count-ins are present, but what happens after that is a pure joy for the ears! Even though the recordings were done quickly and some of the songs never fully fleshed out, the CD digital re-mastering by Mike Romanowski, Dan Matovina and Andy Pearce of Masterpiece along with the CD digital editing by Chris von Sneidern and Mike Romanowski sounds just great! This release is full body sounding, not 'tinny' like some of the bootlegs out there. The beginning of "Lay Me Down" also does not have that annoying tape distortion that was presented on the "Best of Badfinger - Volume 2" from Rhino Records.
Badfinger fans may notice that the songs on this new "Head First" release are not in the same order as what was presented to Warner Bros. back in 1975. Dan Matovina shuffled the songs to help with the flow of the album. In my opinion, it works quite well.
Snapper Music "Head First" Original "Head First" track list
I think most Badfinger fans will embrace this long lost release. It is a pretty good follow-up album to "Wish You Were Here." Pete Ham double tracks guitar playing on several songs along with playing synth. Pete also does some tasty harmonica playing on Mike's "Back Again." Bob Jackson adds a new dimension to the sound of Badfinger, filling in the vacuum left when Joey Molland quit the band before the recordings began in December of 1974. Bob's contribution to this album is vocals, synth, piano, organ and he wrote or helped co-write on three songs. "Passed Fast," "Moonshine" and "Turn Around." I have always loved Mike's song "Back Again" and I hope that Mike gets a little more notice because he wrote or co-wrote three excellent songs for this session. Tom Evans only contributed one song on "Wish You Were Here" which was a bit of a disappointment, but on "Head First" Tommy came out strong with four very good songs that he either wrote or co-wrote. "Passed Fast," "Moonshine," "Hey, Mr. Manager," and "Rock 'N' Roll Contract." The last two songs were all about what was to come to a head in the next several months with the Badfinger management. A slightly different version of "Rock 'N' Roll Contract." was re-recorded for the "Say No More" album. The "Head First" CD is a bit short in length, clocking in at 33:40 but the experience is worthwhile.
The second bonus CD in the "Head First" package contains 'demo' quality recordings. Some only recorded on a cheap cassette recorder, so the sonic quality is not there. They are at the same level of the bonus tracks that have been previously released on the Japanese versions of Pete Ham's "7 Park Avenue" and "Golders Green." Six songs from Pete, three from Mike, and one each from Bob Jackson and Tom Evans. This CD clocks in at 26:55.
Time Is Mine (Ham) This is Pete working out an interesting song progression; no lyrics, just Pete "Do do do-ing" the non-existent words. It is a pretty song that is recorded a bit too loud and it overwhelms the mic.
Smokin' Gun (Ham) Was Pete watching a 'Western' while writing this one? Or is this a metaphor for the Badfinger managerial situation?
"Once upon a ruthless time
Old Fashioned Notions (Gibbins) Mike on the piano. "Steady....steady." This song was also to be on "Head First," but was never fully worked out. Another good song for Mike.
Nothing To Show (Ham) Short and to the point. "Lawyers pricing, temperature rising" Intense acoustic strumming and vocals by Pete. No doubt about the message here.
You Ask Yourself Why (Gibbins) Wait! What is George Harrison doing singing and playing on this song? Well, he's not! That is Mike singing and Pete on the slide guitar. I did a double take on this song the first time I heard it. I like it! Another great song from Mike that should have been properly recorded. Mike, bring this one out of obscurity....
Keep Your Country Tidy (Ham) A simple tune from Pete that wanders a bit but could have been a pretty good song when completed. Maybe drop the first verse, re-name the song "Keep Your Lover Happy." The second and last verse along with the bridge work well.
To Say Goodbye (Jackson) Bob pours his heart out in this song. Well constructed, simple, yet to the point. A tour de force song for Bob, "I can't bring myself to say goodbye."
Queen Of Darkness (Evans) A version of this song was supposedly basic-tracked for the "Wish You Were Here" sessions. A really good Tommy song. I like Tommy's acoustic guitar playing and his lyrics are exposing some of his inner demons. Tommy at his depressed best....
I Can't Believe In (Ham) More of what is really bothering Pete in the last year of his life. Pete is so very expressive through his music. Both he and Tom were writing some very cutting lyrics during this period.
"I can't believe in
Thanks To You All (Gibbins) Mike on a sunny day sitting in his garden and everything looks fine... Another George Harrison influenced song. Very dreamy.
Lay Me Down - Demo (Ham) Pete was trying his hardest for a hit single and this is one of the recordings of Pete working out the kinks. Just Pete and his acoustic guitar. The song is close to being finished.
Overall, I am really pleased with this release from Snapper Music. Badfinger fans will really enjoy both CDs. Casual fans that pick up this CD will also be pleased, but if they are looking for a "Day After Day" or a "No Matter What" power pop song in this mix, they will not find it here. "Lay Me Down" comes close, but it just doesn't quite fill the bill. What this CD does is showcase a band that even though losing a major contributor, Joey Molland, is progressing both musically and lyrically as a new Badfinger unit. Place your order today. It fits right in next to "Wish You Were Here" like it belongs there...And it does!
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