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Wish You Were Here

Warner Bros. 2827
Released: November 1974
Chart Peak: #148
Weeks Charted: 6

Up to now, the big singles, "Come and Get It," "No Matter What," "Day After Day," and especially "Baby Blue" have provided the obvious high points along the way for this veteran English quartet. Now, at last, they've made an album (their sixth in five years) that derives a general style from what the band constructed on those singles: the captivating melodies, melancholy vocals and big bell-like rhythm guitars outlining a stirring, full-bodied sound. While the final Apple album Ass contained the energy without the melodies and the first Warner LP, Badfinger, had pretty but punchless tracks, Wish You Were Here is loaded with songs that are both catchy and electric. Stragegically placed horns (by the Average White Band's sax duo) and strings enlarge the guitar chordings to symphonic proportions, giving this record a creative fullness and making it a wonderful album to play right through.

Most immediately striking among the 11 songs are Pete Ham's "Know One Knows" and "Just a Chance." After six albums, Ham's McCartneyisms are now fully integrated into a distinct style that is lyrically more conventional but melodically as attractive as his progenitor's. It's hard to recall a single resonant lyrical phrase from any Badfinger song, and these new Ham songs are (aside from "Dennis," a father's song to his little boy) as anonymous as any in terms of language; but in terms of melody and sentiment they're awe inspiring.

Joey Molland, not as sweet of voice or sentiment as Ham (he sounds less like McCartney that the other three), has become Badfinger's most consistent writer and rocker, as he shows on each of his four tracks here; of these, the roaring "Some Other Time" and the desperate "Got to Get Out of Here" are the equals of Hams' very best songs.

Badfinger has been in the shadow of the Beatles so completely and for so long that the idea of the group as an autonomous unit takes some getting used to, even now. But -- lyrical slightness aside -- they've always been a joy to listen to for their compositional and arranging invention and for their vocal attractiveness. Wish You Were Here, their most fully formed album, makes it clear that Badfinger -- despite never having won a substantial audience for themselves -- have lost none of their unity or their determination. And they're still one of the best singles bands in the business.

- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 1/2/75.

Bonus Reviews!

Badfinger have finally made an album I always hoped they would -- an album whose tracks all match the standards of their brilliant Apple singles. No Dice had a few great cuts, but was inconsistent and rather drastically overrated since it came out at a time when 60's-influenced pop-rockers were extremely scarce. Straight Up was a considerable improvement, but the last Apple (understandably, being a rather hastily-assembled affair) adn the first Warners albums were marred by a disturbing proportion of sub-standard material.

Wish You Were Here, though, is stronger than Straight Up, and the band seems recharged with enthusiasm. All their patented strengths are displayed -- those sterling harmonies, delightful riffs, tuneful melodies and an essential economy keeping everything sharp and concise. The album is bursting with hits -- or rather tracks that eminently deserve to become hits but probably don't stand a chance, as the record representatives of a two-years-old British group competing in the Billy Preston/Olivia Newton-John radio jungle. Top single choice by me is the opener, "Just a Chance," a terrific pop-rocker which grabs your attention in the first five seconds like the best rock & roll always does, and evokes favorable comparisons with the best Badfinger singles to date, "Baby Blue" and "No Matter What."

But similar delights abound -- there's not a weak track on the album. "You're So Fine" and "I Can Remember" are my other upbeat favorites, while on the ballad side "Gotta Get Out of Here" and "Love Song" stand out. The best thing about the album, though, is not so much the individual tracks as the way it plays so superbly as an entity -- there's nothing to skip, nothing to turn off. Wish You Were Here is a sparkling album, easily one of the year's best.

- Ken Barnes, Phonograph Record, 11/74.

When Badfinger first surfaced nearly five years back, they were hailed as "original" throwbacks to the days of the early Beatles when everyone had fun and nobody really took rock music too seriously. Here, they have added some sophistication while remaining one of the more fun bands to listen to. Alternating between excellent harmony singing that really does sound like it could have come from the '60's fun period with strong lead vocals and the basic rock instruments backed tastefully by horns that project without intruding, the group has again come up with a fine effort that should be welcomed by anyone who enjoys rock. Several potential singles here, from the group that was back to basics before it became fashionable. Best cuts: "Just A Chance," "Got To Get Out Of Here," "Know One Knows," "Love Time," "King Of The Road)," "Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke."

- Billboard, 1974.

After many professional and personal distractions, Badfinger refocused their creative energies and, with producer Chris Thomas, created one of their finest albums. The urgent fanfare of the opening track, "Just a Chance," sets the make-it-or-break-it undercurrent here. This features two impressive medleys, "In the Meantime/Some Other Time" and "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke," which features stately horn backing by The Average White Band. * * *

- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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