Released: December 1971
Chart Peak: #31
Weeks Charted: 32
Straight Up is a big disappointment coming after Badfinger's previous superb album, No Dice. I remember reading a quote by drummer Mike Gibbins saying that Straight Up would be a "natural progression" from the previous album -- as is usually the case with such supposed progressions, the result here is self-consciousness in place of spontaneity, solemnity in the place of former exuberance, and a general all-around deadness where infection energy was previously the rule.
Most often of all, the first of former virtues to fall by the wayside is that of unabashed rock and roll energy, and that's what has happened here. The result is a barely decent album, one which is the poorest of Badfinger's three LPs and by far the least likeable.
It's hard to say where the blame lies. The quality of the songwriting (split up evenly here between Pete Ham, Tom Evans, and Joey Molland) is down all around, the melodies that Badfinger had previously excelled in are just not anywhere as plentiful here. The production -- Todd Rundgren, and some George Harrison -- is decidedly inferior to what Badfinger have had in the past, particularly in the atrociously muddy sound of the vocals. Peter Ham's great guitar work, one of the factors that made him so prominent on No Dice, seems to be already a thing of the past.
Basically Straight Up shows the case of yet another talented but directionless group, one that've somehow convinced themselves that they have to do something more serious, more polished, than just plain old rocking out. The mystery is that No Dice was so good, and yet this album so lacking in the qualities that made Badfinger's first two LPs so engaging. And Badfinger seemed to have so much potential. Few groups have ever combined the joyous spirit of pop-ish rock and roll with a real hard rock sound -- the Small Faces and Flamin Groovies looked as if they were about to do it in a never-equaled fashion, both unfortunately to break up at their peak -- if anyone ever does completely it'll be a real milestone of an event, and Badfinger seemed to have the right ingredients to give it a shot in a lightweight rock sort of fashion. Well, as the saying goes, kaput.
There were many comparisons made of Magic Christian Music and No Dice to the Beatles' Help period, and the analogies were apt. With Straight Up, Badfinger seem to have already reached the Beatles' Revolver stage: a stultifying self-conscious artiness, a loss of previous essential virtues, and far too much general farting around. Which just goes to show, I guess, that the 1964-5 days of regular AM hits and an expected output of three LPs a year from name groups were a lot healthier than we had ever dreamed. It sure is disheartening to wait a whole year for an album as disappointing as this one.
- Mike Saunders, Rolling Stone, 1/20/72.
With the Bee Gees seemingly unable to put it together again and God knows what having befallen the Hollies, Badfinger may be the best group-that-sounds-like-the-early-Beatles we have left. With this album, Badfinger grows. The vocals haven't changed much (and why should they?), remaining more coarse-grained but almost identical in harmonic texture to those of the early Beatles, but the instrumentals have gone from middle-ground rock to sophisticated rock, and they've done it with a lightness of heart that keeps us reminded that rock is still for the lively in spirit. Much thanks, no doubt, is due George Harrison, who produced four tracks, and Todd Rundgren, who produced the others. The striking thing about the instrumentals is their economy, the same quality, you'll recall, that always marked George's guitar playing. It's especially gratifying to hear the piano strike only one more note when one note will do -- usualy you get at least five in such situations.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 4/72.
The material is Badfinger and the production credits are shared by George Harrison and Todd Rundgren on their second LP on Apple. FM attention should be given to "Take It All," "Name of the Game" and "Perfection," while Top 40 will pick up on the current hit single, "Day After Day." "Suitcase" would make a good follow-up.
- Billboard, 1972.
A progressive album compared to their last two albums. The progress is unbelievable and very enjoyable. The album is really to anyone's taste. Reminds me of the Beatles very much and probably would please any old Beatle fans.
It holds simplicity and yet has enough complication to keep it from being boring. Two of the cuts have been released as singles and did very well on the charts. "Day After Day" and "Baby Blue" are nothing to compare with some of the other cuts. Perhaps the group gets its Beatles sound because George Harrison produced four of the cuts and plays some beautiful slide work on "Day After Day."
- Frank Maier, Hit Parader, 12/72.
Once again I'm forced to wonder if I wouldn't like this record if it were by the Beatles. But without mentioning what the question says about the group, which is called Badfinger, the answer is that the Beatles couldn't have made this record. Except for "Day After Day" and "Perfection," not one of these unabashedly tuneful tunes has any magic to it, which isn't simply a matter of cautious tempos and harmonies -- it's a matter of magic. Nor will any of them add any phrases verbal or musical to our common language, although they might keep a few in circulation. Also, the Beatles put nicer pictures on the cover -- pictures of themselves. B-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
George Harrison and Todd Rundgren took turns producing Badfinger's third album, Straight Up, which produced two international hits with the gorgeous "Day After Day" and the wall-of-sound pop/rock masterpiece "Baby Blue." Badfinger forges a unique sound with their sweeping, strained high harmonies, thick, edgy rhythm-guitar parts, and a drumming style that featured an exaggerated hi-hat attack on the backbeat. Check out "Take It All," "Sometimes," and the powerful "It's Over" for examples. * * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
The band's third album, Straight Up, assured it a spot in pop history, with guest artists Leon Russell on piano and Harrison on slide guitar, as well as the unforgettable "Baby Blue" and "Day After Day." * * * * *
- William Hanson, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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