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Babe Ruth - First Base CD (album) cover


Babe Ruth


Heavy Prog

3.71 | 142 ratings

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3 stars Babe Ruth isn't about symphonic prog, doesn't really stray into the realm of jazz-rock and is light years away from psychedelic spacey stuff. Nah, this is an altogether more primal beast that might just be too "simple" for many proggers. First Base, at least, is all about earthy blues rock with some distinct progressive touches and at least one great soloist. Standing astride it all, however is the immense raw power of lead vocalist Jennie Haan.

My abiding memory of Babe Ruth will always be the sheer intensity of Haan's delivery on the opening track Wells Fargo. Over a Zeppelin-esque heavy blues riff, she simply rams an incredibly powerful vocal down our throats in a way that will leave Janis Joplin fans drooling. Factor in some meaty saxophone moments from guest Brent Carter and its easy to see why Wells Fargo is still seen as Babe Ruth's signature tune.

Babe Ruth then pulls off a stunning change of pace with its "other" classic tune, The Runaways, an expressive song that starts life as folky ballad with Haan accompanied by oboe and a mass of cellos. Halfway through the drums announce themselves and the band takes off on a laidback instrumental exploration led by Dave Punshon's electric piano. Punshon is probably the unsung hero of a group dominated by guitarist/keyboardist Alan Shacklock's compositions and Haan's vocals, but he lays down a few markers on this album.

The rest of the album builds on that steady mix of powerful Haan vocals, great soloing from Punshon, and to a lesser extent Shacklock, but one does feel that the rhythm players are somewhat stodgy, although it could be argued that the compositions are to blame for this. The Frank Zappa cover King Kong for example, is initially rhythmically dull before some excellent jazzy solos from Punshon and Shacklock push drummer Dick Powell to some explosive playing. Incidentally, the liner notes inform us that King Kong "was recorded straight with no overdubbing or electronic trickery"!

Black Dog is a slow-burning bluesy exploration with another passionate turn from Haan, with some fancy blues-jazz solos from Punshon first on electric piano and then on piano, before the lady returns halfway through the song with Shacklock's guitar wailing alongside her. The Mexican is an unusual blues-rock song that takes a totally unlikely detour with a jam based on Ennio Morricone's melody from A Few Dollars More (!!!) and the concluding track Joker is another classic heavy blues tune, riding on Punshon's electric piano while Haan and Shacklock trade lead vocals.

This is good clean fun, but I have to say that there are literally hundreds of "proggier" bands out there that will need to be investigated before you try Babe Ruth. Those who want their music to be really difficult and challenging should certainly give this one a miss. ... 52% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |


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