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Babe Ruth

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Babe Ruth First Base album cover
3.74 | 172 ratings | 29 reviews | 28% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Wells Fargo (6:17)
2. The Runaways (7:27)
3. King Kong (6:44)
4. Black Dog (8:03)
5. The Mexican (5:49)
6. Joker (7:43)

Total Time 42:03

Line-up / Musicians

- Janita Haan / lead vocals
- Alan Shacklock / guitars, organ, percussion, vocals, arrangements & co-producer
- Dave Punshon / piano, electric piano
- Dave Hewitt / bass, guitar
- Dick Powell / drums, percussion

- Boris Rickleman / cello
- Clive Anstee / cello
- Manny Fox / cello
- Peter Halling / cello (leader)
- Harry Mier / oboe
- Brent Carter / saxophones
- Jeff Allen / drums (2)
- Caspar Lawal / congas, bongos, cabasa

Releases information

Artwork: Roger Dean

LP Harvest ‎- SHSP 4022 (1972, UK)
LP Capitol 11151

CD One Way Records ‎- CDLL-57343 (1993, Canada)
CD Repertoire REP 4554-WP (1995)
CD One Way OWCD 57343
CD Beat Goes On - BGOCD 382 (1998) Included with "Amar Caballero" on one CD

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BABE RUTH First Base ratings distribution

(172 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(28%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

BABE RUTH First Base reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Philrod
3 stars In 1972, Babe Ruth launched their first album, First Base. It is their biggest album, both commercially and in terms of musical content. This is rythm hard rock with progressive ascendants. The music has really simple rythmic section especially the bass wich more or less repeats itself all over the album.

Pushed by a good guitar presence by writer Alan Shacklock and the the great vocals from lead singer Janita Haan, the album gives us one of the biggest hit of the 70's, The Mexican. The definite highlight of the album, this song is so known I don't really have to describe it. Another highlight is the remake of Frank Zappa's King Kong. A try at symphonic music appears on the song The Runaways, but really we see that they were not made for this kind of music, but I must say the production did not help, as the arrangements are louder than Haan's voice. It is interesnting to note that the cover painting is from Mr. Roger Dean himself, wich needs no further introduction. All in all, this is quite enjoyable, but nothing more. 3/5

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I dunno, ' Well's Fargo' for me is an absolute gem of a song. In fact the whole album is strong. It is great to also finally see Babe Ruth added to the prog reportoire. I can see how the departure of Ms. Haan would make an impact on the fture of the band as she had such a strong vocal style.Desperate sounding at times witha ' Take no prisoners' type feel. On ' Runaways' she demonstrates her gentle side. Great guitar work, great renditions and highly recommended.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was my second album after I knew the third one through melodic song "The Duchess of Orleans". This album has some prog elements in most of tracks featured. In addition to original line-up, the band brought together string chamber musicians: four musicians to play cello, Brent Carter on Sax, and Caspar Lawal on congas, bongos and kabasa. Alan Shacklock did all the arrangements and co-produced the album with Nick Mobs. Looking at the number of musicians contribute in this debut album, it seems a grandiose effort.

"Wells Fargo" (6:17) kicks off the album with an energetic style in relatively fast tempo music combining excellent percussion, guitar riffs and powerful vocal by Janita Haan. Saxes also provide its role during interlude. "The Runaways" (7:27) is very melodic song, heavily influenced by classical music combined with Mexican style. It's a mellow track that blends powerful and transparent vocal of Janita Haan and cello work. The song moves nicely in crescendo with variations in cello augmented with piano work. "King Kong" (6:44) is a wonderful instrumental piece with great keyboard / piano solo and energetic rhythm section, augmented with guitar work.

"Black Dog" (8:03) is a wonderfully crafted composition which begins with a soft guitar fills followed with bass lines in bluesy style that accompany low register notes voice lines. The opening line is really a melodic segments. The song moves gradually with drum work and at approx minute 2:24 the song enters into a stream of great arrangements with inventive piano work. The piano work reminds me to the work of Cuby + Blizard. The exploration of piano solo is really a good treat esoeceially it's combined with great guitar fills and Janita Haan's higher register notes. This song ends up wonderfully at the ending part with uplifting music in high points with stunning guitar work.

As the title implies, "The Mexican" (5:49) explores the Mexican music through nice combination between dynamic keyboard work, solid bass lines, powerful vocal. The song is very uplifting. The vocal quality of Janita Haan reminds me to the voice of Atlantis / Frumpy's lead singer Inga Rumpf. The song turns into a truly Mexican with the interpretation of "per qalche dollaroin piu" at the end of the track - it's typically a theme commonly used in cowboy / djangos movies. The album concludes brilliantly with "Joker" (7:43) which explores percussion, guitar riffs and great vocal lines.

Overall, I cannot identify any lacking of this album as every individual track is an excellent composition. This debut album is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Dick Heath
3 stars What might be said to be one of the strengths of Babe Ruth's first couple of albums, is you are not sure what their bag is, therefore this is an album offering a number of different musical styles and arrangements, an album of variation. But both the first two albums and their live performance, (personally caught '72 or '73) revealed power and considerable commitment. Jenny/Janita Haan's powerful inyerface, soul and blues voice, has often been compared with Janice Joplin's - and perhaps one explanation she was subequently signed with Motown, as well as the female voice of the Memorex Tape advert in the late 70's.

The danceable, Tamla with rock of Wells Fargo (with some brilliant Junior Walker style, screaming sax breaks - similar rock with soulful sax was copied later by Foreigner for their hit Urgent, using the genuine article, Mr Walker himself). With this track only there is the risk of Babe Ruth being compared to Rare Earth. Here too, showing the variation mentioned, is their first use of Ennio Morricone's spaghetti-western music as a coda to a Mexican flavoured tune - NOTE: 3 years after RCA Records had been selling truck loads of the Best Of Ennio Morricone albums to the British public. And the King Kong cover, stripped down from the Uncle Meat original and arranged for the band as a straight jazz rock group by the whiz Alan Shadlock - with a great electric piano solo. And then some half decent compositions by the band. A great first album for these 3, and now for me, long-lived tunes. An album worth checking out as one line of evolution heard in early 70's British rock - but not thought as mainstream prog at the time.

The Repertoise CD version has a extra tracks, including the shortened, single's version of Wells Fargo, which always got parties going.

Review by Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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

Review by loserboy
4 stars "Babe Ruth" debut album is still one of my favourites from the early 70's mixing powerful rock, symphonic and progressive genres. I love the voice of Jannie Haan who has one of the most powerful and awesome voices of all time. Mood on the album moves from the high adrenaline forward rock number "Wells Fargo" (which is one of the greatest rock tracks of all time IMHO) to the soft symphonic melodic piece titled "The Runaways". They even attempt and pull off a fantastic rendition of FRANK ZAPP's "King Kong". Leader of the band, guitarist, and principal song writer, Alan Shacklock was a huge talent and may IMHO be of one rock's most underrated musicians. This album has it all and is just an amazing piece of 70's progressive rock. Absolutely essential album.
Review by Tom Ozric
4 stars 'First Base' is a stormer of an album. Not fully complex like a lot of prog we know and love, but equally as effective. When I got this LP a while back, I was naturally drawn to the Roger Dean artwork, and not knowing anything of the band, took a chance. 'Wells Fargo' rocks, can't put it any other way, and vocalist Jennie Haan belts out her lines like a female version of Ozzy Osbourne !! Great opener. 'The Runaways' is a softer, more symphonic sounding piece that is beautiful - a personal favourite. Next up we get a cover version of Frank Zappa's instrumental 'King Kong' (haven't heard the original, though) with some great electric-piano work and guitaring. Side 2 starts with 'Black Dog', another cover song (penned by Jesse Winchester), and the longest track on the album. It starts out quietly and gradually builds into a hard-edged jammy track with excellent guitar runs. 'The Mexican' seems to be a big hit although I've never heard it on the radio here in Australia, maybe I was too young...I was 1 when the album came out. Anyway, awesome song it is, great riff with e-piano and guitar, cool drumming, castanets and Jennie's superb vocals. It interpolates 'Per Qualche Dollaro in Piu', a famous Morricone composition, which fits into the song as if it was meant to be - just listen to the MP3 here. Last song on the album, 'Joker', starts out with more of that tinkly electric-piano and is generally hard- rocking with some strong vocal duels between Jennie and guitarist Alan Shacklock. Clearly, in prog terms, this album doesn't break any new ground, but it is an excellent addition to any music collection, whatever genre.
Review by Sean Trane
3 stars First album from this quintet (actually a standard prog quartet plus female power singer Janita Haan) where leader Alan Shacklock (guitarist, but also organ, percussions and vocals) is the sole song writer, the group develops a pleasant a bluesy heavy prog. Graced with a very average Roger Dean artwork, this album is half original material; half cover, including one Zappa tune.

The album starts on a repetitive hard-funking Well's Fargo where Haan's vocals (an acquired taste if you ask this writer) are the feature, but I find it rather tedious and overstaying its welcome. Actually this first track epitomizes what's weak about the album: the group's compositions are buried under the covers and the average original songs are too long (the shortest track on the album is almost 6 minutes) and often suffers from comparisons from the strong covers they chose. I think that (in this album, anyway) BR suffers from the Vanilla Fudge syndrome. While Runaways is definitely more interesting, it relies on a lenghty crescendo classical-sound (Renaissance is not far here), the group being augmented by string quintet; but while pleasant I am far from enthralled because it lacks instrumental brilliance. The first side ends on a good Zappa reprise of King Kong but pales in comparison with the original, yet it is easily my favourite tracks on this side, because the band does show instrumentally what I expect from them.

The flipside starts on a lenghty cover of Jesse Winchester's Black Dog (no relation with Headley Grange's, either in parenthood or instrumentally) where Pushton's electric piano and Shacklock's guitar take the cake on a song that evolves from a slight country rock into a dramatic instrumental interplay. Next is the weird Ennio Morricone cover of The Mexican (I was not aware this piece had vocals, though) with a slight Hispanic feel with the typical Morricone ambiance played on the electric piano in the last part. Most likely this is a very loose adaptation of the original. The last track is the lengthy Joker, where the hard-driving guitar and Haan's rough vocals are the feature, but I find that the riff is overstaying its welcome and fails to evolve.

Certainly not BR's best album, First Base is an acceptable debut album, but comes rather short compared to their second album Amar Caballero, which is usually seen as their best effort. I suggest to progheads to look for this album on any variation (I think there are more than one possibility existing) of 2 on 1 compilation, because on its own, this album is certainly not essential.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars If even remembered outside of progressive rock circles, Babe Ruth is often dismissed as pseudo-prog and though the group does show signs of the hard rock/pop in acts like Heart or Led Zeppelin, the first two albums are a brilliant and tasteful amalgam of symphonics and good old fashioned heavy blues. This debut from '72 is intelligent, clear-headed, direct and incredibly good. Guitarist Alan Shacklock's foundation and Dave Punshon's tailored keys seem made for each other, and pixie firecracker Jennie Haan is mesmerizing as the perfect rock belter, male or female. Bassist Dave Hewitt and drummer Dick Powell's work is also exemplary and keeps the band grounded. Party tune 'Wells Fargo' does its job of getting the blood flowing with some rhythm n' blues and sweet, ragged solos from Shacklock. The flavors of the American Southwest explored on the record begin to show in the quiet and on-the-range 'The Runaways' featuring an oboe and several cellos. The piece swells to three times its size and impresses, even among the already orchestral prog scene at the time. Frank Zappa's 'King Kong' is covered beautifully in one un-dubbed take, gentle 'Black Dog' starts pastoral and builds, classic 'The Mexican' is always a joy to hear, and sauntering FM rocker 'Joker' caps off a great set of straight-forward prog rock, neither simple nor complex, just a pleasure... and recommended.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Babe Ruthīs debut album First Base is an excellent album IMO. I expected nothing and got a nice surprise. If you like female fronted prog rock this oneīs a real treat. Itīs very different from groups like Renaissance and Curved Air though as Jennie Haan is a very original and distinct vocalist. She seldom sings with soft angelic voices like many other female fronted acts. More about this later.

The music is a mix of hard rock and progressive more symphonic moments. A lot of the instrumental runs are done simultaniously by the guitar and piano. The music is very melodic and powerful. Most songs are melodic hard rock songs but The Runaways and the Zappa cover song King Kong are a bit different. The Runaways is the only song where Jennie Haan sings with a soft voice and here she shows she has a beautiful voice for this kind of singing too. The song is very symphonic building to a climax in the end. Very nice. As I am a big Zappa fan Iīm very happy that Babe Ruth has chosen to cover King Kong. Itīs one of the more complex Zappa themes rytmically ( well most of his songs are very complex) but Babe Ruth pulls it of with ease. There are some nice solo sections here too.

The musicians are fantastic in my ears. Especially the guitarist Alan Shacklock has a very nice feel to his playing. The most original thing here is the banshee rock mama vocals from Jennie Haan though. Iīm exaggerating a bit here as I really think she is a great singer. Iīm not normally into female rock singers as I think they often force their vocals to be raw, but Jennie Haan has attitude and plenty of it. She is a great asset to this band.

The sound quality is very good and the songs are well displayed here.

Note the beautiful Roger Dean art work too, itīs a real treat.

All in all First Base is an excellent prog rock album with lots of surprises along the way. It rocks, it has quiet moments, symphonic moments and first and foremost it has a great distinctive female singer. 4 stars is a matter of course for this brilliant little gem. Highly recommendable.

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Home Run

Overlooked by many, this is a band who's failure to make anything of themselves after their rookie season would ultimately leave them forgotten in the greater scheme of things. It's unfortunate, since the band was so amazing on this outing, and would even go on to inspire bands whose cover songs are all that's left to give any recognition that the band ever existed at all.

Babe Ruth's music can be described as an excellent mix of '70s hard rock with typical progressive leanings voiced by a terrific female vocalist whose vocals give the album all sorts of life. The two leading forces of the band are the two sources of noise that are most prominent in the music. Vocalist Jenny Haan exercises all possible and probable vocal chords on the album as she rips through her parts switching between blood curdling shrieks and serene softer passages while guitarist/songwriter Alan Shacklock grinds his axe to produce the licks that are ever so catchy on the album. But for all those who are wondering, no, the music has nothing to do with baseball.

With such riff based rock sections it's easy to compare this band as a mix of Heavy Proggers Rush (with early 70s high-Geddy vocals) and Led Zeppelin (with the stinging riffs). Heavy and slower songs leap frog one another on the album giving it a very scattered feel which ends up being a major plus for the disc as it manages to keep attention without ever becoming boring or too over the top.

Though the band did not write all the material on this first album it sure seems like they did. The music is played with such perfection and direction that one forgives the band for not submitting all their own songs. From the opening (and curiously named) Wells Fargo were given a sonic blast from the excellent pair of vocals and guitar that doesn't let up until the end of the track. Of the other fast songs on the album none let down and they all do the job to letting heads band or nod whilst keeping the music just as it's been labeled. Heavy and progressive.

The slower songs on the album are all performed to perfection. Jenny Haan's vocals on these tracks are beautiful, providing depth and emotion to what is already a tear jerking experience. Songs which pick up to an ultimate screaming climax such as Black Dog (not a Zeppelin cover) and The Runaways are what really make the album so exceptional.

A couple of songs which don't stick to the proposed formula are also quite excellent. The Frank Zappa written King Kong is an excellently performed instrumental that is highly enjoyable while the southern twinged The Mexican is a chilling yet somehow calm song which is likely the best of the shorter tracks (later covered by German metallers, Helloween). Joker finishes off the album as a combination of the previous tracks (style wise) and it all comes seemingly too soon.

An amazing feat of Heavy Prog which was so unfortunately forgotten after the dust of the 70s settled. It's true that Babe Ruth would never top this album or really go anywhere, but this album is absolutely necessary to anyone who fancies hard rock or Heavy prog. 5 home plates out of 5!

Review by Tarcisio Moura
5 stars One fo the classic rock albums of the 70īs. Oh, sure, this is hardly what you call a typical progressive album, but it is progressive in the broader sense of the the term. The base for this album is hard rock music, but it also wrong to call First Base a typical product of the genre. There are elements fo boogie, jazz, classical, latin music and even italian film soundtracks. All played by skilled musicians and sung by a very unique and powerful singer.

The original LP had this strinking cover designed by Roger Dean, of Yes fame. Inside you had the genius of guitarrist, arranger and mastermind Alan Shacklock leading the band through a serie of classics. Of course the main attraction is vocalist Janita Haan, one of the finest female singers of that era. She could handle every kind of music, being it a very vocal demanding hard rock (Wells Fargo) or a delicate symphonic ballad (The Runaways). On the remake of Zappaīs King Kong the group proved they could play as good as anyone. And, of course, no one can forget The Mexican: a great mix of heavy guitar riffs, spanich guitar introduction, historical lyrics and great percussion in the background. By the end of the song electric piano and guitar jumps with Ennio Morriconeīs For A Few Dollars More theme, which sends shivers down my spine everytime I hear it.

First Base is Babe Ruthīs best album, born a classic and although production and mixing could be better, it has an incredible tracklist. The Mexican may be their best (and most original) tune but the rest of the songs are not far behind that, offering an amazing display of styles and outstading perfomances. Unfortunatly constant line up changes, musical and personal clashes and general bad luck prevented the band to explore their enormous potential in full, both in artistic and commercial terms. but what a debut it was!

First Base is one of my favorite 70īs album. A CD that stood well the test of time and sounds fresh and exciting more than 30 years after its release. It also proved you donīt have to sound like Yes or Genesis to be progressive. As long as you have talented people and the will to expand bounderies, prog music could be found in many styles, even quite unlike ones like hard rock. And Babe Ruth did it brilliantly.

No, it is symphonic prog. But prog in the very orignal sense of the word. A masterpiece. 5 stars.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars Babe Ruth seem to have made a big impact on those who got into some of their minor hit singles back in the seventies. It is common to read reviews, blogs and forum entries from middle-aged dudes (seems to be almost all guys for some reason) who were really blown away by the band’s energy as well as by their relatively simple but well-textured arrangements. The gutsy intensity and ripped abs of lead singer Juanita Haan didn’t hurt either, I suppose.

I actually never heard of these guys back then, and didn’t really discover their music until long after they had disbanded. In retrospect, their first three albums were all quite good, with this one being the most well-known and probably the best overall in terms of musicality and progginess. From the spacious “The Runaways” to a highly rhythmic and intense version of Zappa’s “King Kong”, the band displayed both power and finesse while above all emphasizing an enthusiasm that is still quite infectious.

The band’s biggest hit ‘”The Mexican” also came from their debut, an intense variation on the Ennio Morricone spaghetti-western theme that took the sound of bands like Home and Cactus one step further by incorporating heavy organ and percussion to give the tune a rather timeless feel.

Their other cover came with a lengthy and impassioned version of “Black Dog”, a song penned by American war-protestor Jesse Winchester who fled the U.S. for Canada after being selected by the Vietnam War draft board. Those were different times, but the message sadly resonates still today.

The album closes with “Joker”, a hard-rocking tune that calls to mind the rhythm of Bad Company and the hard-driving blues of Led Zeppelin. This one is really a period piece that doesn’t stand the test of time quite as well as the rest of the album, but is still a pretty powerful song even today.

Unfortunately Babe Ruth would go steadily downhill in the years following this release, and by the time ‘Kid's Stuff’ released four years later all the original members were gone and what remained was in name only and bore little resemblance to the original sound. No matter, this album’s place in prog history was well-secured by then, and even the disco damage done to their reputation and music by the end of the decade would not taint that. This is a solid heavy prog offering from a band that should have been bigger than they were. A four star effort for sure, and one that is highly recommended for prog fans who enjoy gutsy female singers and bands who take the “rock” part of progressive rock seriously.


Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars The opening Wells Fargo features impressive vocals from Janita Haan who is only twenty-two at the time of recording. She sounds as impressive and powerful as Janis (Joplin). But this track sounds more funky to my ears and the sax only adds to the flavour.

What a contrast with the delicate and smooth The Runaways. Janita shows the large spectrum of vocal range she has. Again, she is quite remarkable here. This sweet track is a river of tranquillity featuring piano and strings. The second half though is just a repetitive and mellow strings section.

Since I'm not really into Zappa, I can't compare both versions of King Kong. The only comment I can do is that this number seriously leans towards the jazzy territories and it is a showcase for Alan Shacklock who performs an excellent guitar part.

The next cover (Black Dog which is NOT the Led Zep one) has also some jazzy / bluesy trend. The highlight in this song is again the dramatic vocal performance from Janita as well as the powerful finale.

The Mexican is inspired by the music from A Few Dollars More but totally re-arranged with added vocals (which are excellent, would you believe). The whole heading again in the jazzy direction. The Morricone theme can be clearly heard in the second and instrumental half.

The heaviest track is Joker, the closing number. Vocals are held by Alan Shacklock (backings are almost unheard unfortunately; production I guess). It is a pity because they could have sound as the great Slick / Kantner duo. Actually this song reminds me of the Airplane though.

The heavy rock played by Babe Ruth is not the one I'm found of; at least in this work. Don't expect great Hammond keyboards, nor too many guitar solo in here. It is quite a bit jazz-rock oriented. But it isn't a bad album. For 10? (plus postage), their first two albums were re-edited in one CD format.

Three stars.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars What a babe!

This debut album by Babe Ruth is called First Base, which is appropriate since the band is named after a famous baseball player! This is a bit odd, however, given that baseball is a distinctly American sport, and Babe Ruth is a British band (though the band's American influences do not stop with their name). To fit with the baseball theme, Roger Dean made the cover art picture with the iconic "babe" with a baseball bat wearing (what looks like) a spacesuit, being hunted down by three green men (that looks a bit like the Ninja Turtles!) surfing on the backs of sharks! Maybe this is Roger Dean's (who is also British) idea of what baseball is about? It is hard to believe that this was the same guy who painted those beautiful fantasy landscapes for Yes and Asia (and many other bands). Suffice to say that the art work for First Base is not among Dean's better works. Fortunately the music of First Base itself has nothing to do with baseball, neither of the regular kind nor of the Roger Dean kind!

First Base consists of six rather lengthy tracks, often fusing Latin/Mexican music with heavy Rock and some Blues, Jazz and Symphonic influences. Babe Ruth is fronted by Janita Haan. In the booklet to my CD version (holding both this album and the band's second album) she is rightly credited not for vocals per se, but for 'vocal power'! I normally don't much like female vocalists in a Rock context, often finding them lacking the required edge and power for Rock music (Annie Haslam is a good case in point), but I like the diverse and distinctive vocals of Haan very much. Her voice fits perfectly both hard rockers like Wells Fargo and Joker as well as softer songs like The Runaways and Black Dog (and judging from some pictures from the 70's, she was quite a babe!)

The instrumental backbone of Babe Ruth consists of bass, drums, Latin percussion, electric and acoustic pianos, organ and electric (and some, but not enough in my opinion, acoustic) guitars. On some songs they are joined by a small string section, Oboe and Saxes. The whole band is obviously talented, but Alan Shacklock's guitar playing deserves special mention (especially on The Mexican). Shacklock also wrote all the material for this album with the exception of two (and a half) covers. Of these covers we find one instrumental called King Kong originally by Frank Zappa and a (semi-)ballad called Black Dog written by Jesse Winchester (the latter has nothing to do with the Led Zeppelin song of the same name). I had previously not heard the original versions of these songs but I searched them out for the purposes of this review and I must say that I much prefer the Babe Ruth versions of both songs.

The Frank Zappa original is far jazzier and much more experimental (and is badly recorded). Babe Ruth have taken the basic riff and taken it into an entirely different direction; their version is much more concise and articulate. The Jesse Winchester original of Black Dog is a folky singer/songwriter tune. Babe Ruth's version is about twice as long and they have transformed it into something much more interesting and progressive in my opinion. The third piece of non-original music occurs in Babe Ruth's most famous song, The Mexican. This great song is divided into two parts with the first part being an original by Alan Shacklock and the second part being a Rock version of Ennio Morricone's famous movie soundtrack For A Few Dollars More. I am usually very hesitant about giving an album with cover songs a high rating, but these covers are so different compared to their originals, and adds to them, or improves them, and incorporates them, in such an elegant way that I cannot find it unimaginative in any way. Indeed, these two (and a half) cover songs are almost as different compared to their originals as the Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen covers made by Manfred Mann's Earth Band!

The original material is all well written and blends perfectly with the non-original material. The best song is in my opinion the Spanish/Latin infused hard rocker The Mexican with its fantastic guitar playing, tasteful tempo changes and Latin percussions. Like a Santana on speed! It begins with a (too) short acoustic intro before it goes straight into the main theme played on electric guitar backed up by electric piano to great effect. After three and a half minutes it flows smoothly into the For A Few Dollars More theme only to return to the original theme once more towards the end. Brilliant!

Other highlights are the opener Wells Fargo and the Symphonic The Runaways. These first two tracks of the album immediately show the diversity of both the band as a whole and of Haan's voice in particular. Alternating like this between up tempo songs, ballads and an instrumental, makes the album varied and never boring.

I have had this album for several years but I have never quite been able to decide if I should give it three or four stars. It is by no means a perfect product and it might not be to every Prog fan's taste, but I have a soft very spot for it. So four stars it is!

Highly recommended to those who feel attracted to the music as it is described in reviews like this one.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a straight up Hard Rock album with Janis Joplin- like vocals but I got much more than that. Lots of keyboards here and they also have several guests on here playing congas, bongos, kabasa, sax, aboe and cello. I like the way the songs are extended as well, with the average track length being 7 minutes.

"Wells Fargo" kicks in fairly quickly and the vocals come in before a minute. Sax a minute later. Nice guitar solo after 3 minutes then the sax retrurns around 5 minutes. A catchy tune. "The Runaways" is pastoral with aboe early as reserved vocals join in. Strings are added too. I like when the vocals stop and we get this long instrumental section as they just seem to jam the rest of the way. "King Kong" is an instrumental that opens with the bass, guitar and drums standing out. Keyboards join in. It's building after 2 1/2 minutes then settles back. The guitar starts to solo tastefully before 4 minutes. It's building again before 5 minutes.

"Black Dog" is laid back with vocals to start. It picks up some 2 minutes in, then a full sound follows with drums, piano and bass standing out. Vocals are back after 4 minutes with guitar and they both shine the rest of the way,especially late. "The Mexican" has this catchy beat with some prominant bass. Vocals and guitar come in. A Spanish flavour to this one. "Joker" is more straight forward sounding and my least favourite. Keyboards and percussion to open as heavy guitar comes in followed by male and female vocals. The guitar takes the lead 2 minutes in. She gets pretty theatrical at times.

A low 4 stars but man this is a good album.

Review by stefro
3 stars Described by many as a hard rock outfit, Babe Ruth were anything but. Their debut album, 'First Base' features a slick mixture of riffin' rock, cozy ballads, latino-tinge breaks and semi-prog meanderings but is most notable for the awesome 'The Mexican', a track so widely loved it was sampled by The Prodigy for their 'Dirt Chamber Sessions' album. However, even though 'The Mexican' is without a doubt the main reason to purchase 'First Base', the rest of the album is also of a strikingly high-quality. Opening track 'Wells Fargo' is an ambitious proto-prog workout that showcases the band's dynamic playing, whilst the beautifully-judged ballad 'The Runaways' is simply tear-jerking in it's execution. Also included on the album is a decent cover of Frank Zappa's 'King Kong', whilst the closing track 'Joker' let's rip with some steely guitar lines from band-leader and founder Alan Shacklock. Despite their name, Babe Ruth were actually from England. The great thing about the group was the fact tha they eschewed the quintessentially British sound engineered by the likes of Genesis and Black Sabbath in favour of a much more world-orientated sound and ther results produced a unique debut album filled with unusual flavours. Post 'First Base' the group's sound would soften and several key members, including Shacklock, would leave to pursue other musical avenues. They would never again produce an album as original and thrilling as their debut, and the Babe Ruth story came to sadly-truncated end in late 1976. However, 'First Base' showed that despite their failure to break the big-time, Babe Ruth were, for a brief while, a wonderfully eclectic and energetic group who left behind a genuine classic in their wake for us prog-and-rock fans of today to mull over and love. Great stuff. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Review by b_olariu
3 stars Babe Ruth is one of the forgotten british prog bands from the'70's. Formed in 1971 by guitarist Alan Shacklock, the band had a moderate succes until 1977 when they disbanded, but reformed almost 3 decades later to come with another album. Their first album, seen as the best band had to offer from their catalogue, is a cross between hard rock typical for early '70's, some prog moves here and there. Fronted by great Janita Haan on vocals, the album has some good moments like The Runaways or instrumental King Kong with nice arrangements on keys. To me is not a spectacular release, as many seen this album, I don't know why is puted under major albums from early '70's, is only good and nothing more, realy. I can't give more then 3 stars to this debute, while is well performed and played, is almost average typical heavy prog album from early years of ptog.
Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Can't say that I like the likes of Wells Fargo, but I suppose it's a good energic Jazz song. I like next one more, The Runaways is a ballad of some kind and even if it's not, it is for me. Long, with second half graduating in a same way as "Starship Trooper by Yes is. King Kong is a long jamming piece which doesn't forget to Rock. Just don't think of fellow UK'rs Led Zeppelin, when listening to Black Dog - this song is completely different and the song, Janita's vocals even more, reminds me of Sandrose, while The Mexican simply is. Nothing more needs to be about the song. And Joker? Fine ending piece I say. Good album,
Review by Sagichim
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I have known this album years before i got into progressive rock and never consider it to be more than a good rock album. there are some prog elements here but i wouldn't call it a prog rock album. what presented here are great rock songs with every song has the addition of an element making it more interesting than your usual rock album , like the addition of brass like trumpet , saxophone , oboe , violins or some piano and keys. the band likes to include some latin tinged lines and some intricate jazzy riffs with their rocking guitar on top. they fuses their rock songs with some ballads which gives the whole album a more varied atmosphere. but what's holding this album , for me , being more complete is the fact that some of the songs are streched too much just of the sake of being long , which kind of making the album loose its punch.

'wells fargo' openes the album with a terrific start , this one sounds much more complete from the rest , and is a good example of the band showing their style adding the trumpet in the mix and turning the track to a full blown party!! great stuff and i wish they kept doing it like this. another good example for making it right is 'king kong' showing their intricate jazzy lines executed with guitar , keys and piano all together , very good . this song being instrumental contains solos of keys and guitar , all good. but tracks like 'the runaways' , 'black dog' , 'joker' all suffer from over extensivness ( which is a common disease ) when actually nothing is happening , and the song looses it's effectiveness , bringing the album down. although they are good songs with good ideas they could have been so much better. especially the runaways with its beautiful melody carried out with piano and some orchestra instruments . gentle and beautiful but would be better and to the point if it were shorter. another thing is vocals , sung by janita haan are not that great , she's not a bad singer but i don't like her when she strain her self , comparing her to janis joplin is an insult.

This is a nice addition to anyone's collection. 3 stars.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Babe Ruth would shift from being a hard-edged progressive rock band to being a hard rock band with a few progressive touches on subsequent albums, but this debut finds them at their proggiest, with a capable cover version of Frank Zappa's King Kong - one of the most intricate and technically challenging compositions from the original Mothers of Invention era - demonstrating their strong capabilities as a group. The album's sound is unique in the band's back catalogue due to the aforementioned hard rock emphasis of their subsequent releases, which is a shame because had they persisted in this direction I think they could have been major names on the prog scene.
Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars Hatfield, England based guitarist / songwriter Alan Shacklock got his career started all the way back in 1963 with his first band The Juniors at the tender age of 12 but along the way until he would form his self-penned band Shacklock in 1970, he seemed to hook up with all the right players. He not only played with John Glascock of Jethro Tull and his brother Brian who would eventually join The Motels but also played with Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones, Carl Palmer of ELP and the late great John Bonham of Led Zeppelin fame. It seemed like destiny was on his side right from the very start as he attracted one interesting character after another into his life. The band Shacklock was created to be that half way point between the possibilities of hard bluesy rock and progressive oriented rock.

While in the band called Shacklock, a young Alan Shacklock would attract the talents of Dave Hewitt (bass), Dick Powell (drums) and Dave Punshon (keyboards) but it wasn't until they found the vocal charm of Janita "Jennie" Haan that the band would really hit their stride. Her inclusion into the mix of things literally changed the entire dynamic flow and it was at this point that the band Shacklock would become the band BABE RUTH, named after the US baseball extraordinaire. While Alan Shacklock had been writing songs for the BABE RUTH debut album FIRST BASE during the two years prior, it was the addition of Haan that sent the creativity into overdrive and then it seems like the doors opened and the red carpets were rolled out as the band found immediate interest from record labels like EMI / Capitol.

BABE RUTH would be treated like royalty as they recorded FIRST BASE at Abbey Road Studios with the assistance of such greats as Tony Clark, Paul McCartney, Cliff Richard and Cockney Rebel. They even commissioned the great album cover art wizard Roger Dean of Yes album fame to conjure up the cover artwork for FIRST BASE although i have to admit that it's one of Dean's less compelling works. While all the venture capitalists seemed to have faith in the ability of BABE RUTH's unique mix of hard rock and prog, it was a surprise that the album did well in Canada by actually going gold, sold respectively in the US but failed to make a dent in the band's native UK where prog rock was in comparison much more popular than North America. While the band may have made it to FIRST BASE, they failed to make a home run.

BABE RUTH carved out a unique slice of prog rock. While often deemed a hard rock album, FIRST BASE can't quite be called a true heavy rocker despite having many tracks that do indeed rock hard and unleash the heavy guitar riffing with the accompanying bluesy soloing. For the most part, FIRST BASE is an intricately designed mix of sophisticated progressive chamber rock that happens to incorporate lots of the elements that were putting prog on the map during the early 70s. In addition, ethnic elements such as a stealthy supply of Latin percussion in the form of congas, bongos and the cabasa found their way into much of the album's tracks. While heavy hitters such as the excellent opener "Well's Fargo" are more aggressively guitar rock oriented, even here there is Latin percussion, a sizzling saxophone solo and interesting time signature chops that deviate from the standard hard rock bands of the era. This track has a funky soul flair that sort of reminds me of the Jackson Five actually.

The heavy heft of the title track however quickly gives way to the more sensual piano driven second track "The Runaways" which offers an ample supply of cello, oboe and symphonic arrangements. While "Wells Fargo" found Haan belting out her best Janis Joplin styled vocals, on "The Runaways" she croons tenderly sounding more like Annie Haslam of Renaissance than the blues rock diva of the previous track. An excellent rendition of the Mothers of Invention's classic "King Kong" provides an interesting instrumental proggy jam for the band to take extra liberties that don't quite work on vocal tracks. The band do wonders with another cover, the exquisite "Black Dog" that didn't come from Led Zeppelin but rather country rocker Jesse Winchester. This beautiful piano based melodic track finds some fancy ivory tinkling, tasty soulful organ runs with the extra heft of syncopated hard rock guitar. Haan belts out some delicious vocal performances on this one.

The band's most successful prog hit came in the form of "The Mexican" which found some air time on prog oriented formats. The track was primarily crafted by Shacklock but inserts various elements of an Ennio Morricone track ("Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu"). The track dishes out the expected Latin rhythms but also contains a vivacious series of guitar riffs that coalesce into the Morricone inspired soundtrack themes. As the album closes with the funky Hammond organ stabs in "The Joker," Shacklock also reprises the heavy rock guitar riffs and Haan reverts back to her Janis Joplin shtick with her bad mama bluesy grit, however her vocal range is impressive as she can suddenly hit high notes and unexpected squeals.

For anyone looking exclusively for a hard rock album, they will surely be disappointed since hard rock is but one important element that is strewn about judiciously yet irregularly throughout the album. While the general gist is that the harder rocking tracks are less proggy and the proggy tracks are less heavy, the truth is that all the tracks have both elements to a certain degree. Really, the only heavy blues based rock tracks are "Wells Fargo," "The Mexican" and "Joker" while the others are more steeped in the progressive rock compositional fortitude that only incorporates the heavier rock elements for a little contrast. Despite the odd mix of elements that BABE RUTH dished out on FIRST BASE, things flow together fairly smoothly and in the end and this is a rather unique sounding album as it takes many of the trends of the era including blues rock, hard rock, prog, jazz and chamber rock and stitch it all together very nicely. The highlight is surely the phenomenal vocal performances of Janita Haan which bring the album to a whole other level.

Latest members reviews

4 stars BABE RUTH were a Jazzy Blues-Rock band who hailed from England, despite naming themselves after an American baseball legend. Although the band managed to reach first base in their native England, it was in North America where the band hit a home run and achieved commercial success when their fir ... (read more)

Report this review (#2306014) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Saturday, January 11, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Babe Ruth's debut album First Base is quite something. An English band from Hatfield in Hertfordshire with a lead singer who was only 19 when the album was released, yet they sound like they've spent their formative years drinking whiskey in ramshackle bars along the US-Mexican border. And someh ... (read more)

Report this review (#1499046) | Posted by jmeadow | Sunday, December 13, 2015 | Review Permanlink

3 stars In their first studio album "First Base",the British band BABE RUTH presents a hard-bluesy prog sonority, but in my point of view in spite the album bring to the audience some great musical moments like in the track 3 "King Kong" , track 4 "Black Dog" and the track 5 "The Mexican" , where the ... (read more)

Report this review (#913042) | Posted by maryes | Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The album First Base is established(constituted) by a sound enough heavy hard rock. The feminine singing(song) is does not ease the style, guitars are tranchante. We touch here has a progressive tres well produced to see boogie on edges. One can hear(understand) the saxophone but also Alan Shackl ... (read more)

Report this review (#226543) | Posted by Discographia | Monday, July 13, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Talk about music with passion, I don't know of many other albums on which the entire band sounds so driven. The lead vocals are especially of note as Janita Haan really punishes her vocal cords, stretching them to the limit over and over. Admittedly, I usually side step most bands with a femal ... (read more)

Report this review (#160782) | Posted by manofmystery | Monday, February 4, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Babe Ruth's first album, First Base, is in my opinion a must-have album for any Hard- Rock/Prog fan. It cannot be considered as full progressive music but it is a great mix of Hard driving rock (Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple) and early experimental prog. The album consist of six stunning pieces e ... (read more)

Report this review (#102837) | Posted by Ziraffe | Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Frequently overlooked by major music guides including The Great Rock Discography, The Music Hound Essental Guide To Rock, The Rough Guide To Rock and others Babe Ruth, from Hatfield , England blasted it`s way into the early seventies music scene with this appropriately titled First Base album ... (read more)

Report this review (#78367) | Posted by Vibrationbaby | Tuesday, May 16, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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