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Babe Ruth - First Base CD (album) cover

FIRST BASE

Babe Ruth

 

Heavy Prog

3.71 | 139 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
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.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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