Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Babe Ruth - First Base CD (album) cover


Babe Ruth


Heavy Prog

3.71 | 142 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
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.

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this BABE RUTH review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.