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Babe Ruth - First Base CD (album) cover

FIRST BASE

Babe Ruth

 

Heavy Prog

3.71 | 140 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
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 first album achieved gold. They first emerged in the leafy town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire in 1971 and released their aptly-titled "First Base" album in 1972. They followed it up with four more album releases throughout the 1970's:- "Amar Caballero" (1973); "Babe Ruth" (1975); "Stealin' Home" (1975); and "Kid's Stuff" (1976). The band decided to call it quits after their fifth album in 1976, but they got together again thirty years later to record the long-awaited comeback album "Que Pasa" (2007). It's time now to strike out for a home run with Babe Ruth's "First Base" album. The baseball-themed fantasy artwork for the album cover was designed by Roger Dean, who also designed many YES album covers.

The album gets off to a rip-roaring start with "Wells Fargo", a song you can bank on to deliver some hard-drivin' Blues-Rock with vocalist Janita "Jennie" Haan having the same raw and earthy edge to her voice as blues legend Janis Joplin. The song gallops along at a tremendous pace with the lively horn section sounding like they're having a real blast here. The saxophonist probably needed to lie down in a darkened room just to catch his breath after his energetic non-stop performance in this 6-minute opener. There's a far more sedate pace to "The Runaways" with Jennie Haan sounding far more restrained here. It's a sensual piano piece featuring an oboe and cello in symphonic accompaniment. This rousing classically-inspired music gradually builds up in intensity, emerging into a sonorous crescendo of sound for the spectacular finale, in a bass-heavy song that's very reminiscent of some of Renaissance's epic masterpieces. This is quite possibly the best song that Renaissance *never* recorded. It's time now to go ape-crazy for "King Kong", a cover version of the old Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention song. This is one heck of a crazy jam session, with the band given free rein to improvise away to their heart's content. This is the kind of fast and furious, Jazzy improvisational free-for-all that couldn't possibly be written down formally as musical notation, regardless of whether or not you know your crotchets from your quavers.

"Black Dog" opens Side Two, although it's nothing to do with the classic Led Zep song of the same name. No, this is more of a laid-back Blues-Rock piano number, at least to begin with. The song might sound moody and mellow in the opening, but it's really a wolf in sheep's clothing, because there's a rompin' stompin' Hard Rock song just waiting to get out. Beware, this is a mean "Black Dog" with sharp teeth that might just leap up and bite, so watch out! If the next song "The Mexican" sounds familiar, that's because it's a Jazzed-up version of the spaghetti western music of Ennio Morricone. Hola amigo! It's perfect music for listening to whilst watching "gringo" Clint Eastwood despatching some more Mexican banditos with his trusty six- gun after they've insulted his mule. It's a return to some heavy Blues-Rock for the final song on the album "The Joker", where vocalist Jennie Haan is in mean and moody, bad mama mode again. It's the kind of good old American Pie Southern Rock song you could listen to whilst driving your chevy down to the levee, even if the levee was dry. Sometimes, it's hard to believe Babe Ruth are really as English as a chip buttie, or a vindaloo curry.

"First Base" is a good old-fashioned American Southern Rock album - from the leafy suburbs of Hatfield in England! Babe Ruth may not have hit a home run with this album in their native England, but it's easy to see why they were much more popular with our American cousins. Obvious comparisons can be drawn with the Blues-Rock of Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company. Babe Ruth sound as American as Billy Bob Thornton or Randy California eating blueberry pie and wearing a Stetson hat and cowboy boots.

Psychedelic Paul | 4/5 |

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