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Music Review: Badfinger – Magic Christian Music

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Magic Christian Music was Badfinger’s first album, released in early 1970 on Apple Records. The lead single, “Come And Get It,” had been written and produced by Paul McCartney, and would become their first Top 10 hit.

Badfinger seemed poised for superstardom. They were arguably the most promising group of the year, if not the decade ahead. Yet their story is one of the most tragic the rock world has ever known. Of the four original members who appear on Magic Christian Music, two would take their own lives just a few years later.

Maybe the problems were there from the beginning, after all Magic Christian Music was certainly one of the strangest debut albums of all time. In fact, it is not at all what it was advertised to be, but rather a compilation of old material with a couple of new songs added.

The soundtrack to the Peter Sellers / Ringo Starr film Magic Christian Music was to be released on The Beatles’ Apple Records label. One of Apple’s big new signings was a group called Badfinger, who were contributing three songs to the project. It sounded like a good way to introduce the band, while they recorded a proper first album for later release. Plans changed, however, when Apple lost the rights to the soundtrack.

Badfinger was the new name for a group who had previously been known as The Iveys. They had been kicking around London for years, and had been signed by Apple in 1968. They even had an album out, and although it was extremely limited in availability, it was out there nonetheless. Someone had the bright idea to compile the best older Iveys tracks with the newly recorded material and release the result as Badfinger’s debut.

A quick aside: For such a supposedly Utopian company as Apple Records, doesn’t this sound like a classic record biz rip-off? I can just hear Morris Levy or someone like him explaining the scam: “Throw a couple new songs in with the old crap, slap a new cover on it, and Bingo! You got a brand new record!”

Essentially, that is Magic Christian Music. Although the recording qualities, songwriting, and styles are wildly divergent, there is some great music on it. It just is nowhere near the album it was billed to be. McCartney’s “Come And Get It” is far and away the best cut, and the two he produced for the movie, “Carry On Till Tomorrow” and “Rock Of All Ages” are not far behind. Of the older Iveys tracks, “Midnight Sun” has a great rock sound, and “Crimson Ship” even reminds me of the Fabs.

Separating The Iveys from the Badfinger and Paul McCartney surroundings is the only way to really appreciate this record. Maybe one day The Iveys will get credit for the cool mid-sixties band they were, especially on period pieces like “Knocking Down Our Home” and ”Mrs. Jones.”

The Iveys album that Apple released in 1969 was titled Maybe Tomorrow, and the main reason they were able to pillage it was because at the time it was only available in Japan, West Germany, and Italy. For those interested in delving a little deeper, the record has been issued on CD a few times over the years by various companies.

This new edition of Magic Christian Music has been completely remastered as part of the new Capital EMI/ Apple Records reissue series. In addition to the 14 songs of the original release, five bonus cuts are also included. These are all various mixes or edits of Iveys songs from Maybe Tomorrow.

Magic Christian Music is an odd duck, more of a late-period Iveys collection than anything else. But there is some wonderful music contained on it, and will reward those who are especially fond of pre-psychedelic British rock.

At the end of 1970, Badfinger released the record they had spent most of the year working on, No Dice. This is where the Badfinger saga truly begins, and it too has just been remastered and reissued with bonus tracks.

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