No Dice (1970) marks the beginning of Badfinger’s all too brief “golden era.” Although Magic Christian Music (1970) was technically their first LP, it was a mixed bag of previous recordings, spanning a period of years. The majority of the songs came from when they were still known as The Iveys, as a matter of fact. And as good as “Come And Get It” was, the song was written by Paul McCartney. Every tune on No Dice was written by the band. They felt they had something to prove with this album, and put everything they had into getting it right.
The triumphant guitar chords that open the record say it all. “I Can’t Take It,” is a defiant statement — telling one and all that from here on out, they will be calling the shots. The fact that such a powerful sentiment is couched in the good-time pub rock sounds that were just beginning to catch on at the time just make it that much more fun.
No Dice contains one of their biggest, (and best) hits, “No Matter What.” The big guitars of this virtually flawless tune are still a thing of wonder, and the joyous delivery — complete with handclaps, never grows old. “No Matter What,” is considered by many to be the first “power pop” song, a genre that would flourish in the coming years.
For many, “No Matter What” is definitive Badfinger, but their albums are actually quite varied stylistically. A form that was just coming into its own at the time was country-rock. To illustrate just how long ago 1970 was, The Eagles did not even exist yet. The idea of adding some country flavor to a rock song was still a fresh one. The tracks “Blodwyn,“ and “Better Days,“ both show Badfinger experimenting in this vein.
They also had a predilection for ballads, which are the only weak spots on No Dice for me. Don’t get me wrong, they are good songs. I just think it would be a better record with a couple less is all. “It Had To Be” is one I would certainly keep though, and it would be pretty impossible to deny “Without You.” Before I bought No Dice, I thought Harry Nilsson had written “Without You.” It was his biggest hit after all, and it certainly did not sound like anything I had heard by Badfinger at the time. But they did write it, and even released it as a single, which went nowhere. No Dice ends on a high note with “Were For The Dark,” a laid-back tune that strikes just the right tone in summing up what had come before.
This newly remastered edition of No Dice is part of the Capitol-EMI/Apple Records reissue series. Not only have they done a superb job remastering it, but five bonus tracks have been included as well. My favorite of these is the extended version of “I Can’t Take It,” which has even more guitar action. The demo versions of “Without You,” and “No Matter What” are also interesting curios.
No Dice was the record Badfinger came into their own on. It remains one of their finest, and it paved the way for the extraordinary Straight Up, which has also been remastered.