If you were not around in the ’70s, or simply did not listen to music then, Apple Records has released a compilation to introduce you to the band Badfinger. Timeless… The Musical Legacy contains 16 tracks, 14 of which were originally recorded for Apple and two for Warner. I will not revisit the sad personal story of the band as it’s well covered in Dan Matinova’s definitive book, Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger (Revised Edition; 2000).
Let’s take a look at the songs on Timeless so that you can decide whether it should be in your collection. (All comments about recording sessions and band member quotes are sourced from Matinova’s book.)
Timeless opens with “Day After Day” from Straight Up, Badfinger’s masterpiece. George Harrison handled the production and played the lead slide guitar with Pete Ham. Harrison’s friend Leon Russell was brought in to play the piano. This remastered version allows you to hear the beautiful piano work as well as the harmony vocals.
“Without You” is the original version by the band, later covered and made into a smash single by Harry Nilsson. Badfinger’s version is understated compared to Nilsson’s dramatic take, but there’s a nice Procol Harum-style organ line that carries the song along. Pete Ham said about Nilsson’s version, “We knew that was the way we wanted to do it, but never had the nerve.”
Joey Molland intended “Rock of All Ages” to be a screamer in the style of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” but as recorded it came off like a variation on The Beatles’ “I’m Down.” This was especially true as Paul McCartney played piano on the track, which he also produced. A great live number (I saw Badfinger in Berkeley in 1970), the fine remaster allows you to hear the background vocals. “Dear Angie” was a track from the days when Badfinger was known as The Iveys. It’s a pleasant song with nice stereo sound effects, but it’s far from essential.
McCartney was also involved in the song that made Badfinger famous, “Come and Get It,” which he wrote and produced. The sound is great here and McCartney proved to the doubting band members that he could fashion a hit single using sparse instrumentation: bass, drums, tambourine, and piano. It worked.
McCartney told Badfinger that “Maybe Tomorrow” was bound to be a hit single. That was not to be and today it sounds like an ornate song from the Bee Gees first album. “No Matter What” was a great, chunky-sounding single that reached number eight on the Billboard singles chart in 1970. It segues quite well into “Baby Blue,” the band’s best-ever, Beatles-quality single. Matinova called it “a superb showcase of Badfinger’s classic chemistry.” The version included on Timeless is the American stereo single release, which included an added snare drum. It’s snappy, but the sound is fuller and richer on the Straight Up mix.
“Believe Me” is one of the best songs from No Dice. It is followed by another song from that album, “Name of the Game.” The drumming gives it a “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude” feel. This version comes off as a bit dull compared to the earlier version, with horns, that was a bonus track on the Straight Up CD. “I’ll Be The One” was recorded for, but dropped from, Straight Up. It should have been a single as it sounds like the Beatles doing country rock.
“Apple of My Eye” was Pete Ham’s bittersweet tribute to Apple Records. “Suitcase” is included and it’s the right take. This is the early “Pusher, pusher on the run” version recorded before the modified “Butcher, butcher…” take found on Straight Up. It’s a heavier version and reflects what the band sounded like live. As Molland said, “The original ‘Suitcase’ was more of what Badfinger was.”
The title track “Timeless” is a good song that, unfortunately, goes on too long, dissolving into a type of Baroque Traffic jam. At 7:40 it is needlessly longer than “Hey Jude.”
“Dennis” is another non-essential track, but it’s interesting because of a few Brian Wilson-like touches. The compilation concludes with “Love Is Gonna Come At Last,” a nice, airy, pleasant pop song written by Molland that sounds like Badfinger crossed with America. This may be an alternate take from the 1979 Airwaves, session since Matinova writes that the album version was “tepid and slow.”
Longtime Badfinger fans will have all or most of this music in their physical or digital collections. But the compilation will work for those who would like a decent sampler. Keep in mind, however, that if you want to hear Badfinger at their very best you should consider acquiring either Straight Up or No Dice (or both).