The Babys

Capitol Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Throw a stick in an AOR radio station in the late 80s and you were just about certain to hit a disc featuring a former member of the Babys. From Journey to solo artist John "Missing You" Waite to Bad English, they were everywhere. Funny thing is, their success after the fact only makes you scratch your head harder at how they managed to avoid it while the band from whence they emerged was still together.

Mind you, this isn't brain surgery we're talking about here. The Babys were very much of their time, a guitar-pop band with a wide-open Journey-esque sound that coulda-shoulda-woulda been that big, but never was. Formed in England in 1976 with an initial lineup of John Waite (lead vocals and bass), Mike Corby (keyboards, guitar), Wally Stocker (guitar) and Tony Brock (drums), this quartet made the fairly straight-ahead self-titled debut and its more adventurous follow-up disc, Broken Heart. During sessions for their third album, Head First, Corby departed, unhappy with the more expansive, melodic direction the band was taking. The remaining trio recruited Jonathan Cain (keyboards, later of Journey and Bad English) and Ricky Phillips (bass, later of Bad English, Montrose and currently Styx) to fill out the lineup going forward. That quintet toured in support of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Head First and recorded what would turn out to be the band's final two albums, Union Jacks and 1980's On The Edge.

Anthology collects three songs apiece from each of the group's five albums, plus two live cuts, and gives you all the evidence required to demonstrate that this band was underrated and underappreciated.

While the tracks from The Babys aren't particularly notable, live cut "Looking For Love" puts the emphasis on the band's guitar attack and makes the early lineup out to be a dynamic unit. Things come more into focus on the Broken Heart cuts, where Waite's big voice -- equally at home wailing over rock numbers and crooning over power ballads -- assumes center stage.

The group scored a major hit off Broken Heart with "Isn't It Time," whose piano-driven opening blossoms into a verse that finds Waite dueting with female background vocalists until the song takes off at the chorus, adding horns and strings. An inventive and undeniably appealing meld of 70s melodicism with classic girl-group r&b, "Isn't It Time" reached #13 in the states. Off the same album, "Give Me Your Love" is the perfect complement to "Time," a heavy, churning guitar workout matched blow for blow by Waite's powerhouse vocals.

The next segment of Anthology finds the band reeling out singles, none of which matched the chart performance of "Isn't It Time," even if some were arguably its equal. In particular, the "Isn't It Time" sequel "Every Time I Think Of You" again creates the kind of momentum and drama Waite's voice was made for, and "Back On My Feet Again" does a steady build into a fist-pumping chorus. "Head First" and "Midnight Rendezvous" also offer potent doses of power-pop punch.

There are misfires, of course -- the ballad "Silver Dreams" goes all-out for strings and background vocalists and ends up shooting way over the top, and the final three songs here -- a trio of uninspired, almost generic rockers from On The Edge -- portend the group's demise.

That said, this is a solid package of better-than average AOR. Their music isn't going to change your life, but like Billy Squier, the Babys' best work confirms that they deserve more respect than they've received. Anthology holds the proof.

Rating: B

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© 2006 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.