The Hudson Brothers

Ba-Fa

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AllMusic Review by

A generous helping of pure pop music, Ba-Fa by the Hudson Brothers is among their best work. Produced again by Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin and released on Rocket Records in the mid-'70s, the suit-and-tie image on the front cover -- in contrast to the in your face Three Dog Night/John Travolta 1970s long hair on the back -- is the marketing dilemma for a group who had the opportunities and connections to really break through. Despite the praise that this review will heap on Ba-Fa, it is important to note what went wrong here, for a record this good deserved a better chance to be heard. Label owner Elton John and producer Bernie Taupin should have come to the rescue and given this crew a hit song to sing. Yes, "Rendezvous" from this collection did go Top 30 in the summer of 1975, and Beach Boy co-writer Bruce Johnston covered the song on his Going Public disc that came out shortly after this, but "Rendezvous" wasn't that sort of establishing composition which could both launch and solidify a career as "Love Will Keep Us Together" or "California Dreamin'" did for artists who became synonymous with their signature tunes. Heck, a ten-minute version of "Rocket Man" might've even brought additional notice to Ba-Fa. But here's the upside: Lyrically, emotionally, and production wise, there are some absolute gems on this release by Mark, Brett, and Bill Hudson, who never got the first-name recognition enjoyed by Mark Farner, Don Brewer and Mel Schacher. "Hard on Me" gives Chinn & Chapman a run for their money, while "Apple Pie Hero" and "Smooth Talker" have irresistible hooks poured over solid foundations of piano and vocals, integrity that laughs in the face of the band's packaging -- and name. Where the Raspberries earned a special place in power pop fandom, a group whose moniker is a take-off on the Osmond Brothers set themselves up for an uphill battle. Karen Carpenter got more underground nods of approval for her Cass Elliot-style exit than the interview in Rolling Stone ever did for the Carpenters' career -- but no one dare accuse "Oh Gabriel" here to be about incest, which it very well could be: "Oh Gabriel/although I am your brother/I love you like no other." Shades of hidden meaning à la Neil Sedaka's gushing tribute to songwriter Stephen Foster entitled "Stephen," also on Rocket Records. "Oh Gabriel" is stunning in its use of strings and George Martin-style arrangement and tempo. It's beautiful and eerie at the same time. "Spinning the Wheel (With the Girl You Love)," on the other hand, has those love-as-a-gamble lyrics that show another side of this ensemble's strength. "Lonely School Year" is tailor-made for the Beach Boys in the disco era. It's got the smarts of Playboy Records' "Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds" (that trio being former labelmates of this trio), and utilizes that '70s dance sound more conservatively than Elton John and Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," which helps "Lonely School Year" survive the sands of time. Though the elitists may consider this too calculated and careful a project when compared to what would come 30 years or so after its release, Ba-Fa is downright groundbreaking.

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