The Babys

Silver Dreams: Complete Albums 1975-1980

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Reading interviews with members of the late-'70s hard rock-meets-new wave group the Babys, one might think their short career was a failure. To a man, they feel like they didn't get the breaks or the push that they needed to build a long and lucrative run at the top of the charts. No doubt that there is some truth to that, and it would have been nice for them on a personal level to have become as big as Journey or REO Speedwagon, but listening to HNE Recordings' six-disc collection Silver Dreams: Complete Albums 1975-1980, it's clear that on a musical level the band were quite successful, even verging on greatness at times. The set gathers up their five studio albums, live tracks, single mixes, and their earliest recordings, a ten-song demo cut in 1975. The group started off as straight-ahead rockers, influenced by Free and powered by John Waite's impressively distinct and powerful vocals. Their 1975 demo is rough around the edges but well worth hearing a couple times, as it points the way to the more polished yet still heavy sound of their debut self-titled album. That record and its 1977 follow-up, Broken Heart, looked to balance riff-heavy, strutting rock with orchestrated ballads. While it makes for somewhat choppy listening, the best moments of each style are fine examples of late-'70s pop/rock. The soaring, string-laden "Isn't It Time" from Broken Heart is the high point of their early days and still sounds impressive decades later. 1978's Head First was the last record their initial lineup made, and it boasts two great songs (the strutting title track and the epic teen ballad "Every Time I Think of You"), but it feels a little fragmented, as if the band weren't sure which direction to continue. After a lineup change that brought in future Journey member Jonathan Cain, the group focused on a straight-ahead, new wave-influenced approach that added synths and scaled back on dramatic ballads. This seismic shift yielded two albums that are among the best of the confusing, jumbled-up era. Both released in 1980, Union Jacks and On the Edge are fun and rowdy blasts of AOR pop, driven by Waite's prowling vocals and the renewed focus on hooks above all else. The live tracks included here were recorded around the time of the albums and show that their studio prowess translated well to the stage. The live songs recorded at a 1977 show are a nice addition, too. Hopefully with the release of this remastered, well-curated set, the bandmembers will look back on their career and realize what's always been clear to their fans -- that even if it all ended too soon, they released timeless singles, crafted exciting albums, and above all, were a great rock & roll band.

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