Exposé Online banner

Babe Ruth — Greatest Hits
(Griffin GCD-348-2, 1981/1995, CD)

by Mike Ohman, Published 1996-03-01

Greatest Hits Cover art

First, a bit of a history lesson. British band Babe Ruth debuted in 1972, sporting an incendiary hard rock sound ignited by the forceful voice of Janita "Jennie" Haan and jamming guitar/organ work of multi-instrumentalist Alan Shacklock. Though primarily a hard rock group, their tireless experimentation with wildly diverse styles was assuredly in step with the progressive rock of the era. Their incredible debut, First Base, encompassed more styles than may be able to be absorbed at first listen. Here they display a penchant for radically deconstructed cover versions, which may make them comparable to a hipper, heavier Manfred Mann's Earth Band; using as sources Zappa and Morricone as opposed to Springsteen and Holst. Their second and third albums (Amar Caballero and Babe Ruth) come off as recklessly irregular yet occasionally dazzling. After the self-titled album, Shacklock left, replaced by live second guitarist Bernie Marsden (whose best-know gig was with... er... Whitesnake). The magic was gone for the subsequent album, Stealin' Home, except for the two Haan-penned and Shacklock-arranged songs: "2000 Sunsets" and "Tomorrow (Joining of the Day)." Haan left after that, yet the band, which now included no original members, made one further album, Kid's Stuff, which many believe should never have been made. This compilation, while it avoids their absolute worst, sadly also glosses over much of their best work. The selections from First Base are good. "The Mexican," made famous for its use of Ennio Morricone's theme song from Sergio Leone's "spaghetti-western" For a Few Dollars More as its musical base. As such it's a classic. Their organ-driven, heavy rock interpretation of Jesse Winchester's (not Led Zeppelin's) "Black Dog" is excellent as well, but sadly missing is their driving workout on Frank Zappa's "King Kong." Also missing are any originals – Shacklock's "Joker" comes to mind. The danceable orchestrated rock-pop of "Lady" is hardly representative of Amar Caballero. I would have preferred the nine-minute title suite, which includes a lovely rendition of the traditional Spanish guitar melody "El Testamen de N'Amelia." But it is the representation of their third album which suffers most: its twin classics "Dancer" (heavy jam rock) and the dramatic "The Duchess of Orleans" are nowhere to be heard. "Turquoise" with its gentle flamenco stylings is nice, but hardly up to the standard of their best work. The straight hard rock of "Jack o'Lantern" may have been popular, but it's far from their best. And while it's cool to hear Curtis Mayfield's "We People Darker Than Blue" set to Mellotron and Moog, for a white woman to sing a song about the black male experience comes off as a bit irrelevant. Smart decision, including only one song from Stealin' Home: "Tomorrow (Joining of the Day)". Smarter decision, forgetting Kid's Stuff ever existed. In short, if you want to learn about the band, don't start with this album. Instead, start with First Base, which may or may not still be available on CD.


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 9, 1995 releases, 1981 recordings

Related artist(s): Babe Ruth

Latest news

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

KBB - Live 2004 – Guitarists may get the lion’s share of attention in fusion and prog, but there have always been leaders on other instruments. For violin, the story probably starts with Jean-Luc Ponty, and we can...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues