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

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

(Tom Newman) - Variations on a Rhythm of Mike Oldfield - David Bedford – This is a four track EP, and is basically a Tom Newman album. It's confusing, I know. This is some of that stuff you know Oldfield and Co. did for laughs (when perhaps beer and worse entered the...  (1998) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues