Badfinger is best known for classic singles such as “No Matter What” and “Come and Get It,” as well as several albums beloved by power pop fans, including No Dice, Straight Up and Wish You Were Here. The group (originally known as The Iveys) signed up with the Beatles’ Apple label in 1968, and soon found chart success with songs like “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day,” while also touring and appearing on TV shows like The Midnight Special and Top of the Pops.
Unfortunately, the band also experienced internal conflicts, mismanagement by their record labels, and the theft of money by business manager Stan Polley. Tragically, two of the group’s long-time members committed suicide: guitarist and keyboard player Pete Ham in 1975, and bassist Tom Evans in 1983. Drummer Mike Gibbins passed away in 2005, leaving Joey Molland as the only surviving member of the group’s best-known lineup.
Y&T Music is celebrating the legacy of Pete Ham with the release of Shine On: A Tribute To Pete Ham, featuring a stellar roster of artists who’ve recorded covers of some of Ham’s best-known compositions. Singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne contributes a deeply soulful performance of “Day After Day,” while Mary Lou Lord offers a lovely version of “Baby Blue.”
The album also features Nelson Bragg’s haunting take on “Carry On Till Tomorrow,” originally recorded by Badfinger for the soundtrack to the film The Magic Christian, and Amanda Green’s piano and guitar laced run through of “Name of the Game.”
Folk-rocker Melanie provides an emotional interpretation of “Without You,” co-written by Ham and Evans, which became a hit for both Harry Nilsson and Mariah Carey, and Sweet Lizzy Project provides a compelling version of “Perfection,” a key track from the classic album Straight Up.
The 35 tracks on Shine On: A Tribute To Pete Ham deftly strike the right balance between faithful covers which evoke strong memories of the originals, along with offbeat revamps that take the songs in a different stylistic direction. Power pop maestro Ken Sharp’s splendid rendition of “Just A Chance” sits comfortably alongside Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby’s reading of “Midnight Caller.”
Then there’s Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken and Bell Sound’s excellent version of (what else?) “Dennis” and Amy Allison’s exquisite “Apple of My Eye.” Jim Camacho joins the party with a jaunty run-through of “Knocking Down Our Home,” and Jolynn Daniel turns in a delicate version of “I Miss You,” from Badfinger’s self-titled 1974 disc.
The album also includes outstanding renderings of some other Ham-penned favorites, such as an acoustic-centered “Take It All,” from Elston Torres, and an energetic rendition of “Lay Me Down,” by Diane Ward. At the same time, Mary Karlzen checks in with a folk-styled reading of “We’re For The Dark.” The Chefs, whose members include Dan Baird (formerly of The Georgia Satellites) and Stan Lynch (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) supply a rowdy run-through of “I Can’t Take It,” a track originally featured on 1970s No Dice.
Lynch also appears as part of The Speaker Wars, who dazzle with two impressive covers of the enduring hit “No Matter What.” One’s a country-infused version featuring vocals by Jon Christopher Davis, while the other is a world music-based iteration with Davis joined by Indian vocalist Susmitta Datta.
While Badfinger has a loyal fan base, there’s likely a number of rock and roll fans who are only familiar with the hits and haven’t really explored the cache of sparkling gems that Pete Ham contributed to the band’s oeuvre. This excellent collection amply illustrates that Ham’s work is worthy of a deeper look, as evidenced by Tobin Sprout’s sublime version of “Dear Father,” a song from Ham’s posthumous solo collection, 7 Park Avenue, and The Voice In Fashion’s ethereal cover of the aptly titled “Timeless.” Hopefully, Shine On: A Tribute To Pete Ham will help elevate Ham’s reputation as both a superb musician and a first-rate songwriter.
Photo: Pete Ham image from Y&T Music (fair use)