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The Babys – Union Jacks [1980]

PhotobucketThe Babys entered the 80s with their fourth album titled “Union Jacks”, an album that is more consistently rocking yet also more lightweight overall than their earlier work, with a new focus on slick, keyboard-heavy AOR aimed squarely at the airwaves with little concern for the Zeppelin-inspired guitar rockers that peppered the best moments of their first three records.

On “Union Jacks”, the Babys expanded to a five piece band and allowed John Waite to front the band and give up his bass playing duties. Ricky Phillips stepped in on bass and Jonathan Cain (Journey, Bad English) came abroad to play keyboards and guitars in concert, since many of their songs had a distict two guitar sound when Michael Corby was with them. Jonathan Cain also brought an immense song writing talent with him, as well as an excellent voice. There isn’t a Babys recording that has a bad song on it. On this album, the group teamed up with Keith Olsen, the producer behind the hit albums for Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, Foreigner and Whitesnake, to create a new sound that downplayed the cinematic orchestrations of their past for a punchy, radio-ready sound flavored with new wave-styled synthesizer accents. The Babys delivered no pure AOR in the vein of the AOR band from the same decade. Where bands like Journey, Boston, Foreigner and delivered pure AOR, The Babys had a bit more of a dry sound to their sound and you could ever hear references from bands like UFO and even The Rasberries and that sort of bands.

The album is bursting with superb guitar riffs, great keyboards/organ from Jonathan Cain, great choruses and John Waite in his best form. John Waite again shines brightly with his vocal prowess and shows continued versatility throughout as this album differs, just a bit from the previous as it takes a very successful, overall harder power pop posture primarily dominated from the masterful keyboard power of the talented Cain. The album oozes sophistication but retains a rough-hewn urgency that keeps the energy firmly in the red zone. The album birthed yet another top thirty US hit single, the anthemic “Back On My Feet Again” (reaching #33 on the Billboard Hot 100), cementing The Babys reputation as one of the greatest melodic hard rock bands of the period.
The carefully arranged “Back On My Feet Again” and the minor hit “Midnight Rendezvous” effectively mix rock riffs with a new wave style, but the new sound doesn’t work quite well on other songs. “Midnight Rendezvous” was one of the band’s finest AOR gem.

The most notable example of this problem is “Jesus, Are You There?”, where the kitschy, shrill tone of the synthesizers provides an awkward musical contrast for the deadly serious lyrics. Beyond that all the songs are winners, “True Love True Confession” and the tiled “Union Jack”, should have been hits, but Chrysalis (failed) in their support of The Babys! Other strong tracks include “Jesus, Are You There?”, “Turn Around In Tokyo” and “Anytime”, hold up well even today, constantly blaring from FM radio stations.

“Union Jacks” will play over and over on your stereo and you’ll wonder why you never heard more of it before. Prove to yourself that the best music doesn’t always make it on the radio. Become a Union Jack.

Band Members
Tony Brock – Drums, percussion
Jonathan Cain – Keyboards, vocals
Ricky Philips – Bass
Wally Stocker – Guitar
John Waite – Lead vocals

1. Back On My Feet Again
2. True Love True Confession
3. Midnight Rendezvous
4. Union Jack
5. In Your Eyes
6. Anytime
7. Jesus, Are You There?
8. Turn Around In Tokyo
9. Love Is Just A Mystery

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