Cherry Red have, once again, released a CD set devoted to an obscure rock band. The band in question are UK hard rockers Babe Ruth. The set, Darker Than Blue, is a three disc set featuring the band’s first three studio albums. As to be expected from Cherry Red, Darker Than Blue is another fine release from the label.
A Little History
Babe Ruth were original formed under the name Shacklock by guitarist Alan Shacklock in 1970. With him was singer Janita “Jenny” Haan, bassist Dave Hewitt, drummer Dick Powell and keyboardist Dave Punshon. The band would go through many line-up changes throughout their career, to the point where there were no original members left.
This set includes the band’s first three albums, which were all released on Harvest Records. Given that this is a set of albums, I will be reviewing them album by album.
First Base (1973)
If you must own one Babe Ruth album, look no further than First Base. It’s a killer collection of hard rockers and prog rock jams- with some jazz thrown in the mix from time to time. The band sound tight here, as Haan screams like a banshee and Shacklock noodles away on guitar. It’s even experimental in parts- especially when the band attempt a brave cover of Frank Zappa’s “King Kong.” Of the three albums in the set, this is easily the best.
Favorite Songs: Wells Fargo, The Mexican, Joker, Black Dog
Amar Caballero (1974)
Powell and Punshon left the band, with drummer Ed Spevock and keyboardist Chris Holmes taking their places. If one goes into Amar Caballero expecting another First Base, they will be disappointed. For their sophomore effort, the band leaned more into the jazz and funk sound. There’s still some hard hitters on this one but not to the same extent as found on the debut. Still, this isn’t a terrible album. It’s okay at best.
Favorite Songs: Amar Caballero, Gimme Some Leg, Doctor Love, Cool Jerk
Babe Ruth (1975)
With the same line-up intact, the band’s third effort is more in the spirit of First Base. In fact, this album might be heavier than First Base in parts. Then again, there are other parts that are a tad bit funky and even commercial. If any downsides, the prog rock side of the band is missing here. Even then, this is still better than Amar Caballero.
Favorite Songs: Jack O’ Lantern, Dancer, Private Number, A Fistful of Dollars
Despite leaving Harvest Records, Babe Ruth would continue to perform and record music until 1976. The band’s last two albums, Stealin’ Home and Kid’s Stuff (the last of those two being made without any original members), were released on Capitol Records. The band would reunite in 2005 and release a new album, Que Pasa, in 2007. As of 2022, the band are supposedly still together although there’s next to no information about them performing within the last decade.
Each of the albums have at least one bonus track, mostly consisting of single-only songs and/or single edits. Along with this, there is a new essay included in the clamshell packaging. The albums have all been newly remastered from the original source tapes.
As a whole, Darker Than Blue is a solid set of albums from an underrated rock band. While not every album is consistent, I’d recommend this to anyone who at least owned First Base and/or anyone who has an older CD pressing of these albums. For about $20 for three albums, you can’t go wrong with this set.