by guitarist/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alan Shacklock and fronted
by lead singer Jennie (a.k.a. Janita)Haan, Babe Ruth had burst onto the
music scene a few years earlier with two albums of interesting British rock.
First Base (1972), which was a hard-rocking album with jazz, blues, funk,
and classical leanings. Next to come was Amar Caballero(1974), which downplayed
the group's harder-rocking side in favor of more funk and classical-influenced
tracks. While there's no doubt that the band's albums pod high musical
quality, they were only moderate sellers. However, the band's real audience
was in Canada, where both albums went gold and established their following
However, 1975 was a pivotal year for the band. Why? Well, the group would
release two great albums that year: the self titled Babe Ruth and Stealin'
Home, both of which were released on Capitol/EMI's Harvest label. They
are now here as a twofer on CD, and I will discuss them both now.
Originally released in 1975, Babe Ruth's self-titled third album has
shown the band returning to a more harder-rocking sound like they had
on First Base, but it's much more louder and guitar-heavy than First Base.
Alan didn't produce the album this time, but rather the job went to noted
American producer Steve Rowland (The Pretty Things, P. J. Proby, Thompson
Twins, etc.). Besides that, the group also got another keyboard player
with ex-Wild Turkey member Steve Gurl replacing Chris Holmes. With bass
guitarist Dave Hewitt and drummer Ed Spevock in tow, the band seems to
be going in a more commercial direction, but Alan still has some musical
tricks up his sleeve.
The first side of the album starts off with Dancer . Written
by Alan, this is about a person who loves being a professional dancer,
but hates dealing with the hardships that come with it. As Jennie sings,
Ginger/To imitate Ginger/Now is my sole ambition to date/Bolero
with Raft I could share/But with Blair I could never have faced/But it's
a cruel mean old world/Of the true Moulin Rouge pearls/When somebody's
hustling you/Right off the stage/You wouldn't be so dumb to say/I would
say , you get the impression that being a pro-dancer is a lot difficult
than most people think it is. What is interesting is the references to
famous dancers such as Ginger Rogers and Edmundo Ross, for instance.
Music-wise, I like how it starts off with Steve's droning organ and Alan's
clean guitars, and then it becomes a bluesy shuffle with Alan providing
Tony Iommi style power chords. There's some great synthesizers providing
interplay in the middle section (played by both Alan and Steve), and then
Alan does a great guitar solo at the end that sounds like a howling dog.
Next, there's the track Somebody's Nobody . Another great
track written by Alan, this is a song about a superstar who gets all the
fame and applause, but notices how lonely at the top it is. Music-wise,
this is another great hard-rocker with a twist, there's a funky interplay
with a rap about fame from Alan. Not only that, there's a jazzy midsection
with Alan playing the vibraphone (he's no Gary Burton or Lionel Hampton,
but he gets the job done), but there's also some great synthesizer work
from Steve as well.
Next, there's an instrumental cover of Enno Morricone's A Fistful
Of Dollars . Now Enno is nothing new to the group, they had covered
part of his song For A Few Dollars More by including it in
their song The Mexican from the First Base album. However,
this is a full-blown cover.
With Angelito Perez on percussion, the band turns this into a thunderous
Latin-rock jam with Alan providing some nasty guitar work. Some have said
that this sounds like Santana on steroids, and some have said this sounds
like Al Dimeola's late 70's work. To me though, this sounds like Randy
Rhoads and Airto Moierta sitting in with the band War.
Closing out side one is another cover, this time it's Curtis Mayfield's
We People Darker Than Blue . Here it's a cover with a twist:Where
the original version of the song was a song dealing with African-American
pride, dignity, and self-respect, here it's basically turned into an antiracism
anthem. How? Where Curtis sings the song in the first person, Jennie sings
the song in the third person.
Musically, this is turned into a blues-based hard-rocker, You know that
uptempo midsection of the song where Curtis pleads to get yourself together?
Well, it's here, but shorter and it's just instrumental funk-metal interplay
with Dave providing some Cliff Burton-style fuzz bass, while there's some
counterpoint between Alan's guitars and Steve's synthesizers. Aside from
Jeff Beck's version of People Get Ready and Fishbone's version
of Freddie's Dead , this is perhaps one of the best versions
I've heard of a Curtis Mayfield song I ever heard.
Side two starts off with Jack O'Lantern . Written by Alan,
this song is about a thug who tends to commit crimes on Halloween. One
of his schemes, he had dressed up as his father, and his father went to
jail for it much to the embarrassment of his family. Music-wise, this
is a loud, fast hard-rocker with some great guitar-work from Alan that
sounds like a cross between John McLaughlin and Alex Lifeson, and he rips
like it's no tomorrow!
Next, the band does a Stax/Volt tune, this time it's the William Bell/Judy
Clay song Private Number . Like the original, Alan and Jennie
sing it as a duet, and it's done in the same key. Unlike the original
which was done in the typical Stax/Volt style with horns and strings,
this is Badfinger style power-pop with mellotron strings (played by Alan).
Alan's singing is much better on this one too, because his singing on
the song Joker (from the First Base LP) was somewhat off-key
Next, there's the track Turquoise . Written by Dave and Jennie,
this is a song about finding love and seduction while on vacation at a
hotel. Music-wise, this is turned into a flamenco-style tune with Alan
playing some supreme classical guitar, and Angelito provides some intricate
percussion to give the song a spicy flavor.
Next, there's the track Sad But Rich . Written by Ed, this
is about a wealthy couple filing for divorce. As Jennie sings, You
can take the things/you gave me when our thing was going fine/but remember
this/the can and boat is mine/I'm so sad/Sad you're going to leave me ,
it's like something from the movie The War Of The Roses. Music-wise, this
another straight-ahead rocker done in a Thin Lizzy/Blue Oyster Cult vein,
with whining guitar work from Alan and it ends in a mellotron blur.
Closing out side two on this album is the track The Duchess Of
Orleans . Written by Alan, this is about a woman of royalty who falls
in love with a smalltime hood that's wanted by the cops (talk about a
commoner). This sounds like something either from Monty Python or Masterpiece
Theater. What's interesting about this is the use of Dickensen terms such
as get off the stones , which means to leave London. Musically,
this is a power ballad, done in the Queen/Led Zeppelin mode with Alan
playing some mean guitar over a wall of piano and mellotron. I find a
lot of power ballads bland and boring, but this one is quite different
This was another successful album in Canada, and it was also their highest
charting album in America, hitting #75 on the charts. That led to more
touring, but sad news was about to hit the fan.
Sadly, the Babe Ruth album would be the last one to feature Alan. Alan
quit the group following an American tour, because he got sick of touring
and wanted to concentrate on writing and producing. Now that was a big
blow to the band from which they never really recovered. Keep in mind
that Alan was a major component of the group, being the group's chief
songwriter/producer. When he left, it was like George Clinton leaving
Despite this, the band continued on, and Alan was soon replaced by Bernie
Marsden, another Wild Turkey alumnus who played in UFO. The band went
about cutting their next album, and they retained Steve Rowland as a producer
for the Stealin' Home album.
Originally released in 1975, Stealin' Home is not like any of the
previous albums that Babe Ruth put out. Most of the music is not as esoteric
as it once was, but rather it's hard-rock done in a Free/Bad Company style.
Bernie also replaced Alan's more diverse guitar style with a more straightforward
blues-based rock style. Alan's guitar work on here is sorely missed, but
he contributes a song plus string arrangements to two tracks as a parting
gift. However, Bernie ain't Alan nor should anybody expect him to be.
With Alan gone, this also meant that the band had to come up with new
material, so all five members contributed tracks to the album and one
Side one starts of with It'll Happen In Time . Written by
Jennie and Dave, this is about someone who isn't ready to fall in love
but let them know when the time is right. Music-wise, this is a bluesy
shuffle with some great synthesizer work from Steve, and a raucous solo
Next, there's the track Winner Takes All . Written by Bernie,
it's about people who go for all or nothing in any game they play. It's
a Rolling Stones style rocker with synthesizer solos from Steve, and Bernie
tops with a meaty solo.
Next, there's the track Fascination . Written by Ed, this
is about a person who obsess over someone they can't have. Music-wise,
this is an interesting hybrid of reggae and rock, very similar to a track
the band did called Gimme Some Leg (from the Amar Caballero
album). Ed does a great job on the drums, congas, and timbales, while
Bernie does some nasty wah-wah guitar on this track that cries like a
baby with a toothache.
Closing out side one is the track 2000 Sunsets . Written by
Jennie, this is a solemn ballad about someone leaving them. She really
sounds tender and fragile on this track. Alan's string arrangement is
particularly beautiful, and Bernie does a nice expressive solo as well.
Opening side two is the track Elusive . Written by Steve and
Ed, this is about seeing someone to apporach them, but they usually vanish.
Music-wise, this is a funk-rock pastiche with stinging guitar work from
Bernie, and a great electric piano solo from Steve. My cousin said this
sounds like Robin Trower sitting with Rufus and Chaka Khan, and I couldn't
have agreed with him more.
Next, there's a cover of the song Can You Feel It. Written
by a trio known as Seals/Beetis/Seals (I don't know anything about them
or who did the song first), this is a song about missing someone who's
absent from their life. Music-wise, this is another reggae-rock track,
with a Claptonish guitar solo from Bernie and a fine vocal performance
Next, there's the track Say No More . Written by Alan, it's
a song about enjoying life without uttering a word. Music-wise, this is
another straight-ahead rocker with some powerful slide guitar work from
Bernie. Now there's the first time I ever heard that on a Babe Ruth album!
Next, we have the track Caught At The Plate . Written by Steve,
this is just a mellow instrumental consisting of him on a Rhodes electric
piano and a Moog synthesizer. It's definitely got a smooth-jazz feel like
that of Bill Evans and Bob James.
Closing out side two of this album is the track, Tomorrow(Joining
Of The Day) . Written by Jennie, this is about a woman who was saved
by an angel from a demon before dawn. This is probably the most progressive
track you'll ever hear on hear on this album. It starts out as slow blues
with Bernie playing BB King/David Gilmour style lead guitar, and then
it gets faster with aggressive strings. Bernie plays faster and wickeder,
and then the song goes slow again with the strings droning in and out.
Bernie keeps on soloing until the song stops. Now there's some real blues
This album was also fairly successful too, selling well in America, Canada,
and Britain, and the group toured behind it. Sadly, this would be the
last album to feature Jennie and Dave. They both left after the Stealin'
Home album to form Lion, and the band was now left with no original members.
The group replaced them with Ellie Hope and Ray Knott for the Kid's Stuff
album (1976). That album is just bland commercial AOR pop/rock, and it's
really not that great. They probably figured that if they could survive
Alan's defection, the same could be said for Jennie and Dave. Well, it
didn't work. It backfired, and it killed the band.
Since Babe Ruth broke up, the band members have all gone on to do different
Alan went on to become a successful producer. He has produced Steve Gibbons,
Roger Daltrey (the Who), the Alarm, Denny DeYoung(Styx), and Meat Loaf
(among others). He now lives in Tennessee, where he has since become a
born-again Christian and has produced Christian artists such as Phil Keaggy
of Glass Harp but still does secular work.
Jennie formed Lion with Dave, but it wasn't successful as Babe Ruth.
She later went on to cut a solo single, before she started singing in
commercials and sessions (the Waterboys). She now owns a classical record
shop in England.
Dave also played with Jennie in Lion, and he later played with Aerosmith's
Brad Whitford and Derek St. Holmes(Ted Nugent Band) in the Whitford-St.Holmes
band. He now lives in Atlanta and does sessions.
Steve returned to session work, and so did Ed. He went onto play with
Chicken Shack as well.
Ray and Ellie later formed the disco group Liquid Gold and had hits in
England (No, I hadn't heard them and don't want to-I hate disco).
Bernie later went on to play with Paice, Ashton, and Lord before playing
with Whitesnake and Alaska. He now plays in a band called the Company
Though Babe Ruth had long since disbanded and their LP's were out of
print, their cult following had refused to die.
Hip-hop breakdancers and DJ's continued to sample their records, most
notable The Mexican, and Jellybean Benitez did a remake of
that song with Jennie singing on it.
Their cult status prompted them to reunite for the British breakdancing
championships in 2002 and perform there. They went over with the crowds
so well, that by 2005 Jennie, Alan Dave, Ed, and original keyboardist
Dave Punshon announced they would reunite for some recording and touring.
So it should be a blast!
In conclusion, Babe Ruth was a British band who truly avoided doing what
everybody else did at the time. The conspicuously avoided doing standard
rock and roll in favor of doing music that was not categorized, nor were
they as wildly self-indulgent as many progressive rockers were at that
time. They just followed their own muse, and they deserve my respect for
Plee my review for First Base/Amar Caballero:
Great Music to Play While: Driving