In 1974, Badfinger prepared to embark on an American tour, their sixth, filled with anticipatory promise. They had two albums at the ready, an eponymous release on Warner Brothers and Ass on their home Apple turf, had established a well-regarded reputation even in the shadow of producers like George Harrison and Todd Rundgren, and Harry Nilsson had taken their "Without You" to the top spot only a couple of years earlier.
By the end of that fateful year, it would all turn bleak. Both of their guitarists would leave the band, and sometime after, the writers of "Without You," Pete Ham and Tom Evans, would imagine a world without them and take their own lives. The tale of managerial ripoffs and intra-band scandal is even more shocking given that Badfinger's music is hardly the skating-the-precipice sound that we expect from those who make deals with the devils-and-angels of creativity. They wrote radio-friendly hit songs, wore their hearts on their sleeves and were a harmony-and-guitar driven band who seemed more comforting than cataclysmic.
The tour was supposed to begin in Buffalo on February 1st, but didn't get underway until Detroit more than three weeks later. They traveled to the Ohio Agora circuit (perennial mid-size rock clubs that fit under a thousand comfortably) in early March, and on the 4th recorded a live show for WMMS in Cleveland, probably giving it a cursory mix upstairs in the small studio above the club before heading on to Toledo and Columbus.
It catches them at their most candid and approachable, another gig in a lifeline that would be abruptly cut short, all too valuable as a result. The original tapes, according to the Badfinger underground, have been stepped on by bassist Joey Molland with overdubbed drums, vocals, etc. The purist in me shudders, but you takes what you can get, and what I hear is a live band with the emphasis on some grand guitar work, an unheralded instrumental prowess that marks a no-frills rock combo on the forever road bashing out blues licks and indelible hooks and delivering them with grace and aplomb and poignancy, as in the soloings of "Give It Up" and the Hendrixisms of "Constitution." Pete sings "Name of the Game" with an aching prescience of the coming darkness, and before guitar rave-up on "Blind Owl," there is some brotherly banter that breaks your heart, knowing the abyss awaits.