Badfinger, Straight Up (1971)

Badfinger, along with Big Star, set the template for 70s power pop, blending the Beatles and the Who for a mix of upbeat pop rockers and engaging ballads.  And like Big Star, they were criminally underappreciated at the time and plagued by tragedy, from record company abuse to untimely deaths (here, the suicide of Peter Ham, the writer and singer of most of the band's most memorable songs).

While Badfinger had a number of great songs spread over several really good albums, I wouldn't say any of their individual albums are as thoroughly consistent as anything Big Star released, making them better suited to a greatest hits compilation.  Still, Straight Up is as close as they came to a start-to-finish classic.

The stand-out tracks here are among the band's best.  You've got "Baby Blue," which stands alongside their earlier "No Matter What" as one of the defining songs of the power pop genre, with a stunning, unforgettable hook that has kept the song in circulation after all these decades, from numerous indie rock covers to the closing moments of Breaking Bad.  "Day After Day" is the band's classic ballad, sheer beauty, and the lovely "Name Of The Game" is comparable.  Those (and most of the other highlights) are all Ham songs, but the more rock-inclined Joey Molland contributes a few nice ones as well, like the Beatles-infused "Sometimes," and the folky, acoustic "Sweet Tuesday Morning"; while Tom Evans (who tragically also took his own life) adds the catchy and fitting closer "It's Over."

The band has never escaped its image as shadowing the Beatles (kicking off their career with a cover of McCartney's "Come and Get It" and being one of the first band's on the Apple label); here, they got a big boost from George Harrison, who lent slide guitars to a few tunes and helped produce; Todd Rundgren produced most the finished product, giving the album a clean sheen that has aged well.

Here's a video for "Day After Day":
Here they are lip-syncing "Baby Blue" on tv:

Buy it on Amazon.