by Pete Olofson
Trouser Press, May 1979
Badfinger's seventh L.P. (their first since 1974) is a good one, far better than early reports of guitarless whimpiness had led me to expect. Guitarist Joey Molland and bassist Tom Evans have made 'Airwaves' the insidiously pleasant pop album one might have expected a Pete Ham-less Badfinger would make: high on melody, direct on lyric but somewhat diffuse in focus.
Ham was Badfinger's leader and centre; at the apex of Molland's rocking simplicity and Evan's lighthearted tunefulness, he combined the best of the two in his own compositions while reining in his associate's occasional excesses. But while excesses are kept in check, no-one quite takes Ham's place on Airwaves. Evans does his Dodgers-like-pop ("Lost Inside Your Love", "Sail Away"), Molland, his hard rockers ("Come Down Hard") and passionate ballads ("The Dreamer" is about Pete Ham), while David Malloy's production emphasize the differences in approach. New guitarist Joe Tansin's two contributions though, are embarrassingly weak.
That said, Airwaves remains a classy encapsulation of Badfinger trademarks quasi-McCartney vocals, thick guitars and elegant melodies, with the best examples of Badfinger's trademark big hook and chorus coming on, "Look Out California" and "Love is Gonna Come at Last". Malloy has sensibly followed the lead of Chris Thomas (producer of Badfinger's last three L.Ps) and balanced sharp-edged guitar highs against a deep, basey bottom, giving Airwaves that "ring" that melodic "oommph" that interim Badfingers, Natural Gas and The Dodgers, desperately sought, and to which Molland's quavery voice and Evans cooing tenor, are well suited.
Something less than well-suited to, Airwaves is Nicky Hopkin's S.T.P (Standard tinkling piano) treatment. Also, Badfinger do not benefit from the gross condescensions to popular taste as typified here by the disco song, "Sympathy". Yeah Disco! Since this is Badfinger, it's good disco, but it's also just bad enough to be a hit. In the end, good as some of it is, Airwaves doesn't quite hold together as an LP, but if you're not hung up on musical unity, you'll probably like it very much. Just don't call it Power Pop!