Bad English: Expanded Edition
Rock Candy Records
In 1987, Journey frontman Steve Perry was having a crisis of confidence. Thanks to a relentless touring and recording regimen, his band had become one of the biggest rock groups of the decade. But with Perry out of commission, and Journey all but over, guitarist Neal Schon and keyboard player Jonathan Cain decided to continue working together. Cain approached John Waite, the former frontman of Babys—of which Cain had been a member—to sing for his new group. Waite had dominated the charts in 1984 with his own solo hit, “Missing You,” but his solo career had stalled. Thus was borne Bad English, a most promising hard rock band with plenty of hit potential, releasing their self-titled debut album in the summer of 1989.
Bad English is very much the album one would expect from members of Journey and Babys. Though the hair on the cover might lead one to think them a glam/heavy metal band, such was not the case; their sound was polished and straightforward radio-friendly rock and roll. Radio recognized it, too; five singles were drawn from the album’s thirteen tracks, and all of them charted in some form. The band’s debut single, “Forget Me Not” was a driving rocker that showed great promise, even though it felt a bit too by-the-numbers AOR. The follow-up single, “When I See You Smile,” was a power ballad written by Diane Warren and an enduring pop classic that rightly went to number one. Bluesy ballad “Price Of Love” followed up, but the label’s doubling-down on the power ballad formula seemed to paint the band in a corner. “Heaven Is A 4-Letter Word” followed, a harder rock number, but its sonic distance to the previous singles kept it from the Top 40. “Possession” turned the band’s focus back to the ballad formula, and once again returned the band to the lower rungs of the top of the charts.
Epic Records might have pushed Bad English’s power ballad side a little too hard, a major disservice to an otherwise fine record. The heavy rock of “Lay Down” demonstrated the band was much harder than the soft and sensitive radio hits might have led listeners to believe, while “Tough Times Don’t Last” and “Ready When You Are” are driving rockers that have aged quite nicely as well. But if listeners wanted ballads, they found them; “Ghost In Your Heart” and “Don’t Walk Away” both feel like pinch-hitters for radio singles, and probably could have achieved the same level of success as “Possession” and “Price Of Love.” For a debut album, Bad English couldn’t have been more promising or successful; it was a fine collection of songs from people who knew how to write a great sounding radio hit.
But Bad English would soon fall victim to the times; their second album Backlash, was released mere weeks before Nirvana’s Nevermind, and was almost instantly passé. Problems within the band were raising their head, as in some promotions Backlash was credited to John Waite, with the band being secondary. Between the dissatisfaction with sales and internal frustration, Bad English soon went their separate ways, with the band members returning to their prior commitments. Even though the band ended unceremoniously and is regulated to side-project status, Bad English was a wonderful legacy to leave behind.
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