Babe Ruth: The Marquee, London

SUPERSTARS COME and go, but Babe Ruth seem to rock on forever. The sort of band who always end up at the Marquee. Last time they played there it was Easter and very crowded, very crowded indeed. This time, well, it was bankbroken Monday and raining buckets out on Wardour Street too. Inside there was a rather lot of empty space and few restrictions upon movement.

But perhaps the disappointing attendance really worked to Babe Ruth’s advantage. Lead guitarist Bernie Marsden split the band a month or two ago to join the new Jon Lord and Ian Paice outfit. In his place Babe Ruth have taken on not one but two lead guitarists. The new line-up has only played a handful of gigs as yet. A good thing, perhaps, that the house wasn’t packed with enthusiastic fans, as the new-look Ruth haven’t worked themselves in quite yet.

Where it worked, of course, the music was much what we have come to expect from the band in their four odd years on the boards. Very English, very heavy, but essentially fun loving, Ellie Hope carries the rock ‘n’ roll gypsy rose torch first lit by Elkie Brooks. Sometimes she shows herself lacking in imagination, but usually hides her shortcomings with enthusiasm and ardour. Most nights it’s the same. After she has screamed her way through the band’s one major hit, ‘Elusive’ and other old favourites like Smokey Robinson’s ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ and ‘Alright By Me’, Ellie Hope loses her voice.

But exuberance can back fire. As the set progressed Babe Ruth began to lose control. Lead guitarists Alan Ross and Syd Twynham turned up and up, it seemed, and played against rather than with one another. The sound mix was poor at the outset, but it got to be so raucous I had to leave the gig.

Which was a pity since this latest line-up is quite feasibly the most versatile ever to have worked as Babe Ruth. There were defininte sparks of character. But it really needed orchestrating, arranging and a stricter musical discipline. Perhaps their manager ought to take a stick to them a little more often.

© Chas de WhalleySounds, 13 November 1976

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