JOHN WAITE -- Falling Backwards: The Complete John Waite Vol. 1 (EMI/Chrysalis)

Believe it or not, this year marks the 20th anniversary of John Waite's career in the music business. From his work with The Babys, through his solo career, to the brief stint in Bad English, Waite has had one of the most distinct voices in rock. Falling Backwards includes tracks from his entire career, together for the first time on one CD. The songs appear in reverse chronological order, hence the title. The first three songs are new, and the disc would be better off without them. "How Did I Get by Without You" sounds disturbingly like the title of a Michael Bolton song, and it's not much better either. The lyrics include just about every cliché‚ in the book. Skip all three of these tunes.

Next up is the Bad English material. There were two great songs on that album--"Best of What I Got" and "Forget Me Not"--but unfortunately, neither are included here. The CD stays in adult contemporary mode through the Bad English tunes and into the songs from his first few solo albums. It's not until "Encircled" (which features a great riff on the chorus) that Waite starts rocking at all. There is only one song from his solo debut, Ignition, "Change." This song was originally done by an obscure band called Spider, but Waite's version is the best. It's too bad they didn't include "Mr. Wonderful" (also from Ignition). The song's a killer.

After "Change," it's into the Babys songs. Naturally, the hits are about all that's included, which means that the best material didn't make the cut. Even so, the hits in this case aren't bad. "Back on My Feet Again," "Midnight Rendezvous" and "Isn't It Time" are all here, as well as a couple FM tracks like "Head First" and "If You've Got the Time" from the band's debut. Falling Backwards includes insightful liner notes by Steve Gett and Waite himself, and an assortment of photos from various points in his career. This collection isn't bad, but it could be better. If nothing else, it gives you a good overview of Waite's music over the years. For optimum listening pleasure though, start at the end of the disc and work your way back.

© 1997 Steve Marshall