Monday, 6 June 2016

Budgie - “The MCA Albums 1973-1975” (Album Review)

By: Richard Maw

 
Album Type: Reissue
Date Released: 03/06/2016
Label: UMC

 
 
These reissues should be picked up by anyone with an interest in the era, the growth of the “heavy” genre and by anyone looking for some quality hard rock, played well, by great musicians. Lars Ulrich is no Pete Boot or Steve Williams (who play solidly and professionally on the albums re-packaged here), but he knew a tune when he heard one, all those years ago
 
“The MCA Albums 1973-1975” track listing:
 

Disc 1 – “Never Turn Your Back On A Friend”

1. Breadfan
2. Baby Please Don't Go
3. You Know I'll Always Love You
4. You're The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk
5. In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand
6. Riding My Nightmare.
7. Parents

Disc Two – “In For The Kill”

1. In For The Kill
2. Crash Course In Brain Surgery
3. Wondering What Everyone Knows
4. Zoom Club
5. Hammer And Tongs
6. Running From My Soul
7. Living On Your Own

Disc Three – “Bandolier”

1. Breaking All The House Rules And Learning All The House Rules
2. Slipaway
3. Who Do You Want For Your Love?
4. I Can't See My Feelings
5. I Ain't No Mountain
6. Napolean Bona-Part One
7. Napolean Bona-Part Two
 
The Review:
 
Budgie plied their trade as a great hard rock band back in the 70s (and beyond) with a sound that was kind of midway between Led Zep, Sabbath, Rush and Cream. The high pitched vocals of Burke Shelley are not perhaps to everyone's taste (see also: Geddy Lee), but they fit the music perfectly.
 
As Budgie proved via their self titled debut, the sophomore “Squawk”, and the three MCA albums remastered and packaged together here, when they were firing on all cylinders they were a classic band of the genre. Certainly, third album “Never Turn Your Back On A Friend” is a genre classic; early metal/hard rock with some pile driving riffs, not least on the opener “Breadfan”, which we all know thanks to a certain Californian band. Production is basic and clear, with the power trio format in full effect.
 
What marks Budgie out is their rather schizophrenic approach to song writing; even “Breadfan” has a rather trippy section, while the likes of “You Know I'll Always Love You” is a rather hippy-ish ballad, which would not be out of place on an early Judas Priest record. Budgie were always known for their somewhat tongue in cheek song titles too (“Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”?In the Grip of Tyre Fitters Hand”?You're The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk” etc etc). The latter two of the parentheses mentions gets a showing here and, rather tiresome drum solos aside, they deliver some solid bluesy riffage and great grooves. Song lengths are a surprise too; Budgie thought nothing of straying past the three minute format of the day and often triple it on their early works. The storming “Parents” is a fine example.
 
“In For The Kill” continues in the same vein as” NTYBOAF”, with slightly less impactive results, for my money. Another famous track crops up early on and the title track is a killer. Elsewhere there are ballads again, with their song lengths being kept short-ish, rather like Sabbath's early acoustic tracks. “IFTK” sounds a bit beefier to my ears, with a meaty (for time) production and a rather ballsy guitar sound holding things together. When the band expand a jam, they are effective but perhaps sound of the era (“Zoom Club”). “Hammer and Tongs” has always been highly regarded amongst critics and fans alike and deservedly so.  The album closes strongly with “Living On Your Own2 after a rather lacklustre boogie track (it was the 70s...).
 
“Bandolier” is the third record repackaged here and indeed is the third record in as many years of Budgie's purple patch and makes it an album per year since their 1971 debut. Astonishing! Again, the guitar tone is a treat and you have to pinch yourself to hear how far rock music had come. Think of what was being put out in 1965 and compare it to this.... No comparison. After Cream blew things wide open and Hendrix came and went, the scene was set for Sabbath et al and Budgie seized the chance too, certainly creating some of the heaviest music of their day.
 
The format of “Bandolier” is tried and true with rockers like “Breaking all the House Rules” nestling beside gentle material like “Slipaway”. Many feel that the band peaked with this trilogy of albums. It is perhaps true. What followed was still good, some even great, but the band were perhaps overtaken by bands like Priest and then the “NWOBHM” which upped the ante, throwing away much of the blues and nearly all the ballads to create something harder and heavier. Each of the three albums has some storming material on offer, and the band even dip their toes into funk on “Who Do You Want For Love” before the classic “I Can't See My Feelings” (yes, Maiden covered it!) rocks out of the speakers.
 
It's true, Budgie were amongst the very best of the 70s bands and certainly shaped the hard rock and metal genres with what they wrote and how they played. Thousands of miles away, a Dane and some Americans were taking notes and made use of quiet/loud dynamics, heavy tracks nestling alongside ballads and so on... and became the biggest heavy band in the world. Apocryphal tale or not, legend has it that Burke Shelley was working as a roadie in the late 80s in Cardiff when Metallica rolled into town. Loading in that day, he broke his hand. Hopefully, he got paid handsomely for his band's inclusion on “Garage Inc” to sweeten that bitter pill. These reissues should be picked up by anyone with an interest in the era, the growth of the “heavy” genre and by anyone looking for some quality hard rock, played well, by great musicians. Lars Ulrich is no Pete Boot or Steve Williams (who play solidly and professionally on the albums re-packaged here), but he knew a tune when he heard one, all those years ago.
 
“The MCA Years 1973-1975” will be available in all good stockists from 03/06/2016
 
Band info: official

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