Budgie

Budgie

MCA Records, 1971

http://www.budgie.uk.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/24/2002

Budgie is one of the best forgotten hard rock bands of the 70's, period. Even forgotten might be a bit of an exaggeration since they never managed to gain more than cult status, particularly in the US. For years now I've been obsessed with discovering more and more bands who were at the cutting edge of hard rock/heavy metal during its infancy in the early 70's, after all, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple couldn't possibly have been the only heavy bands at the time.

Indeed they weren't, and at their peak, Budgie's music easily rivaled that of the giants of the genre I just mentioned. Why they never gained even an ounce of the popularity of lesser bands like Uriah Heep is one of rock's great mysteries...they were stable, superb musicians, wrote killer tunes, and churned out a slew of great albums for many years, so what happened? They were a highly creative band with an original sound, and most refreshing of all is that a good deal of the music is not cliched 70's rock.

Think Black Sabbath meets Rush in a way, with bizarre songs like "Crash Course In Brain Surgery" (a song from this debut record that was strangely included on the cd release of their fourth album, In For The Kill, instead). If you're a fan of hard rock, you should love these guys...Metallica have covered a few of their songs, and that's probably the only reason anybody even knows about them anymore; that's how I first heard of them too. It's time that the world finally embraced this unfairly neglected pioneering band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Welsh trio comes blasting out of the gates in their bid to climb to the throne of heavy superstardom with this immensely powerful self-titled debut, released in 1971. You know that patented really low, downtuned sludgy guitar tone unique to the early Black Sabbath albums that's thunderously fuzzy?? It's all over this record! Was Tony Iommi moonlighting or something? Nope, that would be the other Tony, Tony Bourge, on lead guitar. Ray Philipps on drums and Burke Shelley as bassist/vocalist/frontman rounded out the original line-up.

This first Budgie album sounds like a Master Of Reality copy...even the rhythms and the vocal melodies are astonishingly Sabbathian in nature, especially the songs "Guts", "Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman", "All Night Petrol", and "Homicidal Suicidal". Most of the songs are epic in length, with a bunch of really long guitar solos, that while awesomely played, do tend to go on longer than maybe they should. There is one section during the song "The Author" that speeds up considerably, foreshadowing the speed metal approach popularized by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands of the late 70's and early 80's.

Something Budgie did to stand apart from other heavy bands was include a fair number of folky, acoustic ballads on this album, resulting in a bit of a sonic rollercoaster. This is a trend they continued on later albums. I'm not a particular fan of Budgie's softer moments because to me they have a nasty habit of killing the energy and momentum of the more powerful tracks, and Burke Shelley's voice doesn't really seem naturally suited to balladry due to a thin, high pitched and somewhat whiny delivery. While he doesn't really sound like Geddy Lee of Rush, he does remind me of him more than anyone else.

To recap, despite all the heaviness contained here however, Budgie isn't quite as eerie or gloomy as Black Sabbath, but rather more surreal (as if the song titles didn't already give that away), and sandwiched in between are a couple of Neil Young style acoustic folk tracks that might make for some great contrast in some people's eyes, but serve as distracting, boring interludes between the really meaty stuff in my opinion!

The production is characteristically early 70's, with that warm, fuzzy low end and the high end a bit low in the mix. That hardly matters when the material is as consistently strong as it is here. The self titled debut for Budgie makes a very strong statement indeed, and the band would go on to create some essential early 70's metal albums. So, if you're like me and have a burning desire to seek out some of the obscure heavy bands of that particular era, then this is a great place to start.

Rating: A-

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© 2002 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.