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"The meaning of life is I'm in for the kill"

Class D

Main Category: Heavy Metal
Also applicable: Hard Rock, Arena Rock
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

The Divided Eighties




Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Budgie fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Budgie fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Doubtlessly, a real good connoisseur of the "hidden treasures" of the Seventies would be able, in no time, to extract a couple dozen names of bands that were much more obscure than Budgie and, quite probably, not at all worse than Budgie - after all, the only serious reason for digging deep is to prove to yourself that no matter how deep you dig, the bottom is still a million miles away and someone will always be at least one step ahead of you. But once you've realized that, and successfully freed yourself of the obligation to "get to the bottom of things", you're also free to distance yourself from all that "academic" character of your knowledge and just enjoy the music.

Why am I saying this? Because the basic question about Budgie would be 'well, what's so special about Budgie?', and the basic answer would be 'well... nothing in particular, but they're kinda cool anyway'. One of the many, many, and I do mean many metal bands of the Seventies, Budgie spent all their career stealing other people's ideas and not really giving a damn about it, yet somehow ended up without sounding like a bunch of pathetic rip-offs. I guess that's one of the main reasons they never managed to achieve anything even remotely resembling "mainstream popularity": there was nothing that would put them 'over the top', no Big Overwhelming Thunderbolt comparable with the effects of Led Zeppelin I or Black Sabbath. The other equally important reason, of course, is that for the most part of their career they refused to pander to the lowest common denominator, making music that was complex and irony-laden both in the musical and the lyrical sense. This still doesn't quite explain why, say, Blue Oyster Cult did manage to hit the big time and these guys did not, but hey, if everything in this world could be reduced to a simple set of cause-and-sequence dependencies, there'd be no need to postulate divine intervention, and we'd be deprived of Stevie Wonder's magnificent 'Heaven Is 10 Zillion Miles Away' song. Would you want that?

Anyway, back to the basics. Budgie is a tri-part trio consisting of three people that hails from the dales of Wales, and although they actually came together as early as that happy year in which Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix happened to carry out their famous "whose guitar is more breakable?" duel, for some reason they proved to be unadaptable to the psychedelia epoch and simply sat there biding their time until new guys came along - the ones whose hair was even longer, whose stench was even stronger, and whose music was... well you know. Budgie released their debut album in 1971 - one year after Deep Purple and Black Sabbath already made their debuts, and it shows, of course. The overall style of Budgie's classic early period is extremely derivative of these bands, especially Sabbath. But unlike so many others, Budgie actually managed to expand on that style.

There are three main things likeable about classic Budgie: Tony Bourge's riffs, Burke Shelley's proto-Rush vocal deliveries, and the band's goofy brand of lyrics-making (most of them were probably penned by Shelley, but don't take my word on it). The riffs were indeed the band's main musical pillar, considering that Mr Bourge didn't just worship at the altar of the other Tony (Iommi): he actually saw that a good metal riff shouldn't be just a sequence of repeating notes, but should actually provoke some kind of gutsy emotional reaction, and so at its best the music of Budgie never fails painting some sort of musical landscape in your head, of course, under the condition that a heavy metal riff can paint this musical landscape. From 1971 to 1974, so it seems, Tony could make good complex riffs in his sleep, and occasionally he could make a brilliant simple riff, too (check out the brilliancy of 'In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand', for instance). He wasn't half-bad as a soloist, either.

Bass player Burke Shelley, then, helped redefine the image of a heavy metal singer - not on purpose, of course. He just wasn't a particularly strong singer, and instead of the classic scream as pioneered by Daltrey, Plant, and Gillan, went the "Ozzy Osbourne" route: that is, convinced the population that the idea of a wimp is hardly incompatible with the idea of a hard rock outfit. He was technically better than Ozzie, though (even if he did copy Sabbath's somewhat-annoying manner of singing along with the main melody rather than against it much too often), and amazingly, much of the time he sounds like Geddy Lee's older brother, which is why Budgie is often described as a 'cross between Black Sabbath and Rush', which is rather unfair considering that Rush came into general knowledge a whole three years later (and definitely owed some of their ideas to Budgie as well).

Finally, Budgie were at the forefront of pioneering what I'd call "post-modern metal" - already as early as 1971 they were trying to stay away from metallic cliches (which weren't even cliches at such an early age, but I guess it was obvious they'd soon be) and writing songs with titles like 'Nude Disintegrating Parachute Woman' and 'Crash Course In Brain Surgery' that would do the Flaming Lips justice. The actual lyrics weren't that goofy, but that doesn't really matter: you rarely listen to heavy metal for the lyrics anyway, while the actual song title is always right there before your eyes, which means it was a pretty smart move. Now it would be a stretch to call Budgie "the thinking man's metal band" (that honour would much rather go to Blue Oyster Cult, and even then only with a bunch of specific reservations), but it's definitely true that where they lacked in originality, they also seriously lacked in cheese'n'camp. I have plenty of reasons for not liking a big chunk of Budgie's catalog all that much, but nothing on their early records makes me cringe like, I dunno, a Uriah Heep album, or even Led Zep's 'Ramble On'.

Unfortunately, but inevitably, Budgie's heyday didn't last long. Their first three albums were their unquestionable peak. With the 1974-75 albums came a slight whiff of decay and dubious direction changes, although they were still good. The 1976-78 period was a period of crisis, tentative experimentation, and "mediocrization". And the early Eighties period, when Bourge finally quit the sinking ship, marked a total loss of identity and relevance, even if it wasn't nearly as bad as most critics would have you believe. That said, it's a pretty obvious line of development for an "experimental" metal band - they were able to stay on top just a wee bit shorter than Led Zep and a good deal longer than Deep Purple, so there's nothing particularly gruesome to lament about, I guess. Oh, except for the band being nearly completely forgotten today, of course - but at least their entire catalog has been issued on CD, which means you can easily get it, by means of the Internet at least.

Lineup: Burke Shelley - bass guitar, vocals; Tony Bourge - guitars; Ray Philips - drums. Philips quit, 1974, replaced by Pete Boot; Boot quit two years later, replaced by Steve Williams. Bourge left after the recording of their seventh album in 1978, replaced by John Thomas. Duncan Mackay on keyboards was added in 1982. Curiously enough, the band only fell apart sometime in the late Eighties, despite their last studio album having been recorded as early as 1982. A new lineup had been put together for an oldies tour or something around the early 2000s, but really, I can't be bothered unless Bourge actually makes it back.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Sabbathesque tones, Zeppelin-ish agility... it's just that the songs are too long!

Best song: GUTS

Track listing: 1) Guts; 2) Everything In My Heart; 3) The Author; 4) Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman; 5) Rape Of The Locks; 6) All Night Petrol; 7) You And I; 8) Homicidal Suicidal.

What an awesome start for a debut album... Tony Iommi must have bitten all of his fingernails off (at least, the ones he still had possession of after the sheetmetal cutter incident) when he heard these guys blasting off their riffage in 'Guts' which employed the exact same heavy sludgy tones he must have thought himself to have been the proud patented owner of. Not only that, 'Guts' is maybe even heavier than anything Black Sabbath did in that period, because from the very start, it keeps driving out that double-tracked guitar riff which has Master Of Reality-like deep earthy tone rumbling in one speaker and 'Electric Funeral'-like wah-wahed heavy tone in another. And as if that wasn't enough, the thick plodding bassline is mixed way higher in the mix than Mr Geezer Butler ever dared. And what a riff, hey? A descending blizzard! A thunderstorm! Now that's what I call heavy metal. No wonder Mr Iommi had to back out and resort to generic heavy tones on Sabbath's next album, Vol. 4. He'd lost the competition! (Okay, so that's a hyperbole, but so what?)

Sadly, the album doesn't quite live up to the heaviness of the opener - and curiously, Budgie also quit that same approach by the time their next album was offered to the public, which still makes their debut their heaviest and least compromised record, if somewhat inconsistent in terms of songwriting. Namely, they suffer from the same things that Sabbath suffered from in the beginning: too often, they go off the deep end and plunge into jammin' territory which just isn't the kind of territory they could effectively cover. A typical example is the album closer 'Homicidal Suicidal', which starts off decently as yet another sludgey ominous rocker (not one of their best, though) and then keeps exploring the same one or two minimalistic riffs over and over. At least in his mature years, Tony Iommi would never let a five plus minute tune be based on fewer than five or so different riffs; Tony Bourge too often lets the heaviness be the main epicenter, repeating the same limited lines over and over and over... yeah, right, Tony, we heard that kick-ass riff already, it's not as much kick-ass as you'd think it to be, get on with it already!

On the other hand, at least Tony is a capable soloist, which kinda saves the album's epic, pretentiously titled 'Nude Disintegrating Parachute Woman' - structurally, this thing again rips off Sabbath (main slow plodding riff - stop-and-start mid-section - off we go into a boogie section), but the fast section is actually done much better than Sabbath did even in their prime. Bourge demonstrates some first-rate jazzy chops, very fluent and smooth playing - I'd say almost on par with early Ritchie Blackmore, perhaps, while Burke Shelley scats along to even better effect.

Another definite highlight is the pop-metal number 'All Night Petrol' (on some editions replaced with the contemporary single 'Crash Course In Brain Surgery', unfortunately not present on my edition - yeah, so I take my album covers from the All-Music Guide, is that all right with you? You wanna me spend my days and nights at my scanner? I got a life to live!), with its catchy chorus and excellent bass riff... one big difference from the Sabs is that too often, Budgie really lets Burke Shelley's bass take the centerspot, so that the impression is they aren't as heavy but it's a false impression. On the other hand, it gives the songs an extra level of dexterity because you know how important the rhythm section is for heavy metal - often it's the bass player who has to be the most skilled musician of all, and while I can hardly call Shelley a super-pro, he's definitely far more trained on the four-string than Geezer Butler.

There are some relative lows, too. A couple of tracks is just generic boogie with no particular redeeming qualities - 'Rape Of The Locks', for instance, seems more like a basic social declaration (anti-hair-cut!) than an interesting musical statement, being based on a simple chuggin' two-chord riff the kind of which Uriah Heep favoured so much. Also, at this point, Budgie can't really do anything but crunchy metal riffs: the few attempts at stepping away from the formula that I see here are clumsy and naive. At least the 'dreamy' acoustic ballads 'Everything In My Heart' and 'You And I', that sound not unlike something Davy Jones could have eagerly sung for the Monkees, are drastically short; but 'The Author' doesn't even start to attract my attention until it gets to the fast rocking part in the middle. All the more amazing how they could so quickly correct this situation on Squawk, with 'Rolling Home Again' and 'Young Is A World', but I guess some bands grow fast and some bands grow slow.

All in all, a superb debut album, though, and really and truly, they were the only guys to have the 'Guts' (good pun, give me a nickel!) to compete with Iommi's Gang at the time - I mean, Led Zep and Deep Purple were at their peak and all, but neither of these bands were heading in the same direction, and the rest, I guess, just couldn't quite figure the secret of "extreme heavy metal" technique. Budgie discovered it and used it well. And then - for some reason - entirely dispatched with it on the very next album. But they picked up on songwriting!



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

Catchy heavy riffs and.. uh... decent attempts at stylistic diversity. Something endearing about this stuff.

Best song: HOT AS A DOCKER'S ARMPIT (worth it for the title alone...)

Track listing: 1) Whiskey River; 2) Rocking Man; 3) Rolling Home Again; 4) Make Me Happy; 5) Hot As A Docker's Armpit; 6) Drugstore Woman; 7) Bottled; 8) Young Is A World; 9) Stranded.

This album seriously looks like it could have been the blueprint for the debut of Rush, except it's actually better. Seriously, the worth of this record makes up a whole new conundrum for me - why the hell could a shitty dippy band like Uriah Heep actually make it big when Budgie, a band that had commercial potential IN SPADES, not to mention a tighter and more refined sound and a far sharper sense of taste, had to content themselves with the "great underground metal band" title? What's up with "underground metal bands" anyway?

Never mind, don't answer that, I'm not talking obscure art-metal outfits here. I'm talking Budgie's second album, and while it's hardly an all-time classic, it's solid all the way through. One thing I gotta warn you of: sometimes raving Budgie fans describe this record as particularly heavy, able to monstruosly compete with Sabbath and the like. Well, it's not - in fact, it's far more 'light' than the debut. Tony Bourge digs deeply into the arsenal of different heavy guitar tones, but this time around, for some reason he rarely lets his tone be as fat and sludgy as that of Tony Iommi - which is why I was a bit disappointed at first, but then it came to me that this way at least Bourge can't hide any of his gaffes or talentless blunders behind a fat burgeoning wall-of-sound, and when you LISTEN, you begin to really understand how skilled and versatile this guy is. So, there's always another side to the story, I guess. And, of course, then there's Burke Shelley's vocals all over this record which are terrific. But read on!

True to the word of the day, this album is not ALL heavy. The proverbial monster rockers are thoroughly interspersed with 'lighter' songs, and one positive word of the day is that for this album, the 'lighter' songs are just as 'qualifiable' as the heavier numbers (something which Sabbath had a hard time living up to - okay, there was always 'Planet Caravan', but then again there was always stuff like 'Changes', you know). Perhaps the folksy, a bit mystically-hippiesque, a bit sappy Billy-Joelesque 'Make Me Happy' isn't exactly the most appropriate thing you'd want to hear in this context, although even that one is salvaged by some clever vocal harmonizing from Burke. But 'Rolling Home Again' is a marvel - it doesn't surprise me with a melody I ain't heard before (a typical fast folksy melody that you can find everywhere from the Searchers to Rod Stewart to Lindisfarne), but it is sure arranged in a brilliant way, just a sparkling acoustic, some atmospheric chimes, and stupendous McCartneyesque vocal harmonies. And all this for less than two minutes, because any longer and we could deem that pretentious.

Of course, the eight-minute long artsy epic 'Young Is The World' IS pretentious, and pretty 'primal' as far as the lyrics are concerned ('I will be small... I can be small... but I'll be big today... I'll be big today....' or something like that is the culmination of the song), but it also has a certain naive charm of its own, maybe due to a solid melody. The mantraic monotonous guitar melody with piles of Mellotron strewn all across it, and that fascinating vocal - Shelley is arguably at his peak here, modelling the notes to achieve some heart-wrenching climactic moments - really makes the song, plus Bourge really plays his heart out in the lengthy guitar solo. They could have easily cut it down by two or three minutes, because I don't feel that much "truly epic" potential in the song, but it was still a dangerous risky move and essentially they pulled it off.

But of course, the real meat of the album is still the rockers. Explicit three-to-five minutes explosion of crisp roasted-to-perfection riffs 'n' tones and a snoozy sarcastic self-conscious vocal delivery makes all of 'em cook, with just one serious defect: by being solidly rooted in the blues, most of these riffs sound pretty similar, and even after the required three listens none really stick in my head (that's not a big problem - they do have memorability potential, but they just aren't so immediately, uhm, delectable). Maybe 'Hot As A Docker's Armpit' is an exception, with its smooth and oh-so-natural flow and Shelley singing along with the main guitar riff and stuttering out the lyrics in order to keep up, and then Bourge goes and adds a fast 'Child In Time'-influenced guitar solo before transforming the song into an ominous bolero-like composition to top it off.

That said, the other numbers don't really fall too far behind. 'Whiskey River' has funky rhythmics and a somewhat moving call-for-deliverance message, while 'Rocking Man' is just nice'n'catchy, a bit reminiscent of 'Spanish Boots' from Jeff Beck's second album (and it's no coincidence that Shelley's vocals, as much they can remind one of Geddy Lee, have something in common with Rod Stewart as well), but actually multi-part - these guys sure knew how to render a standard hard rock album more exciting by throwing in completely unpredictable parts. Only 'Drugstore Woman' lets me down because I recognize the riff as being stolen from Johnny Winter's 'I'm Yours And I'm Hers', or at least, the version of the song that the Stones used to perform live at one time. But that's not a tragedy, and it doesn't prevent the album from ending on a high note with the exciting fast rocker 'Stranded', the heaviest of the bunch that nevertheless finds the space to incorporate a backwards guitar solo.

An excellent listen throughout - one just has to get over the monotonousness and the derivativeness of a large part of it all, and at the end of the road you'll see that Budgie really carve themselves their own perfect niche with this stuff.



Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12

Budgie go all proggy or something, and wind up with their best album. Accidentally!

Best song: PARENTS

Track listing: 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.

Actually, I'm not sure which album is Budgie's best; their early stuff is so dang consistent it's very much a matter of taste. I do think, though, that this particular record boasts the least amount of filler of all of 'em. Another thing is that the boys try out some new formulas and textures and wind up with some of the most complex and some of the most bombastic songs in their repertoire. It's no wonder the album cover was designed by Roger Dean - Budgie were going for Big Fat songs here, trying to consolidate at once their image as smart tongue-in-cheek ironists and as profound social commentators. The result is probably not one of those all-time classics to make every eclectic critic's list, but then again, it might as well have been one of them. It's certainly heads and tails above every amateurish rainbow demon piece o' rubbish that the much more commercially successful Uriah Heep had to offer (oops, there I go slamming the Heepsters again - can't help it!); and it proudly stands its ground against any Led Zep or Deep Purple releases of the period. In short, a real good album.

It's not like Budgie deviate from the formula that much. As usual, you'll find a bunch of twisted grinding rockers with smartass titles like 'You're The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk'; a couple soft, tasteful, elegant ballads like 'You Know I'll Always Love You'; and a half-prog, half-metal soulful ten-minute epic in 'Parents'. Within the songs, though, all kinds of interesting things take place. For instance, they haul out the classic blues tune 'Baby Please Don't Go' and give it a kickass fast arrangement with a rhythm section that choogles along in a way I've never heard anybody choogle. Fascinating - they pound away on these two notes like there's no tomorrow, fast and groovy, now bringing the bass upfront, now putting it behind the electric guitar, now letting everybody hear that it's the acoustic rhythm that really carries everything forward, and so on. And the way they add in extra riffs in between verses makes me strongly suspect that this version actually served as the blueprint for AC/DC's take on the same song - I haven't been able to confirm my hypothesis, but unless Budgie "borrowed" their interpretation from somebody else, this simply cannot be a coincidence. AC/DC's take was actually much more tight, meticulous, and even faster, but as far as atmosphere goes, Budgie have the Young brothers beat in spades: on here, 'Baby Please Don't Go' is a moody, dangerous-sounding revision that takes an old blues tune and makes it kick ass without sucking out all of its bluesy evil, whereas there's nothing even remotely "ominously evil" in AC/DC's version.

Budgie also risk their all on the final tune, 'Parents', and pull it off magnificently. A ten-minute song that never really changes its signatures, it's Burke Shelley's rumination on the tense relations between generations (prob'ly personal, too, as most such ruminations are), and they manage to create a near-perfect scene of romantic despair out there - with Tony Bourge's flaming riffs and Shelley's tuneful, memorable wailing in the chorus. Tony gets in a lengthy emotional solo which, at one point, veers dangerously on "boring", but then he's got this brilliant idea of overdubbing a whole lot of high-pitched isolated wailing notes so that it sounds like a flock of seagulls, and it works! Simple, yet charming.

In between, you get all sorts of your "normal" Budgie rockers. 'You're The Biggest Thing' could have done without the phased drum solo in the beginning and with a shorter soloing section, but it's still got good riffage; 'Breadfan' is an instant Budgie classic, and shows that Tony can be master of the speedy complex riff just as well as he can be master of the slow menacing one (it actually is one of the speediest and most complex riffs of its era indeed, even if it's nothing compared to the trash scene - but then again, let's not forget the matter of "true feeling!"); and 'In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand' serves as prime proof of the band's genius, as they invent a new two-chord riff, and it's a great one. I mean, it doesn't take much genius to invent a good seven-chord riff, but a great two-chord riff is something that's limited to people with true gift, you understand.

Finally, the two acoustic ballads are no great shakes, but they're fun. Not really pretentious, like any given Zep ballad, and not even remotely close to the power ballad curse: just lightly strummed acoustic ballads this time, not that dissimilar from, uhm, Joni Mitchell or Neil Young (well, less complex than the former and less "sensible" than the latter, but not by that long a stretch).

Essentially, it was all downhill from here, because as good as your formula is, you can't let it run forever if you're a "serious" artist. I mean, AC/DC take it easy cuz they were goofs from the very beginning. If you're a goof from the start, you have nothing to fear. Budgie goofed around with their song titles, so as to seem smarter than your average Joe would suspect, but they didn't goof around with much else. Never Turn Your Back pushes the formula as far as it can go; the natural choice from there is either stagnation or change. For a while, Budgie chose stagnation; when they chose change, they were gone.



Year Of Release: 1974
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Too few songs! Too much self-indulgence! TOO good melodies to be ignored, though!

Best song: ZOOM CLUB

Track listing: 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.

Budgie's fourth album catches the band in a stage that, I guess, could be called 'indecisive artistic semi-stagnation': the formula of their previous albums has been worn to the bone, yet somehow the members are still talented enough to let some kind of 'second breath' open at the very last minute. This is a pretty good record, don't get me wrong, but look at those song lengths: only three numbers last shorter than four minutes, and one of them at least is an old half-forgotten single! And seven songs in total! What does that tell us in the way of logics? Why, simply that the pool of ideas was drawing close to being exhausted, once and for all.

Hey, hold your horses! I know what you're trying to tell me - didn't their previous album have seven songs as well? What is this, Mr reviewer, some kind of shitty hypocritical double standard? Nope. Gotcha! See, this second time around it's not like these lengthy songs are wonderful multi-part suites chock-full of inventive ideas (like it was in part on the last record); mostly, they are just extended through long long long guitar solos, and I have never been all that impressed by Tony Bourge's soloing. Riffage, now that's a different thing. Now we're talking. The guy has a knack for classy riffs that can outshine Sabbath and Zeppelin when he's really hot. They rule. But soloing? Hmm... me not being hard rock's greatest advocate in the world, I instinctively judge everybody on the class of Ritchie Blackmore, or at least Page, and Bourge just doesn't cut it. He mostly solos either like a solid, but generic blues-rock player, or like one of those choppy-boppy prog guitarists a la Gary Green of Gentle Giant, you know - guys who are really good at their job, but there's just so many of them, this vast quantity of chops immediately brings their absolute price down.

'Zoom Club' is a typical example: the song itself is totally wonderful, with a blazing mid-tempo proto-Rainbowish riff pushing it along (you know the style, right? Make a steady, unnerving mid-tempo repetitive groove and don't let it carry you away) and perhaps Budgie's cleverest vocal hook - listen to Shelley chanting out the chorus to the song, particularly the last line, and you'll know what I mean by 'catchy, but thoroughly unpredictable vocal melody twist', the best there can be. But the song is saddled by a never ending, four or five minute long guitar solo that just doesn't go anywhere in particular; I would at least expect a crescendo effect or something, but it seems improvised to me, and in a dull way at that. It's even poorly produced.

Another piece of evidence for the band running out of gas is 'Hammer And Tongs', a song that can only be perceived as an unimaginative re-writing of 'Dazed And Confused'. Same descending bass riff, same power chord assault at the end of each verse, even the lyrics are similar, and to top it all, Bourge's solo not only sounds like typical Page, it even borrows some exact licks from Page - listen to the band suddenly launching into 'You Shook Me' tempo at the end of the song and Bourge copping those licks you can hear Page play on some version of the song (I don't have the CD next to me, I think it was the BBC live version rather than the studio one, but I might be mistaken). Pretty strange way to pay tribute to one of your idols. Why not just cover 'Dazed And Confused' itself?

Still, I'm not dissing the album - the vocal melody of 'Zoom Club' alone keeps telling me that things aren't as bad as they could be. And then there's the title track, with another ferocious Sabbath-esque sonic attack ('Children Of The Grave'-style riff) where the guitar and bass lock together in classic heavy metal fashion to make you wanna bring out both your air guitar and your air bass at once and roar along about how 'the meaning of life is I'm in for the kill'. What was the reason to make them include one of their very first singles, 'Crash Course In Brain Surgery', is unclear (although I've suggested above that it was due to lack of material), but it rules mercilessly all the same, just a classic speedy rocker that should be veneered together with 'Communication Breakdown' as one of the blueprints for speedy heavy metal, but for unfair sociological reasons is not.

The 'softer' side of Budgie is here represented by the lonely acoustic ballad 'Wondering What Everyone Knows', which is no 'Young Is The World', of course, but sports a slightly similar, and less pretentious, atmosphere, and is quite memorable and friendly and melancholic in its own way. Say, I do think Shelley would have made a good Nick Drake... nah, well, probably not. He's much too whiney for Nick, his lyrics are nowhere near as poetic, and Bourge's acoustic technique is minimal, but still, the very fact that I did initially think of that comparison means it's no Uriah Heep you're dealing with here.

'Running From My Soul' is an unimaginative and forgettable blues-rocker, though, and I have mixed feelings about the closing epic 'Living On Your Own' - some good guitar lines now and then, but also a faint stale smell of cheesy arena-rock too. For some reason, too, they had a strange artistic propulsion to go and include a part of 'Bolero' in the "progressive" mid-section, but didn't they just sample the James Gang with it? Have to go relisten to Rides Again, I guess... In any case, all these here pointless ruminations should give you a picture - a band starting to lose its direction, but with enough talent and skill to pull it off one more time. My classic analogy: a guy that has crossed the highest peak and is starting to descend now, but he's still way too close to that peak to seriously lose significant height. Don't like the album cover, though. That vulture is just a bit too Iron Maiden-ish for me or something.



Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

Little bit of the tried-and-true formula never hurt anybody yet!


Track listing: 1) Breaking 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) Napoleon Bona-Part One; 7) Napoleon Bona-Part Two.

Bandolier? Hey, The Bandolier National Monument halfway from Santa Fe, NM to Los Alamos, NM is a pretty cute little thing, and so is this album. So the time is ripe for tearing Budgie apart for sticking to the formula for so long it's not funny any more, big deal. The formula still works, and to keep the Budgie formula up and running actually takes more skill than to keep up the AC/DC formula, because the essential ingredients of the Budgie sound are nowhere near as unique and inimitable as the ingredients of the AC/DC sound. So thumbs up for Bandolier, the album that closes Budgie's "classic" period and leads us into the "transition" era.

The first teeny-weeny signs of "transition" are actually evident here already, but for the most part it's the same old Budgie we're dealing with. Crushing riff-rock tunes, complex on the surface, simple on the inside, fun and entertaining on the inside of the inside (the one which is really the inside of the inside, not the outside of the inside turned inside out, if you know my inside meaning), sometimes developing into lengthier proto-prog-metal opera which are better than anything Rush ever did and sometimes alternating with soothing sweet ballads of the "Sabbath gets sentimental" variety, only with a little bit more exquisiteness.

Now, the teeny-weeny signs I've been talking about are mostly evident on 'Who Do You Want For Your Love?', a track that tries to capture a sweaty funky groove instead of a basic blues-rockish one. Many Brit bands were trying to break into the realm of funk at the time, at least moderately, and Budgie's experiment was among the better ones, certainly better than Atomic Rooster's, for example. It's not that I trust Tony Bourge to chug along with his funky rhythms on the level of James Brown or Sly Stone; like every British pre-post-punk band that I've heard trying to funk it up, they're playing way too precisely and predictably to really catch the essence of the dirty groove. (Actually, I've always thought that out of all the classic era British guitarists, the only two that could have been great at funk were Keith Richards and Pete Townshend, with their instinctive understanding of all the powers of syncopation and "variations on the same theme" - but ironically, neither of them ever did try real funk). Anyway, Budgie's merit is that they play this funky stuff really really hard, and find great rhythms for it as well, not to mention neat tricks like the transition from the quiet, reserved, minimalistic intro to the main part at 1:48 into the song - when there's this bit of echo on Geddy's, er, sorry, Burke's vocals, the tune dies down for a moment, and then Tony hits the strings really hard, with a whole barrel of devotion.

That said, let us not exaggerate... some have already dubbed this Budgie's "funk album", which is definitely not right, because this track is pretty much the only true funk-influenced song on the album. And Budgie are still at their best when they just boogie away with their leaden bluesy riffs, like on the opening stomper 'Breaking All The House Rules'. The whole song is based on the riff you might recognize from Mick Taylor's repetitive solo on 'Can You Hear Me Knocking?' (remember the cool five-note repetitive phrase), an idea so aggressively dumb that it makes the song a real standout in the Budgie catalog - and I haven't yet mentioned Tony's most-Chuck-Berryesque solo in his entire career: Metal Gone Rockabilly in a flash, it's corny and unoriginal but if you love a good Fifties' solo played with a good fat Seventies' metal guitar tone, you'll be sure to get as much out of the song as I do. To top it off, they play the five-note riff over and over in the coda without letting you know when they're actually gonna stop for what seems like hours... ain't that cool? I think it's cool.

Other highlights include 'Slipaway', a typical soft mystical Budgie ballad with jazzy overtones and Burke's passionate falsetto deserving attention; the chug-chug-chuggy 'I Can't See My Feelings', with yet another classic Bourge riff and a structure that somehow moves the band from pretentious "prog-metal" into the realms of barroom rock and back again; the pure barroom rock of 'I Ain't No Mountain', a song that could have been the blueprint for all of KISS' classic period yet would still be better than almost anything that band of obnoxious hacks has ever put out; and the two-part suite 'Napoleon Bona(Part One & Two)', whose main asset, apart from the successful pun in the title, is the second part, a speed-metal tune (well, according to 1975's understanding of speed - meaning it's not really as fast as 'Symptom Of The Universe', but operates according to the chuggin' principle of Deep Purple's 'Hard Lovin' Man') that's gotta rank among the band's most powerful compositions. Again, assessing it in terms of originality would be a waste of time, but it's still creative as hell. Hey, that little pause at the end of each verse and the ensuing 'BOOM-BOOM!' as they launch back into the melody gets me every time.

Low points would include... hey, low points would include nothing, there's only, like, six songs here anyway. Well, maybe that would be the low point: too short. I don't mind the longer numbers being extended and all, but on the negative end, that could be signalling a low level of new ideas. Bandolier is still good (and in terms of consistency, actually an improvement over the somewhat flawed In For The Kill, IMHO - no direct rip-offs like 'Hammer And Tongs', for one thing), but Budgie are definitely starting to fall into a rut here, and it would take a good shaking up of all "traditional values" to get them out of it.



Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9

Riffs less picturesque, closer to getting inside the "New Wave" metal paradigm... not bad, though.


Track listing: 1) Anne Neggen; 2) If I Were Britannia I'd Waive The Rules; 3) You're Opening Doors; 4) Quacktor And Bureaucats; 5) Sky High Percentage; 6) Heaven Knows Our Name; 7) Black Velvet Stallion.

Well, at least they managed to crack open the formula - this sure doesn't sound like any of the "Big Five" albums that went before it. The fact that they did break out and still managed to come up with a record that's listenable and entertaining alone speaks tons about Budgie: with less talented bands, especially metal ones, this kind of "transition" might leave you in ruins upon the very first try. Not that the critical world ever had a tiny drop of respect for post-1975 Budgie, but look, this isn't a bad album.

It's just different. The funk influences that first came through in a little offshoot on Bandolier are much more prominent here (the title track even has some disco bass in it!), and so are AC/DC/early Judas Priest influences... well, I wouldn't really say they were influenced by Judas Priest at this particular moment, because the Priesters had only released their first album of any more or less serious impact that very year. But there sure are some similarities. Bourge's riffs become less "deep", but a bit more complex and rhythmic; they no longer evoke any dark solemn images in your mind, like the pseudo-Sabbath stuff of the early years, but rather just serve as a warcall to "get it on". When 'Sky High Percentage' comes on, in fact, I'm subconsciously starting to look for similar-sounding Priest songs... well, it might be a case of reverse influencing as well - I mean, I'd be the happiest guy on earth if I learned that Priest borrowed something from Budgie, because that would at least shatter their status of "The Eternal Borrowing Band".

Of course, I do miss the great riffs of yore. Without a single track of the 'Breadfan' or 'Guts' quality, the album sort of lacks focus, and a lot of the songs look confused - the title track, in particular, never truly realizes where it wants to go, and that "disco coda" at the end, while somewhat fun, just seems tacked on for lack of any better idea on how to end the song. It's also surprisingly quiet, and Tony's guitar is muffled throughout, as if they'd been hampered by obsessive neighbours who were poking inside the studio every five minutes crying "Hey, turn that down, or we're calling the cops!". A little bit of earthquake rumble or apocalyptic distorted wail couldn't have hurt, guys.

But the record still works as a decent enough cross between a Lynyrd Skynyrd, a Judas Priest, and a Rush, of course. It also has one of their best folksy ballads, 'Heaven Knows Our Name'. Shelley's voice, just like Geddy Lee's several years later, had become less shrill (and less fearful to all those proud of their manhood) after a decade of singing, and he gives a strong and convincing vocal delivery while Tony rips out an equally convincing guitar solo. Come to think of it, what this song reminds me of is a typical ELO ballad with all the strings taken out, maybe partially because of Shelley's "detached", far-away-sounding vocals, similar to Jeff Lynne's usual singing tactics.

I'm also a sucker for the closing epic, 'Black Velvet Stallion'. Well, "sucker" is too strong a word, because essentially the song is very, very dumb. Apparently Tony wanted to come up with something as masterful as 'In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand' and its minimalistic riff, and once again offers us a four-note riff with a pause in the middle. It's nowhere near as impressive, though, cuz I've heard that musical sequence plenty of times before, mostly used in middle-eights by colleague metal players, and using the "CHUG-chug - chug-CHUG" sequence as a basis for an eight-minute epic is, like, the quintessential inadequate approach. However, my attention gets all perked up for the last three minutes, when Tony delivers this series of blistering, emotionally charged, minimalistic lead lines, where pretty much every note is meaningful, letting us know the band has anything but signed up for the generic "million notes per second is the word of day" ideology of the upcoming New Wave of heavy metal. Of course, from time to time he does slip inside that very formula, but he wisely alternates it with the "restrained" approach, so I really, really, really like that coda and the CRASH that closes it.

Other than that, 'Anne Neggen' is a generic barroom rocker with a mildly catchy refrain; the title track, as I've already said, is a weird conglomerate of very diverse ideas (starting from the song - and album - title themselves, of course), with jazz, funk, metal, folk, and even art-rock elements thrown in - which makes it not too memorable but always entertaining when it comes on; 'You're Opening Doors' is a so-so power-pop ballad (not to be confused with "power ballad", because a "so-so power ballad" is one of the highest compliments I can give out to a metal band - most "power ballads" exercise goat sex twice a day on a regular basis); and 'Quacktor And Bureaucats' is... oh I dunno... sounds like one of 'em several inferior Alice Cooper garage rockers from 1971, only muffled down so that the guitar sounds like your old grandfather having a tuberculosis fit in the basement.

Overall, far from the best Budgie album, but still, a transition album that showed them capable of actually making a transition, even if it turned out in the end they didn't manage to survive it. Oh, yeah, before I go, let me just state this: the instrumental passage on 'Sky High Percentage' sounds almost exactly like the kind of sterile, but still kickass-effective rock'n'roll ZZ Top would be famous for starting from Eliminator. So you see, perchance in a few decades Britannia will be treated as The Mother of Eighties Metal, and we'll finally get around to a VH1 Special on Budgie!



Year Of Release: 1978
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9

Derivativeness is a big problem here, but nothing too stinky anyway.


Track listing: 1) Melt The Ice Away; 2) Love For You And Me; 3) All At Sea; 4) Dish It Up; 5) Pyramids; 6) Smile Boy Smile; 7) I'm A Faker Too; 8) Don't Go Away; 9) Don't Dilute The Water.

Well, looks like Budgie are getting stuck in the transition period. And their stock of cool riffs is definitely running out, too, so no wonder Tony Bourge left pretty soon after the album's release - I'd probably leave, too, were I to find myself stuck in this kind of rut, releasing passionless product that's neither good nor bad, overwhelmed by screaming mediocrity. There's only so much Seventies hard rock that's gonna make the Great Cosmic Transition, and Budgie's seventh album definitely does not fall in that category.

Still, it's nice to have it around for a listen or two. In pure sonic texture it's probably closer to Bandolier than to that last oddly-titled one, although the funk influence is now pretty much everywhere, because Bourge finds it amusing to insert the occasional funky chugga-chugga even in tunes like 'Pyramids', where it doesn't really belong. And while the production overall is a far cry from the gritty rawness of days long gone by, it's still no Foreigner we are dealing with here: no cheesy keyboards messing things up, no sterile, cleaned-up, docile guitar lines ready for mass consumption (at times Bourge is still willing to let rip with a gutsy solo or two). Another thing that - in a way - salvages the record is that they're still willing to have a curious mix of influences, this time, though, maybe too curious for their own good, because practically every song can be described as reflecting somebody else's style. Yes, Budgie may have started out as intelligent Sabbath clones, but when they were at their best, they did have their own creative signatures - heck, their song titles alone were worth a meaningful chuckle.

Now, though, when something like 'Love For You And Me' comes along, it sounds like a Zeppelin outtake from the Physical Graffiti sessions - for some reason, Geddy, er, I mean, Shelley even tries the trademark Robert Plant Wail on for size, and the effect is, well, somewhat uncanny, if you know what I mean. It doesn't help that Tony ain't no Jimmy Page either, and he just doesn't have that incredible "guitar freedom" of Jimmy's, good as he is in his own way. And, funny thing, even if he did develop this passion for funk in Budgie's latter days, on this album at least he never seems to feel quite comfortable around it. As for 'Don't Dilute The Water', well, that one sounds like something off Led Zeppelin II instead, or maybe off Deep Purple In Rock... come to think of it, that riff is pretty much similar to the immortal one Ritchie employs on 'Bloodsucker', yeah, that's what it has always reminded me of. And that wouldn't be no big shakes were the songs real real good, but they aren't - they're just kinda okayish. Yeah sure, the riff of 'Water' is pretty gruesome-sounding, but after the much more impressive 'Bloodsucker' it can't help being generic and flat: they're falling back on cliches, and that's a bad sign. Although, come to think of it, even their betters fared much worse than Budgie did by 1978. Never Say Die, anyone? Eh? Eh? Anyone?

Even funnier is the realization that the pretty ballad 'Don't Go Away' sounds very much influenced by the Pink Floyd style circa Dark Side. Listen to Shelley cooing out 'don't go away' to those mournful acoustic patterns, listen to the vocal overlays, and tell me you don't hear the echoes of 'Brain Damage' in this composition. And the other "soft" tune, 'All At Sea', for some reason reminds me of a mediocre George Harrison ballad or something like that. Now these are nothing but assorted oddball associations, mind you, but the fact remains that way too often, instead of just feeling glad all over and thinking "hey, cool tune", I go scratching my head and thinking "now wait a minute, this one's sorta familiar". And I don't like that kind of development, because, while it sure is fun to pick out quotations, allusions, and subconscious rip-offs, and double fun for somebody with a structuralist kind of mentality, it's hardly good from an emotional point of view. Get it?

Yet, like I said, this mix of influences also salvages the album because at least it has some diversity. There's a fast bluesy rave-up on here, too ('Smile Boy Smile'), as well as a tune driven by a riff so simple and stupid it was later picked up by a zillion early age computer games operating on the PC speaker bleep ('Dish It Up'), and... eh... well, isn't that enough for a late-period album by a first-rate, but derivative hard rock band? What else do you want? 'Here We Go Round The Mulberry Tree'?

So let's just discuss one song on here, the best one, the album opener 'Melt The Ice Away'. It's fast and energetic, the fastest tune on here, and at the same time distinguished by (first totally unexpected, then simply curious) stops-and-starts, a finger-flashing solo from Tony, and, overall, a somewhat unpredictable and daring structure, unlike most of the other tunes. It's probably the only song that's gonna really stay with you once all the others have gone away. Which brings me to the point - why all the slowness? I'm not saying every single friggin' hard rocker has to be fast, but quite often, speed is, if not the key to success, then just a very important ingredient of it. If anything, making your song speedy gives you the necessary impulse to sharpen the potentially smooth edges - no wonder a band like Foreigner never ever made a truly speedy song in their career. Of course, you don't need to end up like Slayer, but I'm not asking to overdo it. All we are saying is give speed a chance!

Overall, I guess if you're less loaded with classic rock baggage than I am, you'll like Impeckable just fine. I sort of like it too, but mainly because I'm a nice guy and I like everything that I don't dislike, if you get my meaning. However, apart from the opening song maybe, there's nothing on it that would live up to the coolness of the combination of its title and its album cover. The day you find a wilder looking black cat on an album cover, lemme know. I'm a sucker for wild-looking black cats.



Year Of Release: 1980
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 8

Not quite as hopeless as they would have you believe, but why did they have to rewrite the same few songs over and over?


Track listing: 1) Forearm Smash; 2) Hellbender; 3) Heavy Revolution; 4) Gunslinger; 5) Power Supply; 6) Secrets In My Head; 7) Time To Remember; 8) Crime Against The World.

Most people who had the misfortune to hear this record basically state "this is fuckin' horrible" and leave it at that, but I frankly believe there's room for more rock-culture-related observations here. It all begins with the fact that, obviously, this is no longer "Budgie" at all. "Budgie" was very much a Shelley/Bourge collaboration (okay, let's leave the drummer out of it); and it was Bourge, not Shelley, who was responsible for all those ultra-cool riffs on their best albums. With Bourge gone and a certain guy called John Thomas replacing him, it's as if the Rolling Stones were still making music as the Rolling Stones without Keith Richards, or the Who making music as the Who without both Keith Moon and John Entwistle (Hey now, wait a minute...).

This John Thomas guy now, he's competent, I daresay, but he brings in a whole new direction. And the idea per se ain't half bad: Budgie cease to be a Seventies heavy metal band and proudly announce that now they are, in fact, an Eighties metal band. If you hate Eighties' metal, that should be enough for you; if you do not, this could theoretically be enticing. Basically they're a bit too unpretentious to model themselves after Iron Maiden (not to mention that Iron Maiden's debut had only barely come out in 1980), so they model themselves after Judas Priest instead. Well, so what? Judas Priest were a pretty good band. In 1980, they released British Steel which is easily one of the best Eighties' metal releases I've ever heard. As for potential complaints about how Budgie were just jumping on the bandwagon etc. etc., well lemme tellya: Budgie had been jumping on the bandwagon since nineteen seventy, when their very first song on their very first album openly emulated the Sabbath sound.

In fact, this could have been a grand big move for the band: very few Seventies' metal bands (actually, none that I know of) have managed this transition - from the classic Seventies' metal sound to the "New Wave of Heavy Metal" thing. Most of them just either fizzled away or became locked in the old groove forever - in the process losing their edge, their grip, and their golden gun. One thing you can't deny about Power Supply, then, is that it rocks: loud guitars, fast or near-fast tempos, and really not an ounce more of pure commercialism than there ever was before. And just one little ballad out of eight songs, and nowhere near a generic power one, either. So here's the formula for mid-age success, right?

Nope. Not even close. There are several crucial obstacles that turn victory into embarrassment - in the long run. First of all, where Shelley's voice and persona was at one time an asset, here it becomes a nightmare. He's just not a screamer, and when a non-screamer tries to impersonate a screamer, well, you know what happens. Non-screaming screamer = "hoarse whiner" (not to be confused with "horse weiner" - the two notions are compatible only in a metaphorical sense), and that's exactly what Shelley is on here. Too bad. Not that he sings offkey or anything, and at least he's not exactly pulling a Dave Coverdale, but he's no Rob Halford, either.

The second important obstacle is that John Thomas is a talentless moron. [Okay, here goes my promise not to make any personal insults at musicians. But what can I do? Some things are stronger than me.] Well, okay, not exactly talentless. He's a good soloist - check out the second guitar solo on 'Forearm Smash' and witness the half-intuitive, half-objective fact that the man doesn't merely wank all over the fretboard, but actually has a sense of direction and development. These "whistling" notes he makes are really cool in a nearly unique way. But a good solo is merely a complement anyway, unless you're Eric Clapton, and as far as riffage goes, Mr Thomas is nearly worthless. Sure thing, the riff of 'Forearm Smash' ain't half bad, but when it gets recycled, with minor variations, for the title track, it loses half of its charm, and that charm was never that great in the first place.

The best riff on the record is probably the one that drives 'Heavy Revolution', which could definitely be a big success in the hands of Judas Priest. Only Judas Priest would have made the guitar more crunchy, the vocals would be more upfront and venomously aggressive, and the mix would be far less muddy. Anyway, if this record only contained 'Forearm Smash' and 'Heavy Revolution', I would have been mildly pleased with the resulting single. But let's look at all the other stuff that drags it down, shall we? 'Hellbender' and 'Secrets In My Head' is pretty much the same song, and it's based on a riff more or less stolen from Deep Purple's 'Stormbringer'. Don't tell me it ain't so. That's a pretty obvious chord sequence, too, and where Ritchie Blackmore could at least make it attractive by pumping a good ounce of his thunderstorm soul into it, no guy called John Thomas can do likewise. (Also, cf. the titles: 'Hellbender' == 'Stormbringer'!!).

'Crime Against The World' is even more stupid. Remember that crackin', jagged intro to AC/DC's 'Shoot To Thrill'? Looks like the boys took it, slightly slowed it down, and turned it into the basis for this song, which goes for five and a half minutes and does nothing else but repeat this lameass riff. Leave this stuff to Foreigner. Which leaves us with the innocent, but useless piece of generic boogie ('Gunslinger' - at least it has an acoustic intro to diversify the proceedings), and the already mentioned ballad 'Time To Remember', which sounds like a really cruel, really clueless re-write of Pink Floyd's 'Us And Them' with the engineer taking the "make every word of the song resonate several times" command way too literally (any true lyrics sheet for this one should definitely go: 'Time, time, time, time, time, time, to remember, remember, remember, remember, remember, I, I, I, I, I, I, can't remember, remember, remember, remember, remember').

There you go now. The album gets a pretty high overall rating, still, because taken together, it doesn't sound nearly as hopeless. I'm not saying I vomited at it or anything - there's simply no need to put it on again. Ever. As far as I know, though, some editions of it tack the contemporary EP called something like If Swallowed, Does Not Induce Vomiting (a really tasteless title considering John Bonham's death that same year, unless, of course, it came out before his death, which I doubt - can there really be such coincidences), and the usual consensus is that that EP is about the best thing the "new-look Budgie" ever released, so maybe you'll be curious. I certainly won't.



Year Of Release: 1981
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9

The pop stylings keep the disc from being a complete loser, but even so, there's no way of recapturing the glory of past.


Track listing: 1) I Turned To Stone; 2) Keeping A Rendezvous; 3) Reaper Of The Glory; 4) She Used Me Up; 5) Don't Lay Down And Die; 6) Apparatus; 7) Superstar; 8) Change Your Ways; 9) Untitled Lullaby.

Nightflight and Power Supply are usually dismissed together in one sentence, and this is understandable - what kind of a dork would want to waste two sentences on Eighties Budgie anyway? - but not completely forgivable, because they are, in fact, rather different. Actually, where Power Supply is but a miserable attempt to catch up with the New Wave of heavy metal and hardly anything else, the scope of Nightflight is significantly broader. It is an improvement, in nearly every direction, even in the technical department: the guitar solos are almost universally better, and Shelley wisely masquerades his voice with reverb, overdubbing, and echo on many of the songs so that it really only sounds whiny where it should be sounding whiny (e.g. the ballads).

On the songwriting front, then, Budgie's pop tendencies unexpectedly come forward and take the form of catchy choruses and sometimes almost happy-sounding singalong verse melodies. Not all of them are good, but there's enough to at least acknowledge Nightflight for the "attempt at getting better" that it actually is. So yeah, sure, the album does begin with 'I Turned To Stone', which I have a mixed feeling about: part of me wants to scream out loud it's their worst ever power ballad, and another part grudgingly agrees that it's memorable and that the guitar solos really rock, especially the second one after the false ending, and that it's not so much of a power ballad as a half-assed attempt at a mini-prog epic. In any case, both of my parts agree that once the song passes the four-minute mark, it's undeniably good. That John Thomas guy really revved up the amps for that one. You might call that solo nothing more than cheesy finger-flashing, but I like cheesy finger-flashing when it is actually used for spelling out melodic phrases (like on Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Freebird'), and that more than redeems the coda.

However, already the second song makes me humbly suggest that late period Budgie are slightly underrated. 'Keeping A Rendezvous' is an unpretentious mid-tempo boogie that, stylistically, sounds fit for Bad Company and Foreigner, but is much more involving melodically than the average offering from any of these two bands. (Oh, actually, Shelley's vocals on that song mostly remind me of James Dewar from the Robin Trower band - funny, isn't it?). Add another melodic and way interesting solo, and you got yourself a nice little rocker that shouldn't, by any means, be badmouthed. Another one of those pop rockers that I really favour is 'Superstar', with a bouncy danceable riff and a vocal melody that's more punk than metal, to tell you the truth - it actually sounds exactly like the vocal melody on Wire's 'Mannequin', if you can believe that. Cheesy? Insubstantial? Maybe. Not that I care. All I care about is I do actually remember the song once it's over, and have quite a bit of fun while it's on. And so, I guess, will you, once you discard all the presumptions and superstitions. In fact, I'm still humming that riff to me poor self now. Uh. Er-hrm. 'Scuse me.

Further good things to tell you would probably include the fact that 'Apparatus' sounds like a... like a.... well, like a half-decent folksy acoustic effort that never goes beyond "cute" but at least does not switch to Sir Power Chord halfway through. And the album closing "optimistic" track, 'Change Your Ways', has nothing to do with cheesy metal anyway: it's a pure power-pop song with a catchy refrain. In such a context, the few remaining Judas Priest-style rockers don't even feel like they're choking up the record. Were all the record stuffed with songs like 'She Used Me Up', it would be a different story; but there's only two or three of them, and featuring riffs that actually register on my scale, even if that would be somewhere around the lower grades.

In short, Nightflight was a pleasant surprise - a couple really good songs, a large chunk of material that doesn't go anywhere in particular but doesn't offend either, and just one major obstacle in the form of 'I Turned To Stone', which, if you axe me, sure was a crappy way to initiate a record: I'd bet you half of Bill Gates' fortune most critics never made it past that one opener and judged the record through the 'chugga-chugga-chugga' of its refrain, which is not typical for the album. And I'd bet you all of his fortune none of them ever made it to the very end, where you have a very nice minute-long acoustic melody ('Untitled Lullaby') that makes a luvverly coda without an ounce of pomposity.

The funniest thing is that, if liner notes are to be believed, this total lack of critical respect didn't exactly register with the public - Nightflight actually charted! Oh, merely a lousy No. 68 on the UK charts, with the single 'Keeping A Rendezvous' (nice job! releasing the best song indeed as a single!) climbing to No. 71, but considering they rarely scaled these heights even in their prime, this must have been a real surprise to the band. Of course, it might have been due to somebody like Judas Priest or any other popular metal band namechecking them in an interview, but I seriously doubt it. 'Keeping A Rendezvous', in particular, really does have commercial potential, and hey, Nightflight really doesn't sound like a product of washed-up has-beens. It's quite self-confident, apart from those cases, of course, where Shelley forgets to put some echo on his vocals.

The worst thing about it, I guess, is their taste for album covers, which has pretty much gone down the drain with the Eighties. It's the usual routine for metal bands here: one logotype, one image-type. At least they don't have rotten zombies dripping with blood or anything like that.



Year Of Release: 1982
Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 7

Well, nothing lasts forever. Can we just say 'amen' now?

Best song: DON'T CRY

Track listing: 1) Bored With Russia; 2) Don't Cry; 3) Truth Drug; 4) Young Girl; 5) Flowers In The Attic; 6) N.O.R.A.D.; 7) Give Me The Truth; 8) Alison; 9) Finger On The Button; 10) Hold On To Love.

Bad, bad boys. One thing Budgie never really felt uncomfortable without throughout an entire decade of their recorded existence was a fourth member, particularly not a fourth member who'd come on board with the exclusive aim of playing cheesy synthesizers. I mean, at least if they really needed the keyboards so bad, couldn't they have - sniff sniff - uploaded them onto a couple of songs themselves and leave it at that? As it is, new band member Duncan Mackay has to prove his utter, crucial importance for the band and splatter his synthy hogwash, of the most generic type imaginable, on every single fuckin' number. I admit he's not particularly bad at placing his little fingers on his little keys, but the sounds that his little fingers suck out of his little keys inevitably place this album in the same garbage bin with all the cheese metal albums of the Eighties, starting with late period Rainbow and ending with whatever there is (fortunately, I haven't had to spend a lot of time absorbing this miserable glossy genre as of yet, but be warned, I do have the entire Def Leppard collection!).

Any-friggin'-way: the last Budgie album isn't very good. In fact, it's downright atrocious, despite the surprising fact that Shelley and Co. are still in possession of a bunch of nice songwriting ideas. But this ain't even the level of Power Supply, let alone Nightflight. The pompous, stupid keyboards drag all the life out of these songs, and even apart from the keyboards, the production is so flat and sterile I can't even say these songs rock, you know. This is a totally inoffensive record: the guitars are thick and distorted, but they're so muddy and glossy I can only call this "housewife quality" muzak anyway. Add to this at least a couple of numbers that classic-era Budgie members wouldn't probably touch with a hundred-foot pole, and you're all set. When I hear Burke Shelley yelling out 'YOUNG GIRL! NEEDING SOME AFFECTION! YOUNG GIRL! TIRED OF REJECTION!', it truly makes me sad. At least if there'd been an ironic flavour to these lyrics and vocal intonations, if he'd developed a, I dunno, David Lee Roth kind of persona or something, I could have understood that. But I definitely cannot identify with young girls, tired of rejection. Not when their personal problems are related to me from such an angle, at least. Give me, say, Phil Lynott over this any time of day.

That fool of a keyboard player also seems to pull a Rick Wakeman or something from time to time. Maybe his ambition was to make the forgettable power ballad 'Flowers In The Attic' into a prog-metal epic to make 'Stairway To Heaven' bow its head in shame, but you don't make prog-metal epics with such a shitty synthesizer tone, not to mention you have to give your solo at least some identity, not make it just blend together with the zero-saying rhythm guitar. Or at least give the Thomas guy another chance to prove himself, like on Nightflight. But no, the moderately talented guy with the guitar will stay in the background and the pompous ass with the keyboard will take the spotlight. Where have we already seen that? Oh yeah, Genesis. Tee hee. [Sorry 'bout that. No personal insults!].

Besides, they sort of address me with a personal insult. 'Bored With Russia'? What kind of a title is that? You're supposed to be bored with the USA, not with Russia! Oh, I do suppose this is really some sort of anti-Cold War statement, but truth is, it's actually a rather mediocre power-pop song with a rather mediocre, but slightly catchy pop chorus, always marred by evil synths. So the correct answer is: if you're bored with Russia, then I'm bored with this album. Starting from the very first track. So there.

I do count around three good songs on here, though. The pop rocker 'Don't Cry' (well, I guess I should omit the 'pop' from now on because pretty much everything here is very much pop) moves along at a nice pace and sort of catches my eye, besides, Mackay adds some nice organ swirls and goes so ridiculously over the top with his finger-flashing Jon Lord-isms I don't even notice the ugly tone of the synth (which is still there, of course). 'Truth Drug' is a half-passable Judas Priest imitation that could have been a highlight on Nightflight and a decent inclusion on Power Supply, but here seriously suffers from the album's general problems - which doesn't prevent Thomas from turning in his best solo on the album, at least. 'Alison' (nothing to do with the Elvis Costello classic) is, strangely enough, a passable ballad that's rather humble, acoustic and mildly touching in the old Budgie vein - even if it is still spoiled by the keyboards, particularly in the dispensable bridge part. And in a much, much better world a good producer and a bunch of good musicians could have arranged 'Finger On The Button' so as to turn it into a hit for the ages, but then again, this wouldn't be Budgie anymore, would it?

Yet even the good or decent songs can't save the album from collapsing under the weight of primitive, obnoxiously "commercial" stinkers like 'Young Girl' or one of the worst songs ever recorded by anybody, the album closer 'Hold On To Love'. For some reason, that one reminds me of KISS in their disco era, which is hardly a good sign. One thing I never used to do was to associate Budgie with cheap, cheesy, synth-drenched metallic "universal anthems" with banal lyrics and exaggerated inflated vocal intonations. We already have 'See Me Feel Me', and if it were up to me, I'd prohibit any more writing in that genre. You can't beat the song anyway, and it's impossible to write anything better than it (in the same genre, of course), so there you have it. Good basis for some legislative action. At the very least, we can pretend this Budgie song never existed in the first place, much less actually was their farewell song.

It's a pity, actually, that the band never made another album. They dragged on for five more years, taking - every now and then - a chance to tour, and I'm pretty sure that with a little effort (especially if they'd had enough sense to kick out the crappy keyboard guy), they could have made a real swan song. It's a little sad when you have to end reviewing a band's catalog with their worst album ever, but, well, at least that wouldn't be the first time I've done so.


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