budgie

REVIEW: Budgie – Budgie (remastered)

scan_20170211BUDGIE – Budgie (originally 1971, 2004 Noteworthy Productions reissue)

In the early 1970’s, a new young band was rumbling out of Europe with a fresh, sludgy heavy rock sound.  With a debut album produced by Rodger Bain under their belts, they peddled that new style of music often called “heavy metal”, known for its loud distorted guitars and long-haired musicians.

Black Sabbath?  Not this time.  Let’s not forget Cardiff’s own Budgie.

Budgie’s 1971 self-titled debut album demonstrates that the band had already found their own niche.  Lead throat Burke Shelley had the looks and the voice of a young Geddy Lee, but three full years before Rush’s first album in 1974.  They had obvious Sabbathy elements, but without the doom and evil overtones.  They wrote long, groove oriented songs unlike anything Ozzy & co. were writing.  Shelley’s lyrics and song titles ran from unusual to bizarre.  The opener “Guts” is a great example of the strangeness and groove coming together in one addictive sludgy confection.

Budgie were also known for soft acoustic interludes.  “Everything in My Heart” is one, clocking in at less than a minute.  (According to the liner notes, Shelley recalls he wrote this for some girl he liked.)  This acts as a sort of prelude to “The Author” which combines the quiet side with the sludge.  The droning heavy riffage, switching lanes with softer sections, make for a pretty epic Budgie track.  As a power trio, Shelley’s bass becomes the deliverer of many hooks.  However on “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” the bass joins forces with Tony Bourge’s distorted axe to build a wall of riff.  Both the album and single versions are included on the 2004 deluxe CD edition.  One is over twice as long as the other!  The album cut contains a long Purple-like instrumental section.

“Rape of the Locks” (a satire about a hair cut, get it?) commences with a very Blackmore guitar freakout.  The riffs are more Sabbath, while its jammy aspects remind of the first album by the Scorpions.  Burke Shelley continues the groove on “All Night Petrol”, both punishing and catchy.  “You and I” is another acoustic interlude, 1:42 of Burke trying to be lovey-dovey.  It acts as a reset before the final onslaught:  “Homicidal Suicidal”.  Soundgarden covered this one in 1991 on an obscure B-side.  Perhaps it is the definitive example of the early Budgie sound.  Almost seven minutes of heavy Budgie, drums hammering at the walls while Burke rumbles the foundation.  Meanwhile there’s Tony Bourge with the riff of riffs.

The bonus tracks on this edition are well worth seeking.  In addition to the above mentioned single edit of “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” there is its B-side “Crash Course in Brain Surgery” which Metallica covered.  This is an unreleased alternate mix of one of Budgie’s best known metal thrashers.  Finally there are 2003 re-recordings by the reformed Budgie composed of Shelley, Steve Williams and Simon Lees.  “Parachutist Woman” and “Guts” are very different from the originals, although the arrangements are pretty much the same.  It’s just a matter of different musicians and 32 years!

The Budgie remasters can be expensive to track down, but well worth it.  May as well get all the extra tracks if you’re going to hunt for some Budgie.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Budgie – The Definitive Anthology: An Ecstasy of Fumbling (1996)

BUDGIE – The Definitive Anthology: An Ecstasy of Fumbling (1996 Repertoire)

Dear young and old, far and wide:

This 2 CD compilation is an excellent starting point for digging into the monumental sound of Budgie, formerly Six Ton Budgie. (That’s a really heavy bird!) Helmed by the Geddy Lee lookalike Burke Shelley and his shifting cast of players, Budgie is a power trio and the prototype for the sound of bands as diverse as Rush, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. Formed in ’67, Budgie predate them all.

Want some proto-Sabbath sludge? It’s here. AC/DC-type fast riff rockers with simple beats? Also here. Songs driven by catchy, eloquent basslines? Look no further. Metallic gallops? These guys were doing it while Steve Harris was still struggling away in Gypsy’s Kiss! Everything good that happened with heavy metal had already been done by Budgie before those sounds hit the mainstream. All with a singer who could have been Geddy Lee’s long lost brother (and look at those glasses too)!

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This album includes some of the best tracks from their albums 1971-1982. It also includes B-sides, single versions, and EP tracks. Burke Shelley stopped gigging with Budgie in the late 80’s but returned with some serious thunder and a 2006 comeback album. This stuff, however, is some of the creme de la creme of the initial phase of Budgie.

Highlights for me included:

  • “Homicidal Suicidal” – a 6 minute exercise in bass-driven groove.
  • “Whiskey River” – a shorty; killer bassline, catchy as hell.
  • “In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter’s Hand” – another one with a catchy as hell bassline.
  • “Breadfan” – you already know Metallica’s version of this proto-thrash number.
  • “Beautiful Lies” – rare, synth-driven ballad.  Previously unreleased.
  • “Forearm Smash” – fast heavy AC/DC style rocker.
  • “Wildfire” – very much like Maiden’s “2 Minutes To Midnight” riff.
  • “Time To Remember” – Spacey, echoey, epic.
  • “I Turn To Stone” – the gallop at the end is pure Iron Maiden with some Blackmore type soloing.
  • “Superstar” – great fast rocker.
  • “She Used Me Up” – another one that AC/DC fans will love.
  • “Panzer Division Destroyed” – pure proto-thrash brilliance.

 

That list is very incomplete, because I think every one of these 29 songs are really good.  Some go beyond that into “great” territory, and others one step further to “fucking awesome.”

Photo0317Truly, Budgie were way ahead of their time. Chances are the kids on your street have never heard any of these songs, except when covered by Metallica and Iron Maiden. Now it’s time to prove to them who knows their rock music. Pick this, or any Budgie album, up today.  If you go with this one, you’ll also get a gigantic booklet with ample liner notes about the band and every single track.  I consider it a great stroke of luck, the day that one of my customers sold this one to me.  (His name was Dan and he’s the same guy who sold me tons of great stuff before.)  I was aware of Budgie because of Maiden and Metallica, but mostly because Martin Popoff raved about them in his first book, Riff Kills Man!  I had to have it.  I’m glad I bought it.

If I Were Britannia I’d Waive The Rules, but I would also make sure that everybody knew who Budgie was!

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Budgie – Nightflight (1981)

BUDGIE – Nightflight (1981 Active Records)

I love this album. Nightflight sounds like the kind of music I was exposed to, when I was growing in Kitchener, Ontario in the early 80’s. I was surrounded by new and exciting music, thanks to stations like MuchMusic, and friends who would let me tape their records. If I had been aware of Budgie in the 80’s, I absolutely would have been a fan.

In their early days, similarly to Thin Lizzy, Budgie started out with a prototypical sound and eventually evolved into a more metallic beast. Nightflight is Budgie’s Thunder and Lightning, perhaps. It has that vibe, and it’s awesome. Of the records I own, this is my favourite Budgie album. Burke’s voice is as nasal as ever, in the best possible way.  The band has metamorphosed into something more mainstream metal, which still sounding like classic Budgie.  That anchoring bass, the unstoppable grooves, and the simple and smoking solos: it’s still there.

The opening track “I Turned To Stone” is a major highlight. It takes balls to open an album with a song this soft, but eventually the ballad-like tune transforms into an Iron Maiden-gallup with this killer off-kilter guitar solo.  “Keeping a Rendezvous” is more accessible; Budgie plundering hard rock with equal success.  The organ-infested “Reaper of the Glory” is a brief step back in quality.  It lacks the memorable melodies of the first two songs.

“She Used Me Up” kicks ass with a steady AC/DC beat and a choppy Priest-ly riff (circa Point of Entry).  “Don’t Lay Down and Die” continues this overall direction.  You can hear the organ once again, and the guitar solo is catchy as hell.  It is very much in an 80’s metal mold.

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My favourite track is “Apparatus”.  The lyrics are pretty strange, but this ballad is irresistible.  Burke’s earnest lead vocal is high pitched nasal perfection.  But if you didn’t like “Apparatus”, that’s OK because “Superstar” is likely to blow you away.  Budgie again stray into AC/DC territory.  This song anticipates Blow Up Your Video by several years.  Steve Williams keeps it simple on the drums and that’s what makes it cool.

The mid-tempo and melodic “Change Your Ways” is just as likable.  You’ll dig the gang-of-Burke lead vocal technique on the verses.  You have to admire a singer who has his own voice, and doesn’t resemble anyone else.  It’s easy to compare Burke to Geddy Lee, but that’s really not doing it justice.  Both singers have their own techniques.  Burke is more soulful.

“Untitled Lullaby” is pretty much what it sounds like it would be.  It’s one of Burke’s acoustic ditties, only 1:16 so really it’s just a coda.  It’s lovely and it ends the album on an upbeat note.  Nightflight is a short but enjoyable ride.

Upon review, I found seven of Nightflight‘s nine tracks to be indispensable to me.  Based on that math and rounding up:

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – “One” (Japanese 5 track single)

It’s the end of the Week of Singles 3!  Since it’s Friday I have to leave you with something a little more special.  If you missed any of this week’s singles or EPs, click below!

METALLICA – “One” (1989 Sony Japan 5 track single)

While there is no doubt that this single is indeed rare, when T-Rev and I shared an apartment together in the late 90’s, we both owned a copy.  We figured we must have had the only living room in the country with two Japanese copies of the “One” single by Metallica.  I believe both of us acquired our copies via the record store.  (Unfortunately, neither of us had the obi strip.)

Along with the full 7 1/2 minute version of “One”, this single presents Metallica’s excellent cover of Budgie’s “Breadfan”.  Metallica’s take, which emphasizes the heavy parts, is awesome.  It was “Breadfan” that inspired me to check out Budgie, and then discover yet another one of my favourite bands.  “Breadfan” was always a monster; Metallica simply turned it up.  It is a song that they were born to cover anyway.  The unusual thing is that “Breadfan” is one of Budgie’s most notably bass-heavy tracks (from a bass-heavy band anyway), but Metallica’s cover comes from Metallica’s least bass-y period.  I’m sure Newsted must be digging in deep to play those Burke Shelley bass rolls, but you can’t hear him clearly enough.

Next are two live bonus tracks:  “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” from Dallas, Texas, February 5 1989.  (The 7″ and 12″ singles contained different live tracks:  “Seek & Destroy” and “Creeping Death” respectively.)  I think this period of live Metallica is among their best.  Hetfield’s voice had filled out to max out on the menacing scale.  Newsted was an able replacement for the late Cliff Burton, and I enjoyed his backing growls on “Sanitarium”.

Last and rarest is the original demo version of “One”.  It was recorded to four-track tape:  drums, James’ guitar, vocals, Kirk’s guitar.  That’s right – because it’s only four tracks, there’s no bass!  (Insert jokes about the …And Justice For All album right here: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .)  This demo was recorded in November 1987, and unlike many Metallica demos, this one has lyrics.  “One” was a fully-formed song in the demo stage, with only a couple parts unfinished.  It’s remarkable and I’m sure Metallica had no idea in 1987 that what they were writing was going to become a rock classic.  As confident as they probably were, I’m sure nobody in Metallica said, “In 25 years we’ll be playing this at the Grammy awards.”  Yet it’s all there; 95% of the very song that would be played at the 2014 Grammys, with Chinese pianist Lang Lang.

This is a great little treasure and I’m sure “one” day (stinky pun) I’ll add the 7″ and 12″ singles to my collection to get the other two live tracks.

5/5 stars ONE_0003

Sausagefest XII: The Complete Countdown!

There were some pretty awesome picks this year.  I have to give Scottie props for “Coming Home” by Iron Maiden, from the excellent Final Frontier album.  I found some things a bit surprising, such as the overplayed-on-radio “Black Betty” by Ram Jam, placing so high.

“Thick As A Brick” was the live version, so just over 10 minutes.  Other long bombers included all of “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis, which resulted in a tirade by Phil for just as long, about how much he thinks it sucks!  (And he’s an old-school Marillion fan…surprising.)  And of course there were several Maiden tunes that clock in well over 5 minutes.

For your edification, here is the official Sausagefest XII Countdown:  75 tracks, plus 35 tributes.  One tribute for each person that submitted a list!  110 songs over one weekend!  Awesome.

1 Toronto Tontos Max Webster
2 Long Cool Woman in a Red Dress The Hollies
3 The Grudge Tool
4 Rooster Alice in Chains
5 Supper’s Ready Genesis
6 Papa Was a Rolling Stone The Temptations
7 Mississippi Queen Mountain
8 Black Betty Ram Jam
9 Locomotive Breath Jethro Tull
10 I’m Your Captain Grand Funk Railroad
11 Wasted Years Iron Maiden
12 Low Hanging Fruit Tenacious D
13 Green Eyed Lady Sugarloaf
14 Hey Joe Jimi Hendrix
15 Headlong Flight Rush
16 Roadhouse Blues The Doors
17 Thick as a Brick Jethro Tull
18 Powerslave Iron Maiden
19 Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
20 Trapped Under Ice Metallica
21 Nautical Disaster Tragically Hip
22 No Quarter Led Zeppelin
23 Mr. Blue Sky Electric Light Orchestra
24 The Wizard Black Sabbath
25 Mama Told Me Not To Come Three Dog Night
26 Blackened Metallica
27 Jungle Boogie Kool and the Gang
28 Telegraph Road Dire Straits
29 Sanitarium Metallica
30 Renegade Styx
31 Eulogy of the Damned Orange Goblin
32 Throw Down the Sword Wishbone Ash
33 Electric Worry Clutch
34 The Alabama Song The Doors
35 Rise of the Fenix Tenacious D
36 Livin Thing Electric Light Orchestra
37 The Shape I’m In The Band
38 Mother Danzig
39 The Chain Fleetwood Mac
40 No One Knows Queens of the Stone Age
41 Die Young Black Sabbath
42 Bang Bang Terry Reid
43 Caught Somewhere in Time Iron Maiden
44 Buried Alive Avenged Sevenfold
45 Dream Police Cheap Trick
46 Would Alice in Chains
47 Don’t Fear the Reaper Blue Oyster Cult
48 Zero the Hero Black Sabbath
49 Pool of Booze Volbeat
50 Parabola Tool
51 Why Cant We Be Friends? War
52 Rock and Roll Led Zeppelin
53 While My Guitar Gently Weeps The Beatles
54 Breadfan Budgie
55 Strutter KISS
56 Holy Wars Megadeth
57 Old Man Neil Young
58 Southern Man Neil Young
59 The Pusher Steppenwolf
60 Tempus Fugit Yes
61 Fight Fire With Fire Metallica
62 Kielbasa Tenacious D
63 Green Onions Booker T and the MG’s
64 Weird Beard Fu Manchu
65 Tonight’s the Night Neil Young
66 BYOB System of a Down
67 The Zoo Scorpions
68 As the Years Go By Mashmakhan
69 Toxicity System of a Down
70 Deuce KISS
71 Space Truckin’ Deep Purple
72 South of Heaven Slayer
73 Rocky Mountain Way Joe Walsh
74 Roadie Tenacious D
75 Rock and Roll Motorhead
TRIBUTES
TOM Earache My Eye Cheech and Chong
ERIC Rosanna Toto
BUCKY A Day in the Life WAR
LAMB LORD The Wizard Uriah Heep
LEBRAIN Well You Needn`t Herbie Hancock Quartet
TROY Caught Up in You .38 Special
ERNIE Apocrophon The Sword
SCOTTIE Coming Home Iron Maiden
RYAN Still Counting VolBeat
SEB Demiurge Meshuggah
PHIL Under Black Flags We March Arch Enemy
CHUCK New Fang Them Crooked Vultures
TYLER G. Come on in my Kitchen Robert Johnson
C Time After Time Savage Steel
CHAD She`s a Rainbow The Rolling Stones
DR DAVE Ogre Battle Queen
LOGAN Cowboys From Hell Pantera
GRANT Around the World Red Hot Chili Peppers
WAYNE Inside Looking Out Grand Funk Railroad
CAM Red Hot Mama Funkadelic
AARON High Caliber Consecrator Clutch
JOHN B. I Stay Away Alice in Chains
TAL Dear God XTC
LAMB LAD Kick Out the Jams MC5
ALEX Chicken Strut The Meters
TREVER Volare Dean Martin
FRANK Whiskey in the Jar Metallica
JAGGER Frozen Love Buckingham/Nicks
MARK E. Are You Mine? The Arctic Monkeys
JON K. Stone Deaf Forever Motorhead/Metallica
TYLER W. We Are All on Drugs Weezer
MARK S. People are Strange The Doors
JUSTIN Monsters Blue Oyster Cult
MIKE Monarchy of Roses Red Hot Chili Peppers

The official video

Sausagefest XII: MY top 20 picks

SAM_2878Most of the stuff I picked this year was too obscure.  Stuff like “The Cut Runs Deep” by Deep Purple.  “The Hockey Theme” by Neil Peart.  “Wall of Sound” by Kiss.

I did however vote for the Countdown’s #1 song, “Toronto Tontos” by Max Webster.  It was 33rd on my list, but six people also picked it, putting it at the #1 spot on Saturday night.

Four picks from my top 20 made the countdown:  “Die Young”, “Zero the Hero”, “Caught Somewhere in Time”, and “Breadfan”!

So, here were my top 20 picks.  Tomorrow, I will post the entire Countdown!  Stay tuned…

1 HERBIE HANCOCK WELL YOU NEEDN’T
2 IRON MAIDEN FOR THE GREATER GOOD OF GOD
3 BLACK SABBATH DIE YOUNG
4 KISS BLACK DIAMOND
5 QUEEN IT’S LATE
6 UFO LOVE TO LOVE
7 ALICE COOPER BALLAD OF DWIGHT FRY
8 JOHNNY CASH DON’T TAKE YOUR GUNS TO TOWN
9 TED NUGENT GREAT WHITE BUFFALO
10 QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE IF ONLY
11 THE WHO A QUICK ONE
12 BRANT BJORK CHICO
13 JUDAS PRIEST THE RIPPER
14 IRON MAIDEN CAUGHT SOMEWHERE IN TIME
15 BLACK SABBATH ZERO THE HERO
16 FAITH NO MORE SURPRISE YOU’RE DEAD
17 FAITH NO MORE LAND OF SUNSHINE
18 FAITH NO MORE EVIDENCE
19 BUDGIE WHISKEY RIVER
20 BUDGIE BREADFAN

The official video

WTF SEARCH TERMS: Pol Rodgers Edition

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WTF SEARCH TERMS III:  Pol Rodgers Edition

WTF Search Terms is a new feature here at LeBrain’s, where I reveal some amusing words that people typed into search engines, ending up at my site.  Today I’ve gathered 10 of the funnier Rock-related search terms!  If you missed the last one, click here.

10.  “show me all of iron maidens art dra”  “Show me”?  Pfft.  Show me your dra first.

9. “pol rodgers fire and waters”  He  knew how to spell Rodgers, but not Paul.

8.  “band acting like a puppet”  My best guess is Supergrass.

7. “jonbonjovi phoyoes never seen”  If you’ve never seen it, neither have I.

6. “where was montly crew attacted in saskatchewan”  He spelled Saskatchewan right.

5. “deep purple songs about nature appreciation”  This thought had not crossed my mind once before now.

4. “when will def leppard be on itunes”  Perhaps the answer is, like my old Psych 301 prof used to say, “On the 12th of Never.”

3. “why does burke shelley sound like a woman”  Maybe because his last name is Shelley, huh-huh, huh-huh.

2. “paul di anno teh beast”  Teh.

1. “does sebastian bach really like model trains”  Yes, him and Sheldon Cooper!

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Powerslave (1983, 1996 bonus CD)

Part 7 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Powerslave (1983, 1996 bonus CD)

Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave?

I don’t wanna die, I’m a god, why can’t I live on?

How much did I love Powerslave, especially after taking Ancient Egypt in highschool?  Finally I knew what the Eye of Horus was, and what the hell the lyrics were about!  When I was growing up and first getting into Maiden, Powerslave was the current album.  The neighbor kid had it.  We literally stared at that album cover for hours.

Derek Riggs outdid himself on the artwork this time, really outdid himself.  The Egyptian theme of the artwork allowed him to weave all sorts of hidden messages into the hyroglyphs.  I don’t have the LP, but I could swear that somewhere on the cover (front or back) it says “Indiana Jones was here”!

I taped the album from that neighbor, unfortunately on one of the worst sounding Scotch blanks I ever heard.  It was unlistenable.  Then my dad bought me the tape from the local music store, but even it sounded terrible — warbly.  I found that many Capitol Records releases in the mid-80’s in Canada had awful cassette quality.  From my Maidens to my Helix, they were mostly unplayable.

It was a long while before I got a listenable version of the album.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks — holy crap, this is GOOD!

“Aces High” and “2 Minutes To Midnight” are the two singles, and of course they lead the album.  I only wish “Churchill’s Speech” was included as it was in the “Aces High” video!  As kids we always preferred “Aces High”.  It combines the manic speed of early Maiden, with the anthemic Dickinson choruses.  Just great.

“Aces High” was yet another song that my dad didn’t mind me listening to out loud, since it was about one his favourite historical subjects:  the Battle of Britain.

“2 Minutes”, a reference to the Doomsday Clock,was a Dickinson/Smith composition.  At 6 minutes long, it wasn’t an obvious single.   Vocally, it’s a lot less catchy than “Aces High”.  Bruce doesn’t so much sing a melody as he does spit the words out like a furious machine gun!  Musically, the riff seems lifted directly from later Budgie, and early Diamond Head.  See if you can spot it.

Up next is an instrumental, the first since Killers!   “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)” is really the only weak song on the album.  As an instrumental, it’s not as exciting as something like “The Ides of March”.  The riff is rather simple and it sounds like an unfinished song, like Bruce didn’t show up that day or something.  The guitar playing (well, all the playing) is of course stellar, there’s always that!

Then comes “Flash of the Blade”, a fucking awesome track, and one of my favourites.  I remember trying to learn that riff as a kid, as it’s catchy but uncomplicated.  This one’s penned by Dickinson alone, and is about…of course…fencing.  Like Steve Harris was on the exact same wavelength, his song, “The Duelists” is up next.  Yet another song incorporating fencing, this one was my personal pick for a third single.  I remember even drawing my own cover art, with Eddie dueling the Devil!   The middle section is an intricate dance of delicate guitars, you can almost picture the men parrying and feinting.

And that ended side one.  Side two opened with “Back In The Village”.  This would be the only other song beside “Losfer Words” that doesn’t make my road tapes.  Another Smith/Dickinson song, it’s got a cool signiture Adrian riff, but up against the rest of these songs, it just doesn’t stand out to me.

But “Powerslave” does!  This is another solo Bruce writing credit, and a powerful song it is!  Bruce metalizes Ancient Egypt with that cool riff, and his lyrics are a labyrinth of Egyptian mythology.  Very cool.  The best part of the song however is the middle section.  The song slows down at roughly 3 minutes, and there’s some pretty amazing soloing (sounds like Dave).  Then things pick up at 3:52, and Adrian plays my favourite Iron Maiden guitar solo of all time!  (Of all time, Kanye!)  Damn I love that solo!  I always have, even when all I had were those crappy cassettes.  And as if that wasn’t enough, then there’s a harmony part with Dave and Adrian together, and then Dave’s off on another amazing solo of his own!

(For the record:  if there was a second favourite Maiden guitar solo for me, it’s “The Wicker Man”, also performed by Adrian.)

Before you know it, we are at the end.  But not quite, for the final song on Powerslave is 14 minutes long!  “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”, based of course on Coleridge, is the latest and perhaps the greatest so far of Steve’s epics.  I don’t know if I want to even think about ranking his epics anymore, but “Rime” is certainly a favourite.  That opening riff alone would have made a song on its own.  But this is a complex song, and it twists and turns and goes through all sorts of different adventures before we’re done.  As kids I remember were all blown away that this whole song was written by just one guy!

Talking about “Rime” in words is tough.  Lyrically I loved it.  Suddenly I understood Coleridge, and it wasn’t at all painful!  But musically this is just about perfect.  Bruce’s delivery is flawless, and the guitars are woven into epic and amazing solos once again.  Just about every section of this song is memorable.  It lags a bit in the atmospheric middle section, but this is soon replaced by a triumphant vocal with bright bass guitar melodies.

This 2 CD deluxe edition includes a bonus disc with all the B-side goodies.  Didn’t you always love that cover for “Aces High”?  Eddie in the Spitfire, flying on, even with a bullet in his head?  The B-sides include a live version of “Number of the Beast” that used to annoy us as kids, since Bruce only sings “six!” and gets the audience to finish with “six six!”.  With hindsight, who cares, it’s a great live version.  It’s just funny how I have that memory so very distinctly!

“King of Twilight”, a cover from a band called Nektar, isn’t a standout though.  I like that “Ahh, ahhh, ahh” section and I love the pounding drums.  Otherwise it’s not a road tape classic.

“2 Minutes To Midnight” had two excellent B-sides:  “Rainbow’s Gold” and “Mission From ‘Arry”.  The riff that kicks off “Rainbow’s Gold” is just really catchy, as is that vocal melody.  This is a cover from somebody called Beckett.  Gotta give Maiden credit for trying obscure covers!  Love this song.

And…”Mission From ‘Arry”.  Not a song at all, here’s the story.  One night, Nicko was asked to extend his drum solo while Harris (‘Arry) got his bass rig up and running.  ‘Arry sent his roadie to tell Nicko, who was distracted by the roadie and fucked up his drum solo.  Furious he launched into said roadie and gave him a good solid dressing down.  After the show, Steve in turn told Nicko that he was out of line and to apologize.  In walked Bruce Dickinson with a hidden tape recorder and a mischievous grin!  The rest is history, as released on this B-side!

Now, I’m from Canada and I don’t know my British slang that well.  Do you guys often use phrases like “Fuck my old boots!”?

I don’t think Powerslave was the album that Piece Of Mind was, but maybe I like it a fraction better than Beast.  I dunno.  It’s so hard to rank, we’re really splitting hairs here.  Powerslave was a little colder sounding, a little brittle compared to the past.  Steve’s bass is a little rinky, not warm and deep enough.  But that’s the sound of the LP, the songs still rise above.

4.75/5 stars

REVIEW: Budgie – “You’re All Living In Cuckooland” (2006)

BUDGIE – “You’re All Living In Cuckooland” (2006 Noteworthy Productions)

24 years passed between this and the last Budgie studio album. Not that you can tell, as “You’re All Living In Cuckooland” sounds like classic Budgie to the last detail. The cover art even looks like classic Budgie! No computer generated images here, and the classic Budgie logo is intact! Drummer Steve Williams has returned, and the guitar slot was filled by the excellent Simon Lees (although I understand Craig Goldy of Dio toured with them a lot).

Right from the first track, “Justice”, you know that Budgie are back. Burke Shelley’s unmistakable voice is as vintage-Geddy as ever, and the sound of this band has hardly changed at all. Maybe there are some slicker effects on the guitars, but the style is 100% Budgie.  The songwriting is still idiosyncratic Budgie, except for some unaccompanied acoustic tracks which Burke wrote alone. Musicianship is in the forefront and production is sharp, although I can’t hear enough bass for my tastes. To me, early Budgie was all about Burke’s slinky bass lines, and I want to hear them!

Highlights include:

  • The solidly heavy “Justice”.
  • “Dead Men Don’t Talk” and its positively squirrly solos.
  • The psuedo-title track, “We’re All Living In Cuckooland”, an acoustic number that remained lodged firmly in my skull for days.
  • “I’m Compressing The Comb On A Cockerel’s Head”, the 8 minute closer with its stuttering tremelo guitar solos. Yet another oddball Budgie song title too. I love it!

Everything here is a winner. No filler.

5/5 stars

Part 21: “The Book” / REVIEW: Martin Popoff – Riff Kills Man!

I keep my copy in my desk

I keep my copy in my desk

 

RECORD STORE TALES Part 21:  The Book

Way back in the day, Tom had this book; a book of reviews of metal albums.  I don’t know where he got it.  He had recently acquired it and was perusing album reviews daily.  Hanging out one evening, he said to me, “Have you ever heard Gillan?”

I said, “Gillan, as in Ian Gillan’s band?”

“Yeah,” responded Tom.

“No,”  I said.

“You’re going to have to find some.  This book gives him consistent 10 star ratings.  There are some pretty cool song titles man, like ‘I’ll Rip Your Spine Out’.”

Cool!  So “The Book (as it came to be known) made the rounds.  T-Rev borrowed it for a couple weeks and explored the Max Webster and Kim Mitchell ratings.  Trevor enjoy the reviews of the writer, one Martin Popoff.  He commented to me, “This guy is pretty bang-on for most of them, but you have to read the Def Leppard and Rik Emmett reviews…hilarious, man.”

Trevor was right!  Ipso Facto by Rik Emmett was rated a 0/10, with a single sentence review:  “Man, don’t get me started.”  The book was hilarious and informative at the same time.  We all found it entertaining as well as useful.

When the book came around to me, I was really curious about this band called Budgie.  New fave band!  Eventually, I returned the book to Tom who passed it on to someone else, probably Uncle Meat.   Certain things always stuck in my head.  According to Popoff, I clearly needed more Thin Lizzy, so I began rectifying that with a box set.  He didn’t think much of Kiss, but I could understand this given his criteria, even if I disagreed.

I wished I owned a copy, and a year later I found one downtown at Encore Records, second hand.  Then a weird coincidence happened.  Just as I was craving another read, and was preparing to go downtown and buy a copy of Riff Kills Man, a regular customer of mine gave me his copy.  I don’t remember too much about this guy, except that he sold more than he bought.  He sold a lot of hard-to-find goth and punk stuff, and he always wore a jean jacket, and he strangely always smelled like fried eggs.  Since I can’t remember his name, I’ll call him Fried Eggs Man.

So Fried Eggs Man had been talking to me about the book, and passed it onto me free of charge.  I thought that was really cool of him.  The book too smells of fried eggs, and was coming apart.  I used Bounce dryer sheets to help out with the smell, and I painstakingly glued the pages back in with Elmer’s white glue.  I had to do some cover repair work as well, but the book is solid as a rock and has served me well for probably a decade and a half by now.

MARTIN POPOFF – Riff Kills Man! (1993 Power Chord Press, Toronto Ontario)

Martin Popoff, a writer for BW&BK magazine, is simply one of the  most knowledgeable metal fans out there. His record collection sounds like it’s to die for.  Riff Kills Man! is his first book, but today, he has an extensive bibliography of books that I consider among the best sources of rock information out there.  In fact, LeBrain himself relies heavily on Popoff’s teachings, and I will admit to consciously emulating him in my earlier reviews.

Riff Kills Man!, later supplanted by his more up to date and complete Collector’s Guides, is an album-by-album review of virtually every major metal record from its inception to 1992, all stuff which belonged to Popoff’s personal collection. He covers subgenres such as punk metal and grunge, and bands so obscure that you may never be able to find their albums. Rated from 1 to 10, with strict rules for rating, Riff Kills Man! gives you a great place to start when looking for something “new” to listen to. If it wasn’t for all the 9 and 10 star reviews in this book, I may never have started listening to Budgie, or Thin Lizzy, or Diamond Head.

His rating system is fairly complex, but for the most part, as objective as possible.  I don’t necessarily agree with all of the author’s opinions. For example, Popoff really dislikes a lot of pop rock and gives both Adrenalize and Hysteria by Def Leppard a big fat 0.  “An offensive kick in the head from the rock n’ roll bored room,” writes Popoff.   You may agree, but for me Hysteria is a classic record.  Regardless, he makes valid points that even the most staunch fan such as myself have to grudgingly agree with.

Popoff also tends to dislike live albums with meandering jams like many old Deep Purple recordings. He generally focuses on studio albums, avoiding most EPs and complitions.  So if you’re looking for complete reviews of, say, the numerous Thin Lizzy EPs, live releases and compilations, look elsewhere.

Martin ends the book with several lists and indexes:  Top desert island albums, top guitar players, vocalists, producers, you name it.  He also has a lot of unique categories all his own, such as best showman, best comeback, most consistent band, etc.  AC/DC are ranked as his #1 band in the category of worst album covers!

That aside, Riff Kills Man! was, for me, an essential and often hilarious piece of reading. Pick it up, and then move forward for some of Popoff’s more complete and more specialized books.  I keep mine in my desk at work at all times!

DISCLAIMER – Although it can be found used, this book is out of print.  I spoke to Martin Popoff once about this book, and he told me he finds it a bit embarrassing today.  I still think it’s awesome.

5/5 stars

Also recommended by Popoff:  His books on Sabbath, Rush, Rainbow, and Priest are definitive.  The best books on the market for those bands.