Simon Lees

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 – “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