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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Budgie: Budgie


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

Apparently, the distance between Birmingham, England, and Cardiff, Wales is smaller than 120 miles — no wonder, then, that the stylistic difference between early Budgie and early Black Sab­bath is so tiny, your first and fully legitimate reaction should be: «Rip-off! Inferior rip-off!» Of course, this is actually better explainable by the fact that all these early albums shared the same producer, Rodger Bain; having just completed work on Sabbath's Master Of Reality, he clearly had little strength or desire left to search for a different sound when faced with the task of producing ano­ther hard rock-oriented bass/drums/guitar combo.

Indeed, when that low, rumbling, carnivorous seven-note riff of ʽGutsʼ breaks through the audio channels, then gets augmented by the rhythm section several bars later, then finally gets comple­ted with another, more high-pitched but even more mean and hungry second guitar overdub, dif­ferentiating this sound from classic Sabbath is downright impossible without prior knowledge. This is, in fact, precisely the same type of sonic buildup that Bain had just engineered on ʽSweet Leafʼ and a few other Sabbath songs. And since that sound was clearly in high demand at the time, we can hardly blame the band for embracing it. The question is: does it hold up? After all these years, is there a safe place for Budgie on your shelf next to Paranoid?

My own answer would be a definitive yes, because behind all the superficial similarities, Budgie are actually quite a different band from the Sabs. Although not exactly a «thinking man's heavy metal group», their heaviness was not so much due to their fascination with B-movies and the occult, but was rather inherited from the psychedelic excesses of Vanilla Fudge and Blue Cheer, to which they added a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a sense of irony that presaged and predicted Blue Öyster Cult. Oh, and let us not forget the thin, nerdy, bespectacled countenance of bass player and helium-voiced lead singer Burke Shelley — the earliest prototype for Mr. Geddy Lee, with whose four-letter band these guys also share occasional similarities (particularly if you think of Rush's first couple of albums, before they went all-out Ayn-randian on us).

None of that would matter, though — we could just keep treating these guys as second-rate imi­tators or pale predecessors of their betters — if their songs weren't so well-written. The key to enjoying Budgie is the same as the key to enjoying the Sabs: if the riffs are good, the songs are swell, but if the riffs are boring, the songs are shite. And in Tony Bourge, the band had the great luck to own a riffmeister who, while not quite on the same level with the other Tony (Iommi), still had a God-given knack for simple, meaningful, powerful note sequences delivered in delici­ously fuzzy «earthquake tones». Like the one in ʽGutsʼ, yes — a giant mutant mole burrowing through your back yard regardless of any obstacles. Just run for your lives.

Like Sabbath, Budgie prefer drawn-out, multi-part compositions, where slow parts alternate with bits of boogie (and, for what it's worth, they're actually better at boogieing than their occultist Birmingham brethren); in between we may find a few short acoustic «links», but they are really not necessary here — minute-long snippets of Burke Shelley romancing the band's potential girl fans before turning his full attention to the band's potential boy fans: "yes, you are everything in my heart", even repeated four times, is not nearly as convincing as the protagonist's psychosleazy visions of a ʽNude Disintegrating Parachutist Womanʼ, descending upon him on the clouds of yet another classic early stoner rock riff. That song, by the way, with its nearly nine-minute running length, is the clear central point of the album, and a fabulous ride it is — first in its hazy slow part, then in the lengthy speedy boogie escapade, probably influenced by the Amboy Dukes' ʽBaby Please Don't Goʼ (which they would later cover directly) and Deep Purple's ʽWring That Neckʼ in equal degree. Bourge gets a good solo on that part, but really Budgie sound their best when the guitar and the bass player are galloping along in complete unison — for one thing, Budgie could be really incredibly tight, far tighter than the Iommi/Butler/Ward combo ever got to be.

My only gripe is that at this early point, the Budgie formula is not quite ripe yet; they'd polish it to near-perfection on the next two albums, but here, they are sometimes too obsessed with the ly­rical message over the musical substance (ʽRape Of The Locksʼ, a stereotypical rant in defense of long hair as part of one's ego — heavy on accusations, low on A-level riffs), and have not yet learned to seamlessly integrate soft acoustic and heavy electric parts (ʽThe Authorʼ seems like a mere warm-up to similar numbers on Squawk). But in the face of classics like ʽGutsʼ, ʽParachu­tist Womanʼ, and ʽHomicidal Suicidalʼ, this is but a minor gripe.

Derivative as hell, Budgie is still instantly likeable — which is far more than I could say about similar «derivative» albums by modern day acts like Black Mountain, to whom you still have to warm up for quite some time. Just goes to show that you can't kill the vibe — back in 1971, there was this special something in the air that allowed you to put out a really solid album in somebody else's style (styles), even if you had no truly groundbreaking ideas of your own. Well, other than naming your grizzly Welsh band after a pet parakeet, of course. That alone could be worth a thumbs up, but fortunately, there's also a bunch of kick-ass songs here as a bonus.


  1. I haven't heard this one yet (I've only heard a couple of songs off their third album after reading about them on your old site), so I'm only commenting to point out a small mistake in the intro: you wrote Whales instead of Wales.

  2. Great! Now I've the opportunity to thank you for bring this nice and sometimes great band under my attention.
    Yeah, they are derivative. But as Deep Purple and Led Zep stole their best stuff as well (and made it their own) that hardly bothers me.
    Guts has the best Sab riff Tony Iommi never wrote. And frankly speaking I think Bourge beats Iommi here.
    The fast boogie riff of Parachutist Woman is taken from Child in Time (Blackmore's solo after the first solo part). So are some of the licks. But the descending line (guitar and vocals unisono; later repeated at 6:30) is taken from the fast mid-section of Dazed and Confused. This band manages to unite fine elements from all three hot hard rock bands of 1971. That's quite an accomplishment. My only problem is that the midsection is a bit too repetitive (Black Sabbath suffered from the same problem on their two first albums).
    Instead of Homicidal Suicidal I prefer All Night Patrol. The first I think too repetitive. I love the descending vocal line in the latter.
    Unfortunately I'm very cold on the acoustic Budgie. Noodle, noodle, noodle., without much melodicity. Rush did that much better, at least for a while (the intro of Farewell to Kings and the outro of Hemispheres are my favourites).
    Like you on the old site I am not impressed by Bourge's solos, but as a riffmeister I rate him as high as the big guys of BS, DP and LZ. Maybe higher, because he produced another album full of nice riffs in 1986 (!).
    I think lower of Budgie as a band though because they never made an album I love from beginning to end.

    1. Please read "Blackmore's solo after the first vocal part".

  3. Ahhhh, at long last -- these were the reviews I was eagerly waiting for. Budgie was one of the best discoveries I made off of the old site, so many thanks George.

    Their debut shows that the formula still has some rough edges, and the soft stuff they toy with pales immensely in comparison to "Rolling Home Again" and the like -- but there are enough good songs and thunderous riffs here to keep me happy. Doesn't get played as much as their next two albums, but when I do tune in I have a good time.

  4. It's impossible for me to hear Budgie and not visualize an actual budgie singing the songs. Such a perfectly, absurdly appropriate voice.

  5. Now that we've shown we've been waiting for Budgie reviews all this time....What's up with "All Night Petrol"? All I hear is completely buried under bass. All I have is the KAPP LP, was it the victim of poor recording or does the CD remedy this?

    The impression I've gotten from Shelley was he wasn't a Sabbath fan at all. Sometimes I wonder if that held them back a bit. Dabbling in darkness but too sincere to force a grim & "evil" persona. Quirky but well-grounded, only the album covers were fantastical.

    Eventually they'd trim the fat more and provide (at least in my opinion, I'm curious to others') the first strains to metal's new wave.

  6. I've been looking forward to these guys since so many of the group members have chirped their praises. On first listen, they ARE a Sabbath clone, and whether Bain, Bourge, or Shelley are to blame, I don't know. You are right that they are tighter than BS, and seem to pull off the funk vibe with more gusto. Shelley does presage Geddy, but I think he sounds like Lennon on his acoustic stuff, which I find more palatable than Iommi's acoustic noodling. Thanks again!

  7. Thanks George, I've been eagerly awaiting you to review Budgie for quite some time Like one of the above comments, I got into them via your old site. Looking forward to more as well as your review of their latest album from 2006 and might I suggest this compilation:

    It contains all the 80s songs they recorded post 'Deliver Us From Evil' which were intended for the follow up that never materialized plus some more

  8. Thanks for introducing me to Budgie, George. I saw that you reviewed them on your old site, but never got to actually read those reviews. I did it now, got the first album and enjoy it very much. I don't think that they are that much inferior to Black Sabbath, maybe a notch. And I like their somewhat lighter vibe even better. Some parts remind me of Led Zeppelin. Anyways, I am glad I'm familiar with Budgie now. Intend on keep on exploring.