BUDGIE: BANDOLIER (1975)
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, pts. 1 & 2.
Arguably the last album of Budgie's «classic» period, Bandolier is also fairly short — just six compositions, with the long ones being fairly repetitive at that. Nevertheless, it is hard to guess that they were running out of steam, because on the whole, the results are quite satisfactory. The music is a little less heavy than last time (nothing even remotely approaching the evil bass blasts of ʽIn For The Killʼ), but still heavy enough and riff-a-licious enough to keep the entertainment value high while they're poking around basic boogie, funky R&B, and faintly proggy flourishes. Oh, and they have yet another drummer here, Steve Williams, although I honestly can't tell where he is to be found on the album sleeve — those parrakeet heads are quite confusing.
Anyway, the spot to aim for here is the epic ʽNapoleon Bona-Partʼ. The first part is a rather inconspicuous, melancholic acoustic/slide ballad, but the second is a vicious galloping monster with a chuggin' riff that is half-thrash and half Morricone, heroic vocals and solos, and a brace-yourself race to the end; the bit where Tony enters with yet another high-pitched, banshee-wailing counter-riff at around 5:20 is, in fact, my single favorite sonic moment in the entire Budgie catalog — the perfect answer to that eternally nagging question, «how to double the excitement when it's already there?» With a little nudge to the imagination department, you could also think of that second part as a musical representation of a Napoleon cavalry assault — crushing everything in its path as presumed, but then suddenly disappearing into thin air. Kind of agrees with the Napoleonic fantasies of the protagonist, too — and, come to think of it, they were almost ready for their own Waterloo just as well, if you pardon the triteness of this remark.
Next to ʽNapoleonʼ, the opening long number is a bit more primitive and lightweight, but I still respect it how the band is able to take one of the world's most obvious five-note sequence and promote it like The Riff To End All Riffs, returning to it over and over and over until it suddenly begins to produce a mantra-like effort, especially at the end, where there's, like, no escaping it — the band should have stopped long ago, but it just keeps returning and returning, like a homeless dog that can endear itself to you by stubbornly sticking around, until it feels like family despite your strongest psychological resistance. Maybe this is what they really mean by ʽBreaking All The House Rulesʼ, although, actually, the song is about a family man succumbing to some fleshy temptation. Can you imagine a nerdy, freaky fellow like Burke Shelley succumbing to temptation? On the other hand, it doesn't seem like he is the one taking the initiative here.
The rest of the album is spottier: ʽWho Do You Want For Your Loveʼ starts out on the wrong note, either as an unfunny parody on or an unsuccessful imitation of a sentimental funk ballad, then picks up a more proper groove, but still refuses to match the awesomeness of ʽZoom Clubʼ; the ballad ʽSlipawayʼ has some pretty solos, but little else; ʽI Can't See My Feelingsʼ, later covered by Iron Maiden, relies too much on borrowed chords (from ʽSunshine Of Your Loveʼ, ʽFoxy Ladyʼ, and a couple Sabbath songs) to provide much of a memorable melody; and what the hell made them go out and cover Andy Fairweather-Low? ʽI Ain't No Mountainʼ sounds like a really, really stupid hillbilly joke, a barroom rocker without any redeeming humor to it. Would the next step be Gary Glitter? This just isn't like Budgie at all.
Still, that one kind of embarrassing song aside, the rest of the album ranges from awesome (the bookmarking tunes) to passable (everything else), and to me, that is enough for a modest thumbs up rating, particularly since after 1975, such ratings would be harder and harder to come by. You can already see the beginning of the demise — the fate of this band was always directly dependent on the strength of Tony's riffs, and with the musicians moving into other, less riff-dependent directions, they would inevitably lose out. But Bandolier still features barely enough of the classic, vintage Budgie style to make the jump. As to whatever follows — buyer beware!