The MCA Albums 1973 – 1975 (3CD Box)
Release Date: 3rd June 2016
Wales has a fine, if underrated, track record in producing rock bands and at the forefront has to be Budgie.
Formed in the late 60s by constant member, vocalist/bassist Burke Shelley, the trio have helped shape the UK hard rock scene and have influenced Iron Maiden and the NWOBHM in general, a genre they would oft be associated with, Megadeth and Van Halen and their epic track 'Breadfan' was famously covered by Metallica.
During the 70s and 80s the band recorded and toured regularly. The work since has been more sporadic, with solo and other work taking priority. The band's best known and most successful period is covered here, when they released three albums for MCA.
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Formed in Cardiff in 1967, originally as Hills Contemporary Glass and later Six Ton Budgie, the band featured Burke Shelley, guitarist/vocalist Tony Bourge and drummer Ray Phillips. The name Budgie was settled on in 1968 with the band wanting a name diametrically opposed to their sound. Demos and plenty of gigs followed.
The 1971 eponymous debut, which saw Shelley double up on mellotron, was issued through Kapp/MCA and featured production from Roger Bain (Black Sabbath). The US issue featured the single 'Crash Course In Brain Surgery', later covered by Metallica.
'Squawk', the 1972 follow up, rocked in similar fashion, the LP cover illustrated by Roger Dean.
Which brings us to this 3CD set, kicking off with 1973s 'Never Turn Your Back On A Friend'. Again illustrated by Roger Dean (famed for his work with Yes), the album kicks off with 'Breadfan'. Famously recorded by Metallica in the late 80s, it mixes hard and fast rock with progressive leanings. This typifies Budgie and it is easy to draw many a Rush comparison; high vocals sung by the bassist and a power trio playing heavy progressive rock. Budgie, however, are quite a bit heavier. 'Breadfan' is a bit of a thrash with an acoustic mid-section.
There's an interesting cover of 'Baby Please Don't Go', with much more of a 60s echo than the AC/DC version of a couple of years later, and it's spookier and heavier too. The high vocals don’t work quite so well here.
'You Know I'll Always Love You' is a folkier track, acoustic and a nice two minute interlude while 'You're The Biggest Thing Since Powered Milk', running at over eight minutes, kicks off with a drum solo (a strange and detracting song structure, good though the drumming is) but is a solid track with some excellent guitar and bass work and it's easy to see how some of the bass work here would have influenced Steve Harris.
The album has some bluesy touches, and the set closes with the ten minute long 'Parents'. Hints of Sabbath's gentler side can be heard amongst the workout that mixes epic, heavy and not-so-heavy rock. Some of the guitar solos here really stand out.
Disc 2 and 1974s 'In For The Kill', now with drummer Pete Boot, proved the band's credentials as an early Heavy Metal band. The opening title track would later be covered by Van Halen In their early days. The crunch guitar and high vocals mix well, a mix not lost on other songs such as 'Hammers Rule'.
There's a rerecording of 'Crash Course In Brain Surgery', a driving hard song and in contrast, the shorter 'Wondering What Everyone Knows' is acoustically whimsical. The spooky edge has a hint of Sabbath, albeit without the Osbourne whine. 'Zoom Club' has a good guitar sound and a funky rhythm that keeps rocking even when the song builds.
A solid and rocking album with changes of heaviness and pace that work well.
'Bandolier', the third here and fifth overall, sees the band now featuring drummer Steve Williams and kicks off with the excellent 'Breaking All The House Rules' that is rocking and uplifting and this track alone makes the album worth buying.
'Slipaway' is the obligatory whimsical track while 'Who Do You Want For Your Love' is classic mid 70s blending both UK and US influences. 'I Can't See My Feelings' was a b-side for Iron Maiden, and 'I Ain't No Mountain' has a big sound with some vocal harmonies that work really well.
'Napoleon Bona Parts 1 And 2', running to over seven minutes, builds well to a classic and epic rock song. Blistering. 'Bandolier' is probably the better and most consistent of the three albums here.
A classic and well packaged set clearly aimed at making probably the band's best and most well known era available, the only disappointment being the lack of bonuses previously available on earlier remasters.