Wednesday, 15 June 2016

"Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" by BUDGIE (Newly Remastered In 2016's "The MCA Years: 1973-1975" Universal UMC 3CD Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...







"...The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk..."

Ah BUDGIE! Should have been as big as Humble Pie or Sabbath or Purple - but criminally Wales's finest power trio weren't. Yet today they not only elicit as much affection as they did four decades ago but are name-checked as hugely seminal influences on the likes of Metallica, Soundgarden and even Van Halen all of whom have covered their tunes with pride and glee.

Personally - Christmas 1972 and a 14-year old Markipoos has an LP pressy waiting for him beneath the festooned tree - their second album "Squawk" in a Dolphin Discs record bag! I've loved this Welsh power trio for over 45 years and this dinky Remaster Box Set that features 3 of their 5 albums on MCA Records in the 70ts has only sent me off on one.

There's so much to love on here – especially 1973's iconic "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" album. So let's get to the details of the original grunge rockers...

UK released Friday, 2 June 2016 (10 June 2016 in the USA) - "The MCA Years 1973-1975" by BUDGIE on MCA Records/Universal UMC 5363393 (Barcode 600753633939) is a 3CD Hard Card Slipcase Mini Box Set with new 2016 Remasters (with no Bonus Tracks) and Disc 1 which contains "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" plays out as follows (41:50 minutes):

Side 1:
1. Breadfan
2. Baby Please Don't Go
3. You Know I'll Always Love You
4. You're The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk

Side 2:
5. In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand
6. Hiding My Nightmare
7. Parents
Tracks 1 to 7 are the 3rd studio album "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" by BUDGIE - released June 1973 in the UK on MCA Records MDKS 8010 (reissued MCA Records MCG 3513 in 1974).

The first thing Budgie fans will notice is that the 2 or 3 Bonus Tracks that came with the 2004 singular Remasters of each album are AWOL - which is a damn shame because (a) they were good and (b) there's plenty of room (the non-album B-side "Honey" from the "I Ain't No Mountain" UK and US 7" single would have been a perfect addition for example). On the upside the "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" LP was always a gatefold with that Roger Dean artwork cover and the live shots of the band (and lyrics) on the inner gatefold - that's been reproduced in the rather tasty oversized card sleeve. But both "In For The Kill" and "Bandolier" original LPs only came with single sleeves - here they've been given gatefolds with promo photos of the band on the inside. Each CD is also colour coded with the 'Budgie In A Spacesuit' Logo on each disc.

Noted writer and Music Historian MALCOLM DOME did the excellent liner notes inside the colourful 16-page booklet. There's references to Producer Roger Bain (had Sabbath connections) who did so much to define their grungy hard rock sound on the July 1971 debut "Budgie" and its September 1972 follow-up "Squawk" and a nod to British DJ 'Kid Jensen' getting behind the first album on Pirate Radio thereby giving BUDGIE a career and following in Europe. There are 7" picture sleeves for rare foreign issues of the singles "Crash Course In Brain Surgery" and "Zoom Club" and a trade advert for the "I Ain't No Mountain" 45 as well as comments from key band members like Bourke Shelley and tributes from uberfans Dave Mustaine from Megadeath and Lars Ulrich from Metallica.

But the really great news is the AUDIO that absolutely rocks like the proverbial mother and her 'f' word. ANDY PEARCE has revisited the original mastertapes (he did a great job on the 2012 Rory Gallagher reissues) and these CDs trounce the 1991 and 2004 versions I've had for years. These transfers are loud and ballsy - but not loud for the sake of it. As the tracks play you can really hear that guitar - that chunky bass - those drum whacks. It's properly rocking and on stuff like the slide genius of "Breadfan" or the sweet ballad "Wondering What Everyone Knows" or the sheer riffage in the brilliant "Breaking All The House Rules" - the sound is genuinely great and makes everything feel new again.

With that Audio in mind - these albums suddenly feel far better than I remember them. Every Budgie fan loves "Never Turn Your Back..." which opens with a tune Metallica made famous by covering it – “Breadfan”. Originally the 1988 B-side of “Harvester Of Sorrow” 7” single – they later included it due to popular demand on their “Garage, Inc.” album from 1998. Immediately - you’re struck by that slashing slide-guitar – very in your face and for all the right reasons – and that acoustic break is so clear now too. That’s quickly followed by their blistering cover of "Baby Please Don't Go" – the classic Big Joe Williams tune from 1935 on Bluebird Records. The song has had a staggering recorded history – I’ve covers by John Lee Hooker, Lightnin Hopkins, Bukka White, Al Kooper, Tom Rush, Tony Joe White, Brinsley Schwarz, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters and even AC/DC did it on their 1975 Australian “High Voltage” debut album. But most people know the THEM version with Van Morrison at the microphone. BUDGIE rock up that version and turn it into a fast and furious slide guitar monster. 

Next up is the obligatory ‘acoustic’ tune – here it’s “You Know I’ll Always Love You” – Shelley almost embarrassing himself with those high notes. Side 1 finishes with the near nine-minute “You’re The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk” where drummer Ray Phillips gets his moment for the opening one minute forty three seconds before it settles into some great riffage. Side 2 opens with the speaker-to-speaker hard rock of "In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand" – a fantastic boogie that reminds me of FOGHAT at their grinding best. The remaster shines too on the swirling Acoustic Guitar of "Riding My Nightmare" – a pretty ballad that now seems huge - as does the doomy 10-minute-plus guitars of "Parents". There's a part about a minute in when it slows to Acoustic Guitar, Bass and echoed Lead - and the Remaster is fantastic.

This dinky Box set offers incredible value for money and a great reminder as to why BUDGIE still engenders such affection amongst ageing rockers like me whilst drawing in clued-up Metal newcomers too.

Christmas has come early and in even better packaging this time... 

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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