Saturday, 4 June 2016

"The MCA Years 1973-1975" by BUDGIE (2016 MCA Records/Universal UMC 3CD Box Set - Andy Pearce Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Breaking All The House Rules..." 

Ah BUDGIE! Should have been as big as Humble Pie or Sabbath or Purple - but criminally 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. So much to love on here - but let's get to the original grunge rockers first...

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 plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" (41:50 minutes):
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
5. In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand [Side 2]
6. Hiding My Nightmare
7. Parents
Tracks 1 to 7 are their 3rd studio album "Never Turn Your Back On A Friend" - released June 1973 in the UK on MCA Records MDKS 8010 (reissued MCA Records MCG 3513 in 1974)

Disc 2 "In For The Kill" (41:12 minutes):
1. In For The Kill
2. Crash Course In Brain Surgery
3. Wondering What Everyone Knows
4. Zoom Club
5. Hammer And Tongs [Side 2]
6. Running From My Soul
7. Living On Your Own
Tracks 1 to 7 are their 4th studio album "In For The Kill" - released June 1974 in the UK on MCA Records MCF 2546 and in the USA on MCA Records MCA 429

Disc 3 "Bandolier" (34:08 minutes):
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 1
7. Napoleon Bona - Part 2
Tracks 1 to 7 are their 5th and last studio album for MCA Records "Bandolier" - released September 1975 in the UK on MCA Records MCF 2723 and in the USA on MCA Records MCA 4618

The first thing 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 has done 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..." with their blistering cover of Big Joe Williams and his R&B hit "Baby Please Don't Go" and the speaker-to-speaker hard rock of "In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter's Hand" - but suddenly that swirling Acoustic Guitar in the pretty ballad "Riding My Nightmare" 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.

I always felt "In For The Kill" showed the band going slightly off the boil even though it was their first to chart in Britain at No. 29. But again - there's real muscle in the kick-ass chug of "In For The Kill" sounding down right dirty and mean ("...when I was born I was given a will...") - nice. The 1971 non-album single "Crash Course In Brain Surgery" was supposedly given a slight remix for the 1974 album version but I'm buggered if I can actually hear any difference between this and the Roger Bain produced original (great tune though). The drums of Ray Phillips were replaced by Phil Boot for "In For The Kill" and you can hear it on the finisher "Living On Your Own" - a deceptively complex tune where guitarist Tony Bourge stretches out and Bourke Shelley gives it his best strangulated Geddy Lee vocals.

But the big winner here is "Bandolier" - an album I'd completely forgotten about. The opening "Breaking All The House Rules" is 7:22 minutes of fabulous Rock 'n' Roll riffage where Budgie sounds like Scott Gorham/Brian Robertson Thin Lizzy at their tightest and expressive best. And the Audio is just brilliant too. The treated Acoustic ballad "Slipaway" is again gorgeously reproduced as is the strangely Funky "Who Do You Want For Your Love?" They manage a Hard Rock version of Andy Fairweather-Lowe's "I Ain't No Mountain" (from his 1974 A&M album "Spider Jivin'") and is the nearest Budgie get to being commercial sounding a little like Nazareth in search of a Top Ten hit. The 2-parts of "Napoleon Bona" are close to 'Rush' Prog Rock and again the Remaster just elevates everything - and you can 'so' hear where Metallica got 'that' sound as the guitars riff like a goodun towards the end of Part 1.

Perfection would have been all five of the iconic MCA LPs including those first two masterpieces from 1971 and 1972. But what's on offer here (at just under eight-quid) is 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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