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Budgie - Never Turn Your Back on a Friend CD (album) cover




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4.18 | 247 ratings

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4 stars As has been stated by others, this is not progressive rock, but it is infused with a progressive attitude and a wealth of instrumental excellence that sets it above most hard rock releases of the time. This is a wonderful recording, fusing Tony Bourge's Bourge's blazing guitar riffs, Burke Shelley's strident bass playing and vocals, and Ray Phillips' sharp, effective drumming. Recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales, it also features a suitably otherworldly cover designed by Roger Dean (another prog-rock link, I guess). There are some superb hard rock moments across this recording, notably the blistering Breadfan, with it's molten, propulsive guitar riffs that literally crackle in your speakers. This exhilarating song showcases a trademark change of tempo, with a lilting summery acoustic mid-section creating a respite, before that snarling main riff charges through again. Bourge remains one of the great underrated rock guitarists, sadly unknown to the wider public, but a huge influence on many other players of the hard rock / metal genre. His swaggering riffs sprawl across In The Grip Of A Tyre Fitter's Hand with genuine panache and skill, and his guitar tone takes on a formidable substance and weight. Credit must also go to the subtle cross rhythms created by Shelley's intricate bass playing, again sorely underrated. His vocals have never been outstanding, but he can carry the heavier songs with a ragged flair and soothe out silky melodies on the slower ballads. You Know I'll Always Love You is a lilting poignant short song which bravely opened the cassette version of this album back in 1973. It is shimmering and beautiful, extremely well constructed despite it's brief length, showing how effortless the band was with softer material. Parents makes use of the light and shade approach that set Budgie apart from many other hard rock bands of the time. It's emotionally soaked guitar melody reappears throughout the song, punctuated by soft jazzier verses which reflect on the wisdom of parents. This is a beautiful, expressive and powerful song, later even covered by Shirley Bassey. Surely the most progressive track on the album is the three-part You Are The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk, which starts out as a sonically spiralling drum solo by Ray Phillips, played through a flange filter and panned across the speaker channels. It morphs into the song's main convoluted riff, and finally evolves into the galloping third section, sung by Bourge. The expansive riffs and shifting rhythms are much more inspired and intricate than those that appeared on the group's next album (the tired and lacklustre In For The Kill). The band snakes through a bubbling version of Baby, Please Don't Go, which brims with a playful abandon, especially in the solos. It gets the job done. The weakest track on this excellent album, and the reason this is not a 5 star review, is Riding My Nightmare, which carries both a mundane melody and a hackneyed chorus, incapable of lifting it from it's mediocre status. Otherwise, this is easily one of the top 10 hard rock recordings of 1973. If you have never heard Budgie's music, this is the perfect place to start.
Bluforce777 | 4/5 |


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