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Tom Ozric
4 stars Budgie, now - I'm kinda surprised. Hard-Rock band from Wales, Budgie, have released some strong albums over the years, and have been highly influential in doing so. Thrashers METALLICA have a high respect for the band, and they were also closely cited alongside BLACK SABBATH as pioneers of the up- coming rise of what became the 'Heavy Metal' genre. I'm certain that IRON MAIDEN's Bassist Steve Harris learnt a thing or 2 from Shelley's Bass-playing. I have only hung onto a couple of their records, so, I speak from a truly 'critical' reviewer's point-of-view, rather than a follower of their craft. This 2nd album, entitled 'Squawk', featured one of Roger Dean's early forays into LP art, with the skull of a bird fixed to the nose of a model jet. Quite eye catching in itself, really. This is the Budgie record I return to most often. Between the 3 musicians, Burke Shelley played some awesome Bass and contributed the Mellotron parts heard on many of the tracks. Riff-based Guitar player Tony Bourge was only a notch behind the great Riff-master Tony Iommi, showing that there was stiff competition in the field. Drummer Ray Phillips treads the same path as Bill Ward ever did, competent, but not a complete virtuoso. Together, they forged some memorable Hard-Rock songs and cool albums. I've dusted off my old record in order to speak of the songs here, and, here goes : - 'Whisky River' shows off a simple, harder-edged rock-riff with Shelley's higher-pitched, Hard-Rock oriented vocals (reminding one of Purple's Glenn Hughes), listenable, but nothing fantastic. 'Rocking Man' is more like it, with a more grungey riff and cool interplay between the instruments, and an understanding of creating odd-time sigs for the benefit of the song, and not just for the sake of it. One very good song. 'Rolling Home Again' is a brief (under 2 min long), jangly acoustic piece in softer mood, complete with some bouncy mellotron stabs, sung well and somewhat catchy. Currently I'm on the song 'Make Me Happy', which is acoustically based and mellow, the Piano adds to its softer vibe. It immediately launches into the knock-out tune 'Hot As A Docker's Armpit'. Full of changing tempos, catchy riffs and excellent musicianship, this song should please most Prog-Heads. The amazing mid-section offers the listener some stunning action on the Bass Guitar and tasteful mellotron playing. Bourge's Guitaring is also notable. They sound more accessible, and less oppressive than the mighty Sabbath, but equally as enjoyable. Time to change the side.....'Drugstore Woman' is similar to the opening tune, a basic 12-bar tune, only performed in 'Heavy' fashion. Still, nothing that requires a snob-nose or a quick skipping over. 'Bottled' is a brief instrumental bash (again, under 2 min.) which sounds like a jam with Bourge on Slide-Guitar. The 8 min+ 'epic' entitled 'Young Is A World' kicks off with some ethereal Guitaring, and again, a mellower approach. This tune is quite basic, with some heavier instrumental breaks, and more Mellotron (for those of us who just can't get enough) and pleasant vocals. It should never outstay its welcome. The change in the middle features a simple riff, but played effectively and can offer any budding Bass-Player some pointers. Overall, a great song. The last track, 'Stranded', is more Hard-Rock riffing in the way that Sabbath performed (I can't help but compare the two - if it wasn't Sabbath who were successful, I'm sure Budgie would've been at the forefront). So, there you go, fine people ; a really good Proto-Metal album, with a gutsy sound and tough musicianship. 4 stars.
Report this review (#197114)
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Not Budg(ie)ing

Throughout their career, Budgie have never been a band who sought to progress or examine new areas of music. Working on the principal of if it ain't broke don't fix it, the band followed up their 1971 debut a year later with this album of more of the same. Black Sabbath producer Rodger Bain was retained, the resulting sound once again being a heavy riff laden guitar-fest.

The tracks are generally slightly shorter than on the debut, the arrangements being more straightforward especially on the five tracks which make up side one. The vocals tend to be more up front in the mix, to some extent removing the appealing naivety of the debut.

The opening "Whisky river" and "Rocking man" are both basic blues rock affairs featuring lead guitar. "Rolling home again" offers one of those welcome Budgie surprises, the brief acoustic number sounding like a cross between the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel! The lighter mood continues on the soft "Make me happy", another acoustic guitar number with a delicate vocal hook and unaccredited piano.

Normal service resumes for the metallically named "Hot as a docker's armpit". While essentially another riff based number, the track features the most overt use of mellotron by the band thus far, adding a welcome new dimension to their sound. "Drugstore woman" seeks to Americanise the band's appeal, in lyrical terms at least, but the sound is remains rooted in the British blues of the likes of Led Zeppelin. The track combines with the blues rock guitar instrumental "Bottled" to form a decent two part piece.

The strongest track on the album is undoubtedly "Young is a world", a power ballad of sorts. The track swims in delightful mellotron while featuring a highly melodic vocal and a fine mix of acoustic and lead guitar. The 8+ minutes of the song demonstrate the under appreciated ability of Budgie to occasionally step outside their natural comfort zone. The album closes back well within that comfort zone, "Stranded" being a conventional guitar rock anthem.

While "Squawk" made for an appropriate follow up to the band's fine debut, it is perhaps significant that none of the tracks feature on the main "Best of Budgie" compilations which have since been released. The main problem with the album is that it is just a collection of decent rock numbers. Things would however get back on track with the next album..

The sleeve illustration was the first for the band by Roger Dean, but while imaginative its not one of his best.

Report this review (#197144)
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars A Roger Dean art sleeve that ensured that I checked this band out in the 70's. Normally it would be music first, the artwork second but not so with the 70's decade of vinyl where in many respects the artwork was a reasonable indicator of what was instore. Squawk is a fair album that holds up it's own in providing some traditional blues rock with some storming vocals from Burke Shelley. Rodger Bain again produces their second album. ' Whisky River' does the band no favours and is a poor opener not really going anywhere, however the album improves a notch with ' Rocking Man' Excellent bass and lead guitar work lending to some very entertaining listening.' Rolling Home Again' is a short Beatles pastiche which leads into the mellow and dreamy like ' Make Me Happy'. Some nice soft touches from Burke Shelley again. It is worth mentioning that Shelley can sing really hard Rock songs but is equally adept when it comes to soft delicate soulful vocals. Check out ' Bottled' for some great slide guitar but the highlight is next being ' Young Is World'. Some excellent mellotron introducing Shelley's soulful voice on arguably the epic track off Squawk and the most progressive too.' Stranded' plays out the album on a bit of a downer but great musicianship as always. This is not as strong as their debut and there was better work to come from Budgie but it is still good stuff and if you are a vinyl enthusiast, then the cover is a must have. Two and a half stars.
Report this review (#200993)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The second longplayer from the Welsh vintage heavy trio shows their power most best along with their third album. THere are some really ace smashers on the album like opener "Whiskey River" and "Hot as A Docker's Armpit", proving that their lyrics are silly but that bluesy distorted amplified acoustic guitar and double bass drum treatments give a good ride if your open to their sound and style. From these tracks search for the John Peel session versions, if you are not allergic to lofi sounds. The album has in the style of other early records of this band few shorter acoustic ballads, "Make Me Happy" being quite pleasant open to the following groovy heavy rock tune. "Rocking Man" and "Drugstore Woman" are quite decent rockers, but not as interesting as the other tracks. The favourite track here for me in adition of the heavier tracks is the long and romantic "Young is A World". The only flaw here is the quite poor lyrics, which sound that they could have been improvised during the performing. Anyway, the composition is pretty melodic minor piece with good structures, room for free playing. The album closer is also a nice menacing heavy rock piece, and the here and there played mellotrons do not make the record any worst. If you like the bluesy groove sligthly similar than in the first album of Black Sabbath, or the hard smashing of very early Rush records, check this one out.
Report this review (#201801)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars The flight of the Budgie continues, with next to no changes compared to the debut. The only one would be a slightly lesser dependence on Black Sabbath. Their most original feature is probably that they were the first metal band with a band name consisting of only one word. Lol.

Whiskey River kicks of the album in almost exactly the same way as Guts on the debut. The recipe is easy, take a chugging riff of Whole Lotta Love signature, add some heavily throbbing bass and a hoarse Plant wail. On a rare moment, it's almost a Halford shriek.

One of the things that Budgie is very apt at is cute little mellow moments like Make Me Happy, it's a kind of thing that is easy to write but difficult to pull of tastefully. There's not much noteworthy here except for more nice heavy rocking on Drugstore Woman and that one more adventurous song Young Is The World. At the base it's an extended ballad similar in tone to those of mid 70's Scorpions, a band that learned more then a trick or two from Budgie. The song feature some mellotron, a section with heavier riffing after each verse and an adequate blues solo guitar in the second half.

It doesn't register as prog on my radar, but just like the debut, the best songs might please the same folks who like the early albums from Heep, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Priest or Scorpions. A thin 3 star.

Report this review (#261569)
Posted Tuesday, January 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars When listening to Budgie's sophomore effort, Squawk, one can't help but think of their other, much more realized, records. Certainly, the album has many Budgie classics and ultra hard rocking blues and jazz moments, but it seems to be lacking when compared to their debut and third album. Still, a person can get tired of the same old squawk from Burke Shelley.

1.Whiskey River - A track worthy of an opening section, a totally bluesy riff that is augmented by an excellent vocal line. Tony Bourge plays some great and fast guitar licks on this track, but one can hear the enthusiasm fading quickly. Shelley's voice is excellent here, as he is definatly not as shrieky as he usually is. The rhythm section is excellent, with distorted bass guitar and trippy drumming make the track nothing short of a defining moment. (8.5/10)

2.Rocking Man - Almost in the same style as the opener, the track is much more upfront and listenable. Lyrically, the two are very much in the same route. Nothing particularly interesting, but the music definatly is. Hard rocking riff after hard rocking riff, it could easily stand up to what Black Sabbath was doing around the same time. The drug-induced beat is always there, as there are hints of stoner rock already in the music. Excellent follow-up, with intense instrumental interplay. (9.5/10)

3.Rolling Home Again - The Beatles-esque track does nothing to save the song from mediocracy. The acoustic guitar and mellow vocals do nothing for me; even the keyboard melody under the guitar is rather bland under this acoustic ballad. (4/10)

4.Make Me Happy - After such a mellow track as the one before, you would expect a much more rocking track, wouldn't you? But, alas, another boring and useless acoustic number is here, albiet with more electric guitar and a more steady vocal line and instrumentation. Not as bad as the song before, but below average on many standards. (5.5/10)

5.Hot as the Dockor's Armpit - Possibly the greatest unrealized song title ever, the album gets back in pace with this song. The heavy riffing is excellent and sinister at the same time. Dark basslines are always underneath the great drumming and guitar playing, as Shelley screams his feelings with excellent vocal harmonies and vocal line. Steady beats from Ray Phillips are underappreciated, but truely excellent and groovy here. A classic track on so many standards. (10/10)

6.Drugstore Woman - A hard rocker that couldn't keep up with the one above stated. The track seems sloppily played and almost has a tinge of boredom in the heavily uninspired blues playing. Nothing about the song could be worse than the horrible lyrics and the lackluster vocals, as this is some of Shelleys poorest vocal contributions ever. A total lack of ideas can lead to a song as boring as this. (5.5/10)

7.Bottled - A short track under two minutes that has no significant place on this album, other than to showcase the talents of Bourge on slide guitar. Absolutly worthless, but if it was a longer track, it could have been completely interesting. (3.5/10)

8.Young is the World - After some completely horrendous tracks, the rush of ideas start to flow. An excellent epic type of track, the song showcases the incredible instrument interplay of Bourge, Shelley, and Phillips. The shimmering constrasts are obvious, as the acoustic guitar slowly gives way to excellent electric guitar and slow mellotron throughout the track. Shelley's vocal lines are near perfection and never bore. Some of the most progressive music can be found in a band that is not exactly progressive... (10/10)

9.Stranded - An excellent closing mini-epic of blues and infiltrationing rock are found within the song Stranded. The guitar playing is near thrash at times and is easily some of Bourges best playing. Drumming from Phillips is near perfection, as he sets the beat perfect and adds some great fills and rolls that make the track even more intresting. Great vocal harmonies that are almost punk also make the track more interesting. This cut surely cannot go to waste, a classic. (9.5/10)

Some excellent classic songs look even better when placed next to some of the bands most bland contributions. Thankfully, the band would be much more consistant for their next release. A 3 stars because there are too many average and below average songs to make the album an excellent addtion to a collection.

Report this review (#349940)
Posted Saturday, December 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Budgie attempt to branch out and explore a softer, more acoustic sound on a couple of songs here - Rolling Home Again and Make Me Happy - but aside from those folk rock-inspired numbers this is mainly a continuation of the bluesy proto-metal of their debut, though leaning more towards Led Zeppelin than Black Sabbath in terms of their sound this time. Album closer Stranded approaches doom metal territory, whilst Young Is the World uses mellotron and a complex song structure in a stab at dabbling in progressive rock, and Hot as a Docker's Armpit deserves mention for its seamless marriage of furious riffs with hilarious lyrics, but otherwise the album's rather forgettable - a bit of a disappointment after the extremely capable debut.
Report this review (#500695)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This is another seventies band that I rarely paid attention at that time as I always compared it with another rock trio like Triumph, Grand Funk and Rush because in general they were alike in terms of instrument components: drum, guitar and bass. Of course I could not compare with ELP as it's drums - bass - keyboard. At first listen I was associated directly to the kind of Triumph music as the music they made was quite straight forward. I only knew this band when one of their song I Ain't No Mountain was one of rock favorites in my city of Madiun, Indonesia. Later I knew their other popular track like Breadfan.

This album offers similar in term of style what the band has typically made, i.e power rock trio that rely in itself in guitar solo backed with basslines and drumming. The second track Rocking Man is an interesting rock instrumental with good combination of guitar, bass and drums for most part of the track and only having vocal line at the ending part. Hot as a Docker's Armpit is also another good track.

Even though it's not something proggy, this band was one of the rock acts in the seventies that had their own fans base. For some reason I was much liking Triumph than this band. But it's OK for a change - sometimes. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#762667)
Posted Sunday, June 3, 2012 | Review Permalink

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