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Badger - One Live Badger CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.29 | 110 ratings

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3 stars One Live Badger is one of those albums that as a Yes fan I was vaguely aware of during the pre-internet days. I had probably seen the Roger Dean album cover in one of his album-cover-art books. It definitely is a cool cover, with a simple winter scene with actually existing animals as opposed to fantastic creatures or other-worldly landscapes. The album title/logo is cool but is a bit weak in comparison to the bold logo and title designs of Yes for example. It has a surprise though ' open up the gatefold sleeve and a badger pops out! I've only seen pictures of actual LP sleeves but my Japanese 'LP sleeve' reissue has it! Definitely part of the appeal of this album (unless you don't like badgers).

Inevitably this band will be compared to Yes, due to the presence of former keyboardist Tony Kaye, former songwriting collaborator David Foster (he co-wrote two tracks on Yes's Time and a Word album), production by Jon Anderson, and the fact that they were opening for Yes when this live album was recorded. So how about the music? It's good ' driving, mid-tempo heavily grooving rock for the most part. It is heavier and more groove-oriented than Yes, and also less virtuosic. It is often said that it's not particularly prog other than the mellotron and the aforementioned Yes connection. But it has some really nice aspects, like the dual-melody riffs from the guitar & keyboards. Speaking of. keyboards, I hear organ, mellotron, some kind of electric piano, and synthesizer. I point this out because I seem to remember reading that one reason Yes let Kaye go was because he wasn't willing/able to incorporate synthesizers within the band. Probably just a rumor that I probably shouldn't even repeat, but here Kaye shows himself to be able to play all four, though the organ and mellotron are probably strongest.

One of my questions about this album is ' WHO THE HECK IS SINGING? The album credits only list out the instruments people play, it doesn't say who is singing. Everybody? Just the guitarist and bassist? It sounds like one person is basically the 'lead' singer, though the kind of generic character of the singing could be considered a point against this album and band. There are times when it sounds like at least 3 people are singing, but who? Did Tony Kaye sing? Did the drummer sing? Enquiring minds want to know! Actually, I don't really care, I don't listen to singing and lyrics as much as the music, as I have written about elsewhere. After reading the liner notes, though, and finding out that a lot of this material was adapted from earlier material for a scrapped solo album by bassist David Foster, I wonder if it isn't Foster on lead vocals too?

Musically, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that this almost has a motorik aspect. The drummer is really solid, he plays muscular grooves, very sympathetic to the music whether it's the vocals or the soloists. But it's combined with a compositional aspect as well. It's not improvisational in the sense that they're making things up as they go along, but rather during the solos in a more virtuoso blues manner. There aren't as many odd-time sections as one might expect from a band so closely aligned with Yes either.

The sound quality is good ' I remember the first time I heard Yessongs (the live album that may include material from the show that Badger was opening for) and I was really underwhelmed ' I'm not sure what I was expecting, but to me it didn't have the power I felt from the studio albums. The roominess of the sound was part of the problem for me. It wasn't until I saw the concert film that things clicked ' the sound suddenly matched the visual aspect of the band and the various aspects of the hall they were playing in.

This must have been a very cool concert! A reviewer at Prog Archives mentioned having seen them open for Deep Purple Mark III ' first of all, that must have been an amazing show! and I think this band might work for Deep Purple fans who don't necessarily need the masculine virtuoso aspect but instead appreciate songs with good instrumental sections.

The songs do start to sound kind of samey after a while. There have been several times where I was tempted to sell my CD, but the deep listening I did in order to do this review have me rethinking that. If I only had a normal reissue CD I might get rid of it, but the cool pop-up badger has me holding on to it for now. Definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of Yes, or of live albums from that period, or like heavy, groovy rock with good soloing.

Before I wrap things up, I'd just like to share what the obi says. I started listening to rock music after my family moved to Tokyo in 1982, so I had a bunch of Japanese records with the obi. I used to hate them! They would get caught on the records next to them and I couldn't read them, they were just in the way. But now I have learned to love them, and sometimes they have interesting things to say. This is what's on the 2003 mini-LP sleeve One Live Badger obi:

"Debut release (1973) live recording of BADGER, formed with Tony Kaye (formerly of Yes) at the center. A masterpiece that captures a performance which is raw and overflowing with energy."

Works for me!

hieronymous | 3/5 |


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