Budgie first came to my ears with their big Box set, the definitive anthology, 'An Ecstasy Of Fumbling', featuring a massive 29 tracks taken from albums during 1971-1982. This lead me to chack out some other Budgie albums and the first on my list was one that was recommended to me by Budgie fans, 'Bandolier'. This is perhaps their most popular album, certainly featuring some of their best songs and coolest guitar riffs, though it is inconsistent in terms of quality songs. The band revel in riffs that lock in with outstanding rhythmic 70s classic rock. 1975 was one of the great years for Prog and 'Bandolier' features the classic incarnation of the band; bassist/singer Burke Shelley and guitarist Tony Bourge, along with drummer Steve "Syco Steve" Williams, arguably their proggiest lineup before they turned to hard rock and AOR.
The album opens with the dynamic 'Breaking all the House Rules', a terrific sledge hammer attack of crashing riffs and very well executed vocals. The structure of the song detours into many directions and even changes feel in the middle sounding like a different song until it returns to the main riff.
'Slipaway' is next with gentle acoustics, followed by Bad Company sounds on 'Who Do You Want For Your Love' with a bluesy shuffle. There is more blues with 'I Can't See My Feelings' that has nice guitar licks but is nothing special really. After these rather lacklustre numbers it hots up with the wonderful cover by Andy Fairweather-Lowe from Amen Corner, 'I Ain't No Mountain'.
They save the best for last with the outstanding 'Napoleon Bona, Pts 1 & 2' that begins very slowly with gentle guitar and ambient swirls. Shelley's vocals are quiet, sounding like a bluesy version of Geddy Lee. When the distorted guitars crunch in with the chugging riff the song really picks up, especially the way the riff descends strangely giving it a dark feel. The lead break is always amazing, and Bourge blasts away with speed trills up and down the scales and high end string breaking bends. At 6 mins in there is a weird effect that muffles the sound and then it releases for more lead work.
Not many would disagree that the best Budgie stems from the early 70s years with "Squawk," "In for the Kill", "If I Were Britannia" and of course 'Bandolier'. These are the proggy innovative Budgie years, and 'Bandolier' is certainly one to hunt down for sheer hard rock riffing excellence with prog elements sprinkled thereabout.