BUDGIE — Budgie (review)

BUDGIE — Budgie album cover Album · 1971 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
If you’re serious about diving into the origins of heavy metal you will no doubt tackle the usual suspects such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but in the early gestation years of the late 60s and the fully formed heavy rock bands that provided the antecedents of the greater metal universe, there were quite a few contenders that didn’t quite attract the same level of success as the big three. The Cardiff, Wales based BUDGIE was one of the earliest such bands that was a seminal influence on the NWOBM scene that would emerge at the tail end if the 70s. While formed in 1967 under the less-than-metal moniker Hills Contemporary Grass, they changed their name to Six Ton Budgie before finally truncating it to the more known BUDGIE which is an informal term for “budgerigar,” an Australian parakeet which would become their mascot. This power trio of Tony Bourge (guitar), Tony Shelley (bass, vocals, mellotron) and Ray Phillips (drums, percussion) chose this name as a diametrically opposing term in relation to their bombastic bluesy rock bravado.

While Black Sabbath was in 1971 the heaviest band in existence, BUDGIE wasn’t too far behind. Their eponymous debut released the same year as “Master Of Reality,” followed the trends of the more successful bands and could be generalized as heavy rock straddling in between the heavy Sabbath riffing with Led Zeppelin inspired compositional constructs as well as Shelley’s Robert Plant inspired vocal style. The Sabbath inspired parts come to the forefront with the opener “Guts” which is a little too close to Sabbath’s own “Hand Of Doom” which sounds like a good case for plagiarism to my ears but the album quickly drifts off into their own unique middle ground between the great Sabbath and Led Zep. Many have cited as BUDGIE being the first version of the Canadian band Rush since they are a power trio and deliver a tight and compelling band sound out of only three musicians. On this debut they do indeed have that heavy rock gusto that Rush would unleash on their first two pre-progressive albums. Likewise BUDGIE, while rooted in ballsy blues rock with a more bombastic approach, did engage in progressively tinged compositional constructs.

While BUDGIE may have borrowed a lot from Sabbath and Led Zep, they have also been the influencers as well with tracks like the whimsically titled “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” a clear antecedent into Golden Earring’s hit “Radar Love” which also displays Shelley’s unique bass slapping style with a little funk technique and heavy rock groove with Phillips pounding out the supporting percussive drive accompanied by Bourge’s guitar antics. Very heavy stuff for 1971 indeed and progressive as it clocked in at 8:41 and meandered through a series of clever musical moves not common in the bluesy rock world of the day. “Rape Of The Locks” allows Bourge to show off some of his guitar tricks with a series of flashy solos before erupting into a boogie rock style that would become the staple of bands such as ZZ Top in the coming years. Tracks like “All Night Petrol” find Shelley doing his best Robert Plant vocal exercises but alongside a Sabbath inspired doom laden riff in a mid-tempo groove. “You And I” shows a mellower side with a short acoustic ballad.

BUDGIE created a very interesting sound for sure and although they didn’t quite have the over-the-top performance charisma that Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin delivered to the world, they provided a unique glimpse in between the musical sounds where those two bands existed. While parts of BUDGIE’s debut are clearly inspired by certain tracks from their influences, somehow they polish it out with their own unique stamp. The blues oriented hard rock riffing is more akin to 60s bands like Cream with Sabbath overtones (due partly to Sabbath’s producer Rodger Bain in the picture), but they crafted their compositions completely differently with more complex constructs that meandered into more unexpected territory. In other words less calculated and more free. While destined to be more of a footnote of history for providing the blueprints of heavy metal riffing that would be fully realized by bands like Metallica in the next decade, BUDGIE are well worth checking out in their own right. The synthesis of heavy rock with progressive touches makes this more than a historical artifact.
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