In the earliest days of my researching proto-metal, NWOBHM and the hard rock groups that inspired the world-changing movement, Blue Cheer just wasn’t cutting it. They were just too close to the saccharine fluff of the Beatles, and I could barely get into Deep Purple records no matter what I tried. They’ve just never been my jam. So, I did what any self-respecting cleptocratic fringe-millennial in the post-Y2K debacle’d digital age would do: I asked a friend for something heavier that’d stand up and get ballsy like those early 80’s records by Thin Lizzy where the band took a dip into the NWOBHM movement. The recommendation was Budgie and to be honest I didn’t get why the band was so special listening to the first few records. Remember that first Scorpions record that sounds like Black Sabbath? Budgie’s first three were like that but for Led Zeppelin but soft like Uriah Heep. Too bad, so soft. It wasn’t until I’d watched a performance of “Who Do You Want for Your Love?” a song from their ‘Bandolier’ record that I felt a tickle in my taint for the band. They’d hit a stride and a personal style that, for me, was a perfect place between Led Zeppelin’s guitar antics and the increasingly alien sound of Rush’s power trio. The tracks were catchy, didn’t jam out too long, and the playing could stand head to head with the bigger names in hard rock of the day.
If you know me at all beyond pleasantries you’d know what I did next. I listened to every single Budgie record from 1971 to 1982, all ten of them, on loop for the summer. The progression from prog-adjacent late 60’s rock to 70’s hard rock and then 80’s heavy metal across ten full-lengths is a trip and a treat that easily eclipses comparatively inconsistent bands like Blue Oyster Cult or Queen. My own personal summer of ’04 Budgie-fest was highlighted by a trip to the Grand Canyon where I’d taken along the grand finale trio of their last three albums: ‘Power Supply’, ‘Nightflight’, and ‘Deliver Us from Evil’. The one that made it’s most earnest case for entering my heart was the most accessible-yet-heavy record, ‘Nightflight’. That and ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ was literally Foreigner by way of The Police and I couldn’t really stomach it at the time. Seriously though, google “budgie bored with russia” and give it a listen.
The Grand Canyon experience was at least six hours of driving and I had my well documented first mp3 player the Creative Nomad Jukebox ZEN Xtra with 30GB of storage! This was my first trip with the mp3 player and I was beyond fucking stoked to listen to Budgie for at least half the trip. What might seem like an average hard rock/80’s metal album from an obscure, forgotten band offers powerful heavy rock rhythms, classic leads and melodies that inspire and, inexplicably, move me. It might be a brief half hour kick of melodic rock music but the A-side slaps me in the face and holds me tight me like nothing else. The build to, and the release of, the guitar solo around four minutes into “I Turn to Stone” moves me to tears occasionally. Huh? Listening to ‘Nightflight’ a few times today, even, as inspiration for words I found it still gets me. Was it just nostalgia for good times in life, a road trip to see a giant pit? No, in fact mediocre and bad hard rock albums have struck a chord with me for ages. I have an uncanny ability to make emotional connections with records that should, by most accounts, be left in obscurity for blatantly good reasons.
‘Nightflight’ still gives me the chills and that means a lot when most music merely reflects off of my dead zombie husk of a mind and plops into a pile of my excremental thoughts. Other sell out rock albums that do the same thing for me? The Damned ‘Strawberries’, Tank ‘Tank’, and I guess more arguably Hüsker Dü – ‘New Day Rising’. Dunno if I’d say go out and effin’ buy the shit out of Budgie records if you haven’t heard them, you might need want to preview ‘Nightflight’ hard before considering paying for it. The B-side has some stinkers that I tend to skip out on. Not a fan of what they were doing on “Apparatus” in particular and its flatness kills the transition onto the more subdued second half of the album. So, it isn’t entirely without flaws but it is an easy listen for fans of hard rock and heavy metal.
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