The long-awaited official release of Budgie's radio sessions has finally arrived, and I think I speak for all squawkers when I say that it was worth the wait. Let's see what Heavier Than Air has to offer us:
BBC In Concert, 19/10/72
I've had a reasonably high quality tape of this for many years, but of course I always wanted a better copy...and now I've got one. There's very little hint that this was actually taken from a transcription disc, and save for some mild distortion at the beginning of Rape of the Locks, this is the best recording of this blistering performance that Budgie fans could hope to be receive. While some of the playing here is a bit loose (especially in Rape), it only adds to the frantic feel of this show. I daresay that with this show, Budgie reached depths of in-your-face heaviness that even the mighty Sabbath had not tread.
Favorite song: Hot As A Docker's Armpit
John Peel Show, 1/7/76
Another recording I've had for several years with decent quality, but nothing like this. What stands out the most for me here is the incredible mastering job. I've always loved the version of In The Grip of a Tyrefitter's Hand from these sessions, and I'm now able to hear so much in this song that I didn't hear before. I think this performance of Tyrefitter rivals the greatness of the original release. Sky High Percentage moves along nicely as well, although it is (understandably) much closer to the regular version than is Tyrefitter. What really makes these sessions for me is Steve's drumming...and since he's my favorite drummer ever, get used to hearing me say that. ;)
Favorite song: In The Grip of a Tyrefitter's Hand
Friday Rock Show, 18/12/81
Similar to Sky High Percentage above, these sessions don't offer anything out of the ordinary, since all three songs were recorded and released that year on Nightflight. Although I would have preferred Don't Lay Down and Die or Keeping a Rendezvous (or something old) over Superstar and She Used Me Up, it's nice to have another version of I Turned to Stone. Again, great mastering job, and more killer work from Steve.
Favorite Song: I Turned To Stone
John Peel Show, 25/2/72
The first of two sessions that I never even knew existed comes from the same year as the frenzied live performance reviewed above. While the sound quality here is not, er, "impeckable" (see the liners for details), I doubt any Budgie fans will be sending this back in exchange for something less gritty. This may well be Budgie at their most unforgiving. The bassy, distorted sound only enhances the mayhem as the most powerful rock trio in history rip through damn near sacrilegious takes of Hot as a Docker's Armpit, The Author (!), Whiskey River, and the furiously jamming Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman. These sessions are worth the price of admission alone, and a lot more.
Favorite Song: The Author
Capitol Radio show, Global Village, London, 9/3/74
The other of the two sessions that I had no clue existed features Pete Boot...meaning that this Budgie collection features all four main Budgie lineups. While the sound quality of these live performances don't give the '76 and '81 sessions a run for the money, this is quite listenable and was a great surprise. I think the real surprise here, though, is that You're the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk sounds even more energetic and inspired than the Breadfan that precedes it. This is a real gem of a performance and again justifies the price of this set all by itself.
Favorite Song: You're the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk
A&M Studios, Los Angeles, CA, 30/4/78 (complete show, incorrectly dated as 3/7/78)
Let me start by saying that it will take great effort to contain myself on this one. ;) For many years, this has been my favorite show from any band. The tightness, energy, and musicianship put forth in this show combine to create a listening experience that leaves me in awe every time I listen to it. The foursome (including Myf Isaac on rhythm guitar) seem to have a synergistic effect as they work to create a whole that is truly even greater than the sum of its parts. Steve's stunning drumming and incredible grooves (Melt the Ice Away, Tyrefitter, Parents, etc.), Burke's impassioned bass playing and vocals (the end of the last chorus of In For the Kill), Tony's soulful leads (Parents), and Myf's invaluable filling out of the sound make this show one for the ages. I have longed for a remastered version of this show on CD ever since I first got a copy of it back in early '91. The remastering job here is excellent and does this show the long overdue justice it deserves. Bootleg collectors will also appreciate the inclusion of the ripping version of Who Do You Want For Your Love, which is missing from many copies. This show marks some of the last recorded moments of the classic Shelley/Bourge/Williams lineup, but it unquestionably also marks their finest. Hide your pussy, because the mighty Budgie are on pure wildfire here. Get this or forever regret it.
Favorite songs: Melt the Ice Away, Tyrefitter, In For the Kill medley, Parents, Who Do You Want For Your Love, Don't Dilute the Water, Breadfan
A long-awaited piece of work which could not be better. Some interesting liners (albeit with a few errors, like the A&M date), including some words from Burke. Frankly, I haven't been this excited about a release in a long, long time. Upon receiving my copy and listening to it, I promptly mailed a bunch of other Budgie fans, flooded various newsgroups, and discussed it on my Budgie page, urging everyone, everyone to get this. No HR/HM fan should be without this collection.
Any Budgie/NWOBHM fans are invited to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my home page.
Ron Levine - 11th July 1998
Review by Paul Strange
Heavier Than Air - Rarest Eggs (1998 - New Millenium Communications - PILOT 42)
If 'We Came...' was eagerly awaited then 'Heavier than Air' should have fans in rapture! This has to be one of the best ever Budgie releases and could never have come about without the dedication of Budgie fans, far more fanatical than me, who tracked down tapes and transcription discs to replace BBC archive tapes that had been destroyed. Credit should also go to NMC for doing a classy production job, including a great cover and a nice ten page booklet containing Burke's introduction and some classic band photographs.
The first CD kicks off with four tracks from 1972's Paris Theatre, London gig which was recorded for BBC Radio's 'In Concert' broadcast. What we have here is four raw and fizzing tracks from 'Budgie' and 'Squawk' delivered in minimalist style - the total essence of why Budgie fans become hooked. The musicianship is basic but in this case less is definitely more. These tracks with their razor sharp riffs are painful to listen to...beautifully painful!
Next up are two tracks from a 1976 John Peel Session. The first 'Sky High Percentage' is much heavier than the album cut and breezes along in foot tapping style. The second is a classic cut of 'In the Grip of a Tyrefitters Hand' delivered with machine gun efficiency. I hope John Peel was scared witless!
To follow this up are three later Budgie tracks recorded for the 'Friday Rock Show' in 1981. A personal fave 'I Turned to Stone' sounds great, subtley different to the album cut especially Burke's vocals. Why the single wasn't a hit God only knows! I can take or leave 'Superstar' but 'Used Me Up' is a nice catchy rocker though not radically different in this recording to the album version.
The first CD draws to a headbanging conclusion with four John Peel session tracks from 1972, recorded from a tranny radio, although you'd never know for the most part due to a fine mastering job by NMC. The best of the bunch is 'The Author' a beautiful mix of Burke's soulsearching lyrics and Tony's lilting guitar, punctuated by blunderbuss rhythm in typical Budgie style. A wonderful track ! Ray Phillips should also take credit for the incredible drumming on 'Whiskey River.' I wouldn't like to be his bass drum!
The second CD starts with two tracks from a 1974 London gig featuring Burke and Tony with Pete Boot on drums. If you like it loud and fast then you will love this version of Breadfan. It sounds as if the guys are competing to see who can finish first.Truly breathless stuff. The second track is in my opinion the best ever version of 'You're the Biggest Thing...' Again the performance is frenetic, drawing the listener into the Budgie glory days of chart success and no holds barred heads down rocking.
The CD's piece de resistance is the 1978 Charlie Chaplin Studio gig from Los Angeles broadcast on KNAC radio. Many Budgie fans can now bin their fuzzy bootlegs of this concert. Myf Issacs plays second guitar on this one and adds a truly professional dimension to Budgie's live sound. The highlight is hearing tracks like 'Melt the Ice Away' and 'Don't Dilute the Water' produced with a rawness that the album versions sadly lacked. Add to this truly awesome versions of 'Parents', 'Who Do You Want for Your Love', and 'Breadfan' among others and you have a CD that Budgie fans old, and hopefully new, will cherish!
Cheers Budgie for the great memories...now the little matter of a U.K. reunion Tour ?! All Budgie fans live in hope!Paul Strange - 23rd July 1998
Reprinted with permission from Paul's UK Budgie tribute site Budgie - The Beginner's Guide