Never Turn Your Back on a Friend is Welsh band Budgie’s third album, originally released in June 1973. A re-mastered version was released in late 2004. It is one of the band’s best known albums and includes “Breadfan”, one of the band’s better known songs (younger readers may have heard it covered by Metallica). The band at this point consisted of Burke Shelly – bass/lead vocals, Tony Bourge – guitars/backing vocals and Ray Phillips – drums.
This 2016 remastered release, for the first time from the master tapes, is part of a MCA albums 3CD 1973 – 1975 set which also includes In for the Kill and Bandolier. The band are hard to classify as Burke sounds a lot like Geddy Lee of Rush fame and the band as a whole stray a bit between prog and hard rock. This is a band that has never got the credit it deserves despite being a influence on a lot of bands. Metallica and Iron Maiden have both covered Budgie tracks.
The band were forced to stop touring a few years back after Burke developed heart problems. I first saw them live back in 1981 supporting Gillan at the Edinburgh Odeon and was immediately hooked and saw them every tour after that, with the last being at Bannermans in Edinburgh in 2005.
Onto the album now and it kicks off with “Breadfan” which was covered by Metallica in ’88 and it has got probably one of the most noticeable guitar riffs of any song going. The track shifts from a heavy rock to almost metal to softer prog rock hints coming in at just over 6 minutes – a track that will always be a classic. A Big Joe Williams cover next in the well known form of “Baby Please Don’t Go”, that kicks in with some major riffage from Burke and Tony before Burke’s vocals take us on a journey through this well known song. This track has been covered by a lot of bands but Budgie deliver a stunning early 70’s blues version of a track which is often rocked up. In particular Tony’s playing is stunning with Burke’s rock steady bass and the up-rated drum sound of Ray in the background, this is riffage at its best.
We step into a short slow acoustic ballad track next with “You Know I’ll Always Love You”, a track that transforms Burke’s voice to a much softer light tone, a total change from the rock based voice of normal. A band that loves odd track titles and up next we have “You’re the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk” with its killer drum intro from Ray before Tony and Burke kick in with the classic vocals that turned me onto the band coming in strong. A highlight of the album for this reviewer, the midsection of this track is just stunning with the whole band just killing it.
We are “In the Grip of a Tyre Fitter’s Hand” next, a true Budgie classic with Tony’s riffs opening up in fine form. We are definitely in the grip of some fine playing from all the band with riffs that Tony Iommi would be jealous of from Tony and bass lines that Geezer Butler would love to play. Geddy and the Rush boys must have listened to early Budgie back in the day! The outro is just killer on this track as well. We go “Riding my Nightmare” with the band next, another stunning but short acoustic ballad which just makes you truly appreciate Burke’s vocal range.
The last track of this album is another Budgie classic in the form of the ten minute epic “Parents” with another stunning intro from Tony. This is one of the classic tracks for any real Budgie fan (myself included), this has it all: Burke’s sublime vocals, Tony’s simply stunning playing style with Ray filling in the final piece of the puzzle that makes up Budgie in this era. This is a defining tracks from the band, from Tony’s truly haunting playing with Ray subtly in the background to Burke’s subtle bass playing and singing, all combined into ten minutes of sheer musical bliss.
This is simply a fantastic album full of amazing tracks in all their various flavours and starts the 3CD set off in fine style. As I’ve stated, this is a truly overlooked band who should be up their on true Rock God pedestals with all worshipping at their Welsh feet.
- Baby Please Don’t Go (Big Joe Williams cover)
- You Know I’ll Always Love You
- You’re the Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk
- In the Grip of a Tyre Fitter’s Hand
- Riding my Nightmare
Photo by Gary Cooper from the band’s show at Bannerman’s, Edinburgh in 2005