Bandolier Kings is a collection of great musicians brought together by the relentless Swedish guitarist Janne Stark to celebrate the Wales power trio Budgie. Janne is of course no stranger to tribute albums as he has recorded several under the name Mountain Of Power. He is also one of the founders of one of Sweden’s earliest Heavy Metal bands Overdrive as well as being a member of numerous other acts, like for example Locomotive Breath, Grand Design and Merryweather Stark and so on.
“Welcome to the Zoom Club” features 13 tracks all from my favorite Budgie period, the seven albums from the seventies when Tony Bourge was the guitarist in the band. Janne actually managed to get Tony to guest on the track “Guts” together with Budgie drummer Steve Williams, how amazing isn’t that!
Janne Stark himself is not only playing all rhythm guitars, all acoustic guitars and shared lead guitars but also all bass guitar, except for on one song (“I Can’t See My Feelings).
The vocals are handled quite amazingly by American guitarist Tony Spinner who manage to sound almost identical to Burke Shelly. He also shares lead guitar duties with Janne on three of the songs.
The drums are mostly handled by Peter Hermansson who started his career in 220 Volt, another early Swedish Metal band. Then there are also a bunch of other great guest musicians like Kyoji Yamamoto, Mats Karlsson, Mikael Nord Andersson, Don Mancuso, Joe Romagnola, Darren Welch on lead guitar. Ian Haugland and Jesper Persson on drums and John Gallagher on bass. Need I say that the musicianship on all the songs is “impeccable”.
This is an album that every true Budgie fan needs, not just because Bourge and Williams is featured but also because the songs are interpreted very close to the original arrangements but still with some creative diversions here and there to make it interesting. For example, when it’s time for the mellow part of “Breadfan”, that opens up the album, it’s exchanged for “Rocking Man”. The mellow part is actually featured as a song of its own as the final track “Breadfan (Slight Return)” of the album, very clever in my opinion. At the end of “Breaking all the House Rules” there is a very short snippet from “Hot as a Docker’s Armpit”. On other tracks there might be some cool unexpected harmony guitars and so on.
To pick a favorite song is impossible as Stark has managed to pick almost all of my Budgie favorites. The only ones that I miss are “Black Velvet Stallion”, “Parents” and “Young is a World”, but I can see why they are not featured this time. There is talking about a second album featuring the John Thomas years, maybe they could add those three songs as a bonus…
Anyway, with all these great songs (you probably know my love for Budgie if you have read my chronicle “Budgie and me”) I must give “Welcome to the Zoom Club” the highest grade possible, 10 out of 10. The album is released both on a limited gatefold vinyl edition as well as on CD and streaming.
One final thought. Around the same time as I got this album I read a new interview with Burke Shelly where he said that there is a new and final Budgie album (One Last Hurrah) on the way featuring some songs that he recorded vocals for before he had an aortic aneurysm in 2010, where he lost his ability to sing. Thankfully he can still play bass. Well, I hope that someone will send Burke this album, because if he can’t convince Tony Bourge to play the guitars on that final album I think that he should seriously consider Janne Stark as he, as you can hear on this album, would be a perfect fit for Budgie!
Artist: Bandolier Kings
Title: Welcome to the Zoom Club (A Tribute to Budgie)
Label: Grooveyard Records
Date of release: 10/12-19
Time: 1.16 minutes
Standout track: I Cant’s See My Feelings (and all the other songs on the album)