Badger - One Live Badger (1973)
Badger were one of those seventies bands that are barely remembered outside the circle of hard-core Yes fans. Only in existence for a couple of years, they managed to produce two albums, White Lady, the 1974 studio album which was a fairly mellow, soul-influenced affair featuring ex-Apple Records artist Jackie Lomax, and the altogether more interesting progressive rock debut One Live Badger. Formed in mid 1972, the roots of the band stretch back a few years earlier when Tony Kaye linked up with David Foster who was getting material together for a prospective solo album. Foster, a former band mate of Jon Anderson in The Warriors, was first introduced to the Yes camp when he co-wrote Sweet Dreams and Time And A Word with the vocalist with for the band's second album. Although the solo album was eventually scrapped, Foster and Kaye kept in touch and following Kaye's departure from Yes and brief involvement with Flash, set about remixing and reworking the original material.
Deciding to form a band to play and record the songs, drummer Roy Dyke was recruited from the recently disbanded Ashton, Gardener and Dyke who recommended that guitarist Brian Parrish, who had recorded a largely ignored album with Adrian Gurvitz, should complete the line-up. After intensive rehearsals, the band made their debut at "The Rainbow Theatre" in December 1972 supporting Yes at the infamous concerts that spawned the sprawling Yessongs live album. Atlantic Records, to whom both groups were signed, decided that as the equipment was in place they should make the most of their financial outlay and record the support group's set as well. In a bold move that seems rather extraordinary by today's standards, it was these recordings that formed the basis of One Live Badger.
And what a great album it is, the material is strong and the group sound as if they have been playing and writing together for years. The production, by the group, Jon Anderson and Geoffrey Haslam, is crisp although somewhat more raw and aggressive than the resulting Yes recordings from the same concerts. As expected, Kaye's signature Hammond organ sound is to the fore on most of the tracks (and in particular on the album closer On The Way Home), although he does use other keyboards to add different textures: the chorus of Wind of Change features the mellotron, The River utilises an electric piano to great effect and a Moog synthesiser is evident on other tracks. Guitarist Brian Parrish plays some great solos, although nothing too flash (excuse the pun!) or overburdened with technical virtuosity. The solid and efficient rhythm section are quite prominent in the mix, as one would expect from a live recording, Foster's bass in particular being particularly clear - the dynamic mix of driving bass, riffing guitar and wailing Hammond during On The Way Home is superb and probably something that could only be got away with on a live recording. The closest comparison would be akin to a rockier Traffic.
Overall, a wonderful live album and worthy of inclusion in the collection of any fan of 1970s rock music, not just those drawn by the Yes connections. My only complaints are with the quality of the packaging. Roger Dean's cover artwork is poorly reproduced (the band name and album title are hard to see in detail), the booklet (four sides with only the front and rear artwork in colour) contains no extra information aside from the original sleeve notes and just reproduces the four colour photographs from the tray inlay in black and white. There are probably no bonus live recordings that could have been added to the album, 40 minutes would no doubt have been the length of the support act's set, and the inclusion of any existing rehearsal or demo cuts would have been incongruous, but one does feel that the addition of a few extra photos, a potted history of the band and even some reminiscences from the group members themselves would have helped justified what is effectively a full-price release. Still, it is the music that matters and on that score you can't complain at all.
1. Wheel of fortune (7:04)
2. Fountain (7:12)
3. Wind of change (7:00)
4. River (7:00)
5. The preacher (3:35)
6. On the way home (7:10)
Badger - One Live Badger (1973)