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Review: 'BADGER, MIKE'

-  Label: 'VIPER'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '1999'-  Catalogue No: 'VIPERCD001'

Our Rating:
After pivotal roles in The La's and The Onset, Mike Badger now seems ready to unleash his latest musical enterprise with his band The Shady Trio. As a result it seems a perfect time to take a look back at his first solo offering.

Recorded and mixed completely in a two day session, Volume finds Badger practically alone. Save for the guitar work of Lightning Seed Paul Hemmings and a few guest appearances, this is a solo record in the very essence of the word. The sparse acoustic arrangements leave nothing to hide behind. This is the sound of one man with a set of songs he believes in, reclaiming his love of music after a spell away from the business.

This love of music is inherent in Volume's DNA. Silhouette would sit at home amongst the cascading acoustic guitars on Love's Forever Changes. Despite the subtle pin-drop electric guitar, when hearing Rhapsody I'm struck with the image of John Lennon finger-picking White Album compositions in Rishikesh. James Earl Ray distils the essence of Neil Young's stoned troubadour phase in under three minutes. To me, Volume perfectly encapsulates one of those nights which begins with you playing a criminally dusty aspect of your record collection and ends in the early hours with you having rediscovered at least a dozen special albums. That absolute wonder of becoming completely reinvigorated by music is sprinkled all over Volume.

You could therefore harshly dismiss Volume as song-writing by numbers; however the skill involved is simply magnificent. Where Love Is contains a melody so pure it could claim to be the reason Lee Mavers' second La's album will spend eternity in the redrafting process. Of course it all doesn't hit the mark. Perpetual Emotion is little more than a camp-fire sketch based around some typically Scouse wordplay. Still, when Badger croons "it's good to be alive" it's hard not to get swept up in the sheer positivity of the whole thing.

Yet what turns Volume from being a great album into one in desperate need of discovery and reappraisal is the mood that holds it together. Although this may be due to the speed the album was recorded, the level of intimacy in these recordings is mesmerising. I've heard captivating acoustic records before but never one that actually makes you feel that you're in the same room as the players. Badger's almost shy vocals draw you into the heart of the songs. Guitar lines are occasionally fluffed but the closeness conveyed in the recordings adds a beautiful realism. You soon feel like you're listening to the songs of a friend you've known for years.

Volume is an enchanting record that quickly creates its own world for you. With the threat of being snowed in at Christmas becoming a definite possibility, you could do a lot worse for company over winter.

Mike Badger online
  author: Lewis Haubus

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Mike Badger Volume