JUDAS PRIEST – Turbo (1986)
Most people know the story by now: Turbo wasn’t supposed to be so lite. It was originally supposed to be a double album called Twin Turbos, featuring a mix of styles from ballads to hard rock to heavy metal. When the record company balked, they put the most commercial stuff out as Turbo, saving the rest of the songs for later use. Some, such as the awesome “Heart of a Lion” (later covered by Scott Travis’ band Racer X) and “Red White & Blue” ended up on Priest box sets and remasters. Other songs such as “Ram It Down” were re-recorded with a heavier sound and put out on the next album.
If you’re one of the many who considers Turbo one of the worst (if not the worst) Judas Priest album, I get it. It was their “sell out” album. It’s cold, it’s synthetic, it’s somewhat soulless. I understand. However, I tend to look at the Judas Priest back catalog, the complete gestalt, if you will, as one whole. Looking at this album in context, it is clear that Turbo is a unique record in Judas Priest’s canon, and indeed the whole of heavy metal in general. There’s never been an album that sounds quite like Turbo and it’s likely that there never will be again.
Turbo came in ’86 while Priest decided to experiment with guitar synthesizers. These are not keyboards on this album, but guitars played through a synth. Priest have done it since (Ram It Down, Nostradamus) but never again to this degree. Some of the sounds on this album are really cool. That weird vacuum cleaner combined with a jet engine sound in the opening of “Turbo Lover”, for example? Cool.
The songs are also good, albeit commercia hard rock. Priest had been increasing the commercial tendencies ever since British Steel, but on Turbo it veered heavily into MTV territory. “Turbo Lover” is an example of this. There’s not much in terms of a riff, which used to be the bedrock of a Priest song. The melody is the framework on which you hang the cool sounds and robotic groove. But it works, and the song is often brought out into the setlist, still — the only song from Turbo to make the setlist post-1987.
“Locked In” is a bit more rockin’, not a great song, but at least it ups the tempo a bit. The shout-chorus of “Private Property” is catchy as hell and this could easily have been a single. It sounded great live with the crowd joining in.
“Parental Guidance”, was probably my favourite Priest song in ’86-87. It’s just really catchy. It’s not heavy metal, but it’s really well-written pop metal. And as kids, we dug the words, even though Halford was 35 years old when he wrote them!
“Rock You All Around The World” closed side one, a fast number designed to get the crowd going nuts in concert. Sounds like Scorpions to me.
Side two started off with the long, dramatic epic, “Out in the Cold”. Man, what a great song. This one opened the live show in 1986 (and the following live album, Priest Live). I guess this would technically be the ballad of the album!
A pair of so-so songs follow, “Wild Nights, Hot And Crazy Days” (sounds like Van Hagar) and “Hot For Love” (another fast one that could have been covered by Scorpions). Not great songs, but at least they’re rockers. “Wild Nights” is kind of one of those 80’s party rockers. Nothing special, but it suited the times.
The final song is a total winner, “Reckless”, written for the Top Gun soundtrack but held back for this album. Awesome tune, “coming at galeforce ten.” This is just a perfect rock song for Judas Priest. Not a metal song, a rock song. It’s as aggressive as it gets on this album and it has a great solo, too.
There are two bonus tracks on the current remastered edition, “All Fired Up” (a lacklustre outtake) and a live version of “Locked In”. Since “Locked In” didn’t make 1987’s Priest Live album, it makes good sense to include it here. It was a single/video, released at the exact same time as “Turbo Lover” but always remained in that song’s shadow. Good to finally have a live version.
Liner notes and pictures are included. This album also contains the infamous “lead break credits”! While I don’t know if Glenn and Ken are interesting enough guitar players to warrant lead break credits for every song, it was a feature I enjoyed at the time and helped me identify the individual styles of the two players.