REVIEW: Judas Priest – Turbo 30 (2017 deluxe 3 CD set)

JUDAS PRIEST – Turbo 30 (2017 Sony Legacy 3 CD set)

It is sheer delight to see Judas Priest’s once maligned Turbo to finally see some vindication.  There was a time this album was shied away from completely.  They played no tracks from it on the 1990-91 Painkiller tour.  In 1990, Priest finally pulled themselves out of a slide into dangerously commercial territory.  For a long time, Turbo was considered a musical detour that did more harm than good.  However the frost thawed quickly and Priest began to put the title track back into the set around 2001 for their Demolition tour with Tim “Ripper” Owens.  Today there is no longer any shame in cranking Turbo while hoisting a tall cool one.

The 30th anniversary edition of Turbo contains a freshly remastered edition and two live discs.  The sound is greatly improved from the 2001 version from the Priest Re-masters series.  As you can see by the waveform below, the 2001 version at bottom was a victim of the “loudness wars”, and much of the dynamic range was lost by pushing it to overdrive.  The 2017 version at top has more peaks and valleys.  The new version wins for overall for having more warmth.

What the 2017 version does not have are the two bonus tracks included on the Priest Re-masters version.  They were a live version of “Locked In” (which would be somewhat redundant here) and an unreleased studio track called “All Fired Up” which sounds like a Ram It Down outtake.  For a complete review of Turbo and these bonus tracks, please refer to our review of the Turbo 2001 CD edition.  The rest of this review will focus on the two live CDs inside Turbo 30.

The Fuel For Life tour that followed Turbo was one of Priest’s biggest.  Their stage featured a riser that “transformed” from a race car to a robot that would lift Glenn Tipton and KK Downing in the air with its claws.  It was commemorated by an album (Priest…Live!) and a separate home video from a concert in Dallas, Texas.  This new double live comes from a show in Kansas on May 22 1986.  It is 100% superior to Priest…Live! by every measure and could supplant that 30 year old album in your collection.

The set list varies a little from Priest…Live! but hits the same key tracks.  The ballsy synth ballad “Out of the Cold” still opens the set, a brave move even in 1986.  It is certainly the most unexpected of all Priest’s openers, so bravo.  “Locked In” is restored to its spot in the set; it was not on Priest…Live!  A version from an unknown concert (the liner notes are vague) was on the prior edition of Turbo as a bonus track.  “Locked In” isn’t a major track but still important due to its place as part of the “Turbo Lover” music video duology.  This live version is the best yet, loaded heavy with plenty of guitar thrills not present on the studio original.  From there it’s on to “Heading Out to the Highway”, nicely in the pocket.  Rob Halford’s screams are ferocious.  Next is the march of the “Metal Gods”, another version far more lively than the one on Priest…Live!  Seems there is much less mucking around with the recordings this time.

“Breaking the what?  Breaking the what?  Breaking the what?”  It’s that silly yet tried and true song intro.  Post-British Steel, you just can’t have a Priest live concert without “Breaking the Law”.  But always remember, that in the dead of night, “Love Bites”.  From 1984’s Defenders of the Faith, “Love Bites” was very different for Priest but still a set highlight.  (Incidentally, British Steel and Defenders of the Faith are the other Priest albums that had recent triple disc deluxe editions with live albums.)  Then more from Defenders:  Two killers in a row, “Some Heads are Gonna Roll” and “The Sentinel”.  Two songs that fans never tire of, and some credit must be given to the mighty guitar duo of Tipton and Downing.  Their trade-offs are sublime, and Halford curdles the blood.

Back into new material, “Private Property” was one of Priest’s more obvious grasps for a hit.  It’s far from a must-have, but better at least than the version on Priest…Live!  A mere five minutes later you will be transported to the “Desert Plains”, a Point of Entry deep cut that was excluded from Priest…Live!  It is far faster live and stay tuned for a long voice-shredding breakdown by Halford.  (Rob was clean at this point in his life.  Rob Halford recommends vocal rest between shows, menthol eucalyptus gum, and herbal tea to maintain a strong voice.)  A frantic “Rock You All Around the World” from Turbo ends the first disc with a filler track that is again better here than on the prior live album.

Screaming for Vengeance brings the fury for disc two, “The Hellion” (taped intro) and “Electric Eye” bring the focus clearly back to heavy metal, just in time to go for a spin with “Turbo Lover”.  This song is now a beloved classic, finally appreciated for its sharp songwriting and adventurous production.  Downing and Tipton pushed synths into heavy metal in a big way, but with integrity and ingenuity.  Better run for cover indeed, and fast…for next is “Freewheel Burning”, a natural for keeping with the theme of turbos and the like.

As the disc roars to its close, we are treated to some serious historic Priest.  The oldest track is “Victim of Changes”, from the immortal Sad Wings of Destiny (1976).  This most dramatic of Priest compositions is always welcome in the set, yet was not on Priest…Live! probably to avoid overlap with 1979’s Unleashed in the East live album.  This one boasts a blazing hot guitar solo and some of Rob’s most impassioned wailing.  This stretches out for nearly nine minutes of pure metal brilliance at its most vintage.  But the vintage metal gift-giving is not over, because “The Green Manalishi” (1979’s Hell Bent for Leather, via Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac) delivers the greatest of all riffs.

It’s nothing but the hits from there:  “Living After Midnight”, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, and “Hell Bent for Leather”, the standards that everyone knows.  “Another Thing Coming” is stretched out with Rob’s annoying back-and-forth with the crowd, but it is what it is.  “Heavy metal communication”, he calls it.  Nobody is buying this CD for another version of that song anyway.

“You don’t know what it’s like!”  So get this package, the triple CD set, and you will!

5/5 stars

For Superdeke’s amazing review including some tidbits about who the drummer(s) on this album really is(are), check it out:  superdekes.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/judas-priestlive-in-kansas-city1986

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27 comments

    1. It’s Plenty o’ Priest!!

      Yes your reveal about the drummer situation was too important to exclude! I’m not surprised at all, but it is weird that Priest still won’t talk about it even though Holland has been gone for 27 years.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s never been a favorite but this edition of Turbo is really good. The packaging is superb and the live stuff is spot on. I seem to remember an interview with Priest in Kerrang bemoaning the fact that bands like Twisted Sister and Bon Jovi were getting gold records and they weren’t. Hence the shift towards Metal Lite. I always loved Reckless though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent review, Mike. As I mentioned over at Deke’s, the album itself didn’t appeal to me, but the live stuff sounds pretty brilliant and worth picking this up for. Like HMO, I’d likely nab it when the price comes down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The album itself is a nostalgia thing, I think that’s pretty hard to shake. Hard to listen to it with new ears when you’ve loved it 30 years.

      The live portion is indeed fantastic, it makes you wonder why they went and put out Priest Live when they had better stuff on tape!

      Like

      1. I have a few albums like that. It’s near impossible to take it in as if it’s all new (remastered or not).

        I’d imagine most bands have all their shows taped. Or most of them… keep them for the pension fund!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ouch, those remasters look hot. Look at the original DADC CD press I have from 1986.

    http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/90724

    The 2001,

    http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/131874

    And the 2017,
    http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/127245

    This is why I keep the super quiet originals.

    This album gets too much grief. Strong songwriting, they kept all the good ones for this album which is probably why Ram It Down is so hobbled. Turbo’s got the melodic goods. Dave Holland looks totally out of his element in all that ’80s leather though. RIP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Dillon! Thanks for the awesome comment. You’re right that both remasters are rather hot, the 2001 especially so.

      Do you tend to keep doubles of albums in cases like this?

      I have always said Turbo is special and unique. I cannot think of another album that sounds like it.

      Like

      1. Mike,

        I’m kind of a weirdo, I really don’t like buying the same album twice. I spring for the originals if they’re not too expensive, and I’ve got some rare discs because of that. I was tempted with this set though because the bonus disc is a live show from Kansas City at Kemper Arena (which is in Missouri), where they recorded The Ultimate Ozzy, and pretty close to where I grew up. So that’s why I bought this one, because of how close to home that show was. I didn’t get to see it in ’86 though. Didn’t have the dough, was young and broke.

        I do audio mixing as a hobby, and I’ve read up quite a bit on the recording process and always enjoyed reading about how the records were made. I found the sound on many albums to be as interesting to me as the actual music. Mike Shipley was an early hero. I’ve got auditory synesthesia that produces visual results, and I’ve found that being able to visualize music in that way has always helped me in my mixing decisions. So as far as remasters go, I’m pretty sensitive about the tweaking.

        A pen pal of mine is Barry Diament, he’s a mastering engineer that worked for Atlantic Records and mastered some really cool original CD pressings. He was a huge inspiration to me, and has plenty of enlightening stories and is very generous with his time and information. He mastered the quite a few of the original CD pressings of albums by Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Yes, Genesis, the Tuff Gong Bob Marley discs, U2, Tesla Yes, etc.

        Here’s a compiled list of his discography the guys at Steve Hoffman’s forum whipped up.
        http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/essential-barry-diament-masterings-part-2.220334/page-14

        Anyway, he told me interesting stories about his days working as the first dedicated CD mastering engineer at Atlantic (there were a few before him, but none specialized in CDs), starting in 1983 and leaving in 1987 to form his own company. He told me Atlantic used to supply him with production copy tapes. Meaning when they used to produce vinyl before the days of digital, they’d create these safety copies of the master tapes to use for mass production so that they didn’t screw up the original tapes. These tapes were altered by vinyl mastering engineers who did things to the signal to make it easier to cut the lacquer, but did not have a positive effect on sonic quality. Processes like compression, EQ’ing out the tip top of high end, and the lowest low end, and folding the bass frequencies into mono. The last one is sorta confusing, but just imagine them processing the signal so that everything under say, 100Hz, is being presented in mono instead of stereo. Many people say that humans are bad at telling which direction bass frequencies are coming from, so the making these frequencies mono would be unnoticeable, but I disagree. So does Barry. I can hear a difference. I think it mucks up the center of the sound, and obviously decreases the stereo field.

        Anyway, when CD’s were invented they no longer needed to worry about creating production copies. All you would theoretically have to do is transfer the original master tapes over to a digital format for mastering, therefore no quality loss and the original tapes aren’t damaged. Back then, masters for CD’s were stored for production on digital 3/4-inch u-matic video tapes. However, the label out of wanting to create a product that sounded “more like the record” instead of taking advantage of the potential of this new format, they supplied him with these safety tapes that had already been worn down for mass production of the vinyl, and already processed with these methods that decreased fidelity to make it easier to cut the lacquer on vinyl. I assume that most labels did something similar, which is why original pressing CDs are sometimes described as thin. There are notable exceptions where Barry had the original tapes, and some of those are noted on the Hoffman site. Phil Collins debut album Face Value was issued on CD using copy tapes by some dude before Barry. This would have been around 1983, because I have a Japanese pressing with this mastering. In 1984, the disc was secretly remastered. These remasters were surprsingly common back then. The catalog wasn’t changed, the bar code was the same, the only difference was in matrix numbers in the inner circle of the disc. They gave Barry Diament the original master tapes to remaster Face Value on the down low. The results were so jarring to Phil, that he said the difference was “night and day”.

        Despite some claims to the contrary, compression is not necessary in mastering. Barry never used compression, and still doesn’t to this day. He will not squash a record. In fact, he bypassed listening through a console out of concern that it would color the sound, distorting what he heard. He wanted to be completely neutral, so he brought his own cables into Atlantic Studios and brought the studio monitors out into the middle of the room so there would be no frequency buildup having them against the wall. EQ would be the only adjustments that he’d make.

        After he formed his own company, he demanded the original tapes, leading to such great sounding discs as Appetite for Destruction and Tesla’s The Great Radio Controversy.

        Anyway, the point of that long winded post was to say that even though I’m not fond of remasters, CD’s have rarely lived up to their full potential in the past. I have the original Columbia/CBS pressings of all the Priest albums up to and including Painkiller, the Repetoire Records Rocka Rolla, and the RCA Sad Wings. I’ve been meaning to get a better Sad Wings, there doesn’t seem to be a great CD version. The RCA is not compressed, so that’s why I picked it, but the EQ is kinda wonky. I went in there and tampered with it myself though.

        If you have any fidelity questions, I’m not sure if you can see my email, but hit me up if you can. If not I’ll give it to ya. Love your reviews, Mike. Hope I can be of some service around this place!

        Like

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