JUDAS PRIEST – Trouble Shooters (1989 CBS cassette)
Readers understand that I’m pretty anti-cassette. For most of my life, I had shitty equipment and shitty tapes so my memories of fiddling with tapes are not happy ones. You do tend to find oddities on cassette that don’t exist on any other media, which is one reason I’ll always need a tape deck.
Here’s one from my personal collection that I bought in early 1990.
Bob Schipper knew my favourite band in 1989/1990 was the mighty Priest. He told me of a cassette I didn’t have called Trouble Shooters. The one detail I can’t recall is what store he saw it in, but I gave him some money and he got me the tape.
I was disappointed that it was a cheap tape with nothing on the inlay, but I now had a Priest tape I didn’t own before. I spied the release date: 1989. It looked odd sitting in my tape cases filed as the “newest” Judas Priest release, with Les Binks on the front cover. Trouble Shooters was in fact a bargain bin compilation made up of songs from Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Hell Bent for Leather, Point of Entry, British Steel, and Defenders of the Faith. Another thing that looked strange: the uber-metal Priest logo on the front. Turning it up to 11, it’s rendered as the insane-o looking Jüdäs Priést.
The running order on these tapes is usually pretty random, but side one of Trouble Shooters goes down really well. “Let Us Prey/Call For the Priest” is a pretty cool way to open a tape, with that low hum of instruments before the regal guitarmonies enter. (Note that the second part of the title isn’t printed anywhere.) “Let Us Prey” is suited to commence a Priest tape that is heavier than the average. Its proto-thrash pacing represents Judas Priest at an early peak. Then, sensibly, Trouble Shooters gets the “hit single” out of the way early, in this case “Living After Midnight”. Casual music buyers picked up these tapes in discount bins, so you have to put on the hit early; the second slot working best.
I appreciated that they included two songs from Point of Entry as that has always been a personal favourite. The title track is parsed wrong as “Trouble Shooters” when it should be all one word. Still a good song, with Priest taking a simple sassy 4/4 time stance. “Turning Circles” from the same album is lesser known but possesses a slower groove that works just as well as the fast ones. The secret seems to be Rob Halford, who twists and turns every word for maximum expression.
Side One is granted an epic quality thanks to “The Green Manalishi”, my favourite Priest song of all time and certainly a crowd pleaser too. (Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a Fleetwood Mac cover.) You just can’t find a better closer for a Side One anywhere else in the Priest canon.
Continuing the excellent sequencing is a song heralding the arrivals of “Metal Gods” on Side Two. Then “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”, the most recent song from 1984’s Defenders of the Faith. Nothing from Turbo or Ram It Down. I wonder if there were rules about what could and couldn’t go on these budget compilations. Maybe they were limited to music five years old or more. Back to the tape, “Some Heads” follows a similar sonic mood as “Metal Gods”, though the production is less sleek and more muddled. It’s still apocalyptic metal for breakfast.
Finally it’s back to the start with a couple epics from the early days. For me, I think I would have ended the tape on “Sinner”, but it comes before “Saints In Hell” here. Much like “Let Us Prey” on Side One, these songs show off the early savage side of Judas Priest, ripping meat from the bone raw and ugly. It’s barbaric metal with sharply precise moves.
I don’t know why I hung on to this tape when so many of them ended up in a Thunder Bay landfill. I’m glad I did: this was a fun cassette to review.