REVIEW: Judas Priest – Unleashed in the East (1979, Remastered)

JUDAS PRIEST – Unleashed in the East (Originally 1979, 2001 Sony reissue)

The best Judas Priest live album isn’t the biggest or the newest.  It’s the first:  the humble Unleashed in the East.  The first Priest album to be produced by Tom Allom, the last with Les Binks on drums…this is a special album for a number of reasons but most important are the songs.  It would not be going out on a limb to suggest that some of these tracks are now the definitive versions.

Like many live albums of the 1970s, it has been questioned how much of Unleashed in the East was redone in the studio.  Rob Halford has maintained that only the vocals were touched up, but it does not matter one iota when the needle hits wax or laser strikes plastic.  The band were at a musical peak in 1979, and with accelerated tempos, they attacked the best of their body of work, although neglecting the bluesier debut Rocka Rolla.

With “Exciter” (from 1978’s Stained Class) opening the set, this collection has more energy by comparison to the somewhat stiffer studio counterparts.  Les Binks has his foot on the pedal and the band is fully energized on this proto-thrash classic.  “Stand back for Exciter” indeed, as Halford has the Tokyo crowd in the palm of his hand, heavy on the echo.  “Running Wild” (1978’s Hell Bent for Leather) is extra caffeinated compared to the in-the-pocket original, giving the album the feel of a race.  KK goes bananas at the end, and then it’s his showpiece:  “Sinner” from 1977’s Sin After Sin.  Finally it sounds like Priest have stopped hurryin’ about.  About half of the track features KK taking his guitar to outer space in a trippy solo segment.

In its original form, “The Ripper” (1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny) was thin and stiff by comparison.  Here it is a beast, with Rob Halford fully unleashed and stalking the back-alley streets.  Easiest contender for most definitive version of a song on Unleashed in the East.  “Green Manalishi” also comes close, with this electrifying version containing the full-blown dual solo in fantastic, crisp, live glory in stereo.  Each part of the solo is an essential part of the song, just as “Green Manalishi” is an essential part of the album.  If you own the LP, this is where you flip sides and go straight into an adrenalized “Diamonds and Rust”, keeping the energy moving.  Binks’ double-bass work is fun as hell to listen to, like a kid who can’t stop tapping his feet excitement.

The Priest epic “Victim of Changes” takes its time to unfold, though mightily it does.  The live setting and the unstoppable Les Binks make this another definitive Priest live version.  It is the climax of the album, with the last two tracks “Genocide” and “Tyrant” unable to surpass its mountainous metal spires.  Regardless, both are far more fuelled than their seemingly crippled studio counterparts.  Halford is more expressive and engaging live, while the guitars riff on relentlessly.

This album would be 5/5 stars right here, full stop, no need to elaborate.  The already definitive Priest live album became even more definitive in Japan in 1979, and 2001 in the rest of the world, with additional bonus tracks.  On the 2001 remastered Sony edition, all the tracks blend into one another without fade-outs.

Most of the tracks originated on Hell Bent for Leather, with one from Sin After Sin.  “Rock Forever” and “Delivering the Goods” cook!  Not too dissimilar from the originals, these are nice additions that extend the album without weakening it.  “Hell Bent for Leather” was conspicuous by its absence from the album proper, so its restoration is significant.  Finally the lengthy “Starbreaker” occupies the final slot, including a Binks drum solo.  An odd positioning but a stellar version nonethless.  All said and done, the version of Unleashed with bonus tracks is just over an hour long.  By today’s standards that’s a bit short for a live album, but it certainly does feel more complete.

Though he was indeed a significant source of Judas Priest’s musical power both on stage and in the studio, Les Binks quit the band mid-tour to be replaced by ex-Trapeze drummer Dave Holland for the remainder.  Binks was never made an official member on paper and was dissatisfied.  To be sure, other Priest drummers can sympathise.  The only taint on this otherwise perfect “live” metal album is the absence of the departed drummer on the front cover.

5/5/5 stars

 

JUDAS PRIEST REVIEWS

27 comments

  1. This album is so good that even me, the live album purist who hates even the sniff of an overdub can overlook the fact that this isn’t live.

    And at least they got the bonus tracks right. Imagine getting Turbo offcuts on this one. And on the topic of the bonus tracks, to me Unleashed in the East is 13 track because this is the first version i heard. I don’t really consider them bonus tracks when reviewing the album, unlike side 4 of Live After Death because I first heard it on the DVD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My point of entry (ha) into the world of Priest back in late 1979! What a sonic shock to go from KISS into a band with screaming vocals, dual lead guitar and a drummer who plays at a pace of rapid fire (ha-part 2)
    Such a classic. Spinal Tap like moment with no drummer on the front or back cover as you alluded too.
    Great writeup man!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It sure is great to wake up in the morning without “joke” comments!!

      Definitely a Spinal Tap moment with no drummer, and one has to wonder if the Judas Priest rotating drum stool was an inspiration for that movie. When it came out, Priest were about 10 years into their recording career, and on their 5th drummer!

      Like

  3. The problem with the remasters is missing the Beyond of Realms track only present in the first press in UK , LP and Tape; also Evil Fantasies could be added from Living after Midnight 12” to have the almost full show experience. From boots of that era Take on the World and White Heat red hot were played in those shows. Thanks a lot for your Priest reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes true good point regarding Beyond the Realms. Hard to believe it’s still not been reissued (as far as I know).

      I will be getting into some more rare Priest live tracks next week. There’s a CD called Priest Live & Rare that has some live B-sides so we will get into that soon. Thank you for the compliments!

      Like

    1. Priest Live revved up my love for Priest. It was summer holidays 1987 and I wanted the new Priest tape. First time I ever heard Breaking the Law, Metal Gods, all that stuff!

      Although I think I probably heard Living After Midnight, because there was a WWF tag team who used it as their theme song. Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty — the Midnight Rockers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Always puzzled me this one, I find it really unlistenable and tense. I like the (other) studio LPs in the run up to it but this just never does it for me, it all sounds a bit strangulated and brittle. I was so disappointed when I finally bought it.

    I appreciate this is a view that might see me burned at the stake but I far prefer ‘Priest … Live!’.

    I’ll get my coat and go back into hiding now.

    Liked by 1 person

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