John Hinch

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Hero, Hero (1981)

JUDAS PRIEST – Hero, Hero (1981 Gull)

It’s true:  By all measurements, Hero, Hero is an exploitive compilation of Judas Priest material.  Their first record label, Gull, was prone to do this.  However this is no typical “hits” set; this one is of interest to collectors and die hard fans.

Hero, Hero (named for a lyric from the song “Dying to Meet You”) was originally released in 1981 to take advantage of Priest’s rising star. The original two releases on Gull records, Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings Of Destiny, had been exploited previously in a compilation called The Best Of Judas Priest, which was a single record. Hero, Hero was a double record which included all of Rocka Rolla and most of Sad Wings, as well as the crucial Joan Baez cover, “Diamonds and Rust”, in an alternate take (previously heard on Best Of).

So, if you have all that material already, why is this album required at all?  Cover art aside, of course.  That cover (a pre-existing painting) is brilliant.  There is also a Kiss bootleg called Barbarize with the same cover.

The reason is revealed in the liner notes. All of Rocka Rolla had been remixed for this release. Why is unknown, as that record sounded just fine for what it is. The remixes are, in general, not even all that different. The major changes are made during “Cheater”, the “Winter” suite, and “Rocka Rolla” itself, during which major portions of the songs are noticeably shifted around. “Rocka Rolla” has its verses rearranged, and there’s a burst of harmonica in “Cheater” where there never was before.

The remix done to Rocka Rolla doesn’t really add or subtract anything from the album, which makes it that much harder to understand why it was done.  Why Gull records spent the money to remix these tracks is unknown, and the names of the engineers involved are a mystery.  But there it is:  Rocka Rolla remixed in its entirety but not in order, here on the Hero, Hero album.  Because they’re less familiar to the ear, they sound fresh, but in many cases you’d struggle to point out differences.  A little reverb here, a little echo there.

Highlights including a bluesy “Cheater” and the flanged chug of “Diamonds and Rust”.  The six tracks from Sad Wings of Destiny are brilliant.  “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Deceiver” are used to open this CD, but that is not the original running order.  Normally the album begins with “Prelude” and “Tyrant”, also from Sad Wings.  The original Canadian cassette version on Attic maintained the original running order with “Prelude” at the start.  Essentially, the Connoisseur Collection CD has side one and side two flipped.

Fair warning to CD buyers:  There are some shoddy reissues of this album that don’t have the remixed tracks.  Transluxe is one such version.  To make your life easier you might just want to look for an original 1981 LP.  The pictured CD from Connoisseur Collection (1995) does have the remixes, so you’re good to go if you spot one.

3/5 stars

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: Judas Priest – The Best of Judas Priest (Insight Series reissue)

Welcome back to GREATEST HITS WEEK! This week we are looking at different, interesting hits albums from various bands. Today we visit the Mighty Priest!

Monday:  Extreme – The Best of Extreme: An Accidental Collication of Atoms? (1997)


 

Scan_20150808JUDAS PRIEST – The Best of Judas Priest (1978 Gull, 2000 Koch Insight Series reissue)

The abbreviated story:  Judas Priests’s first two albums, Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings of Destiny, were released on Gull records.  Priest’s first album for Columbia was Sin After Sin in 1977.  When they made the move to the bigger label, they lost all rights for their first albums to Gull.  The label proceeded to issue and reissue unauthorized compilations of those songs.  They even had Rocka Rolla remixed in its entirety by Rodger Bain and reissued in 1981 as part of the double album Hero, Hero.

The Best of Judas Priest was the first exploitive release by Gull, in 1978.  It would have been frustrating for the band to be out there promoting the new album, Stained Class (1978) when the unauthorized Best of hit the shelves.  Whenever asked about it, Priest have discouraged fans from spending their money on these Gull releases.  That was especially true when Best of Judas Priest was reissued again in 2000 by Koch records as part of the “Insight Series”.  They even placed a disclaimer on the official Judas Priest site advising fans to stay away from this CD in particular.  What really seemed to chap their collective ass was that the “Insight Series” contained a lengthy interview with former drummer John Hinch, who was really in the band for only a short time and was fired due to “lack of ability” (their words).

We at LeBrain HQ have acquired a copy for research purposes!

The Best of opens with 10 minutes of slow sludge from Rocka Rolla in the form of “Dying to Meet You” and “Never Satisfied”.  Poor sequencing aside, it is surprising that the up-tempo “One for the Road” is nowhere to be found.  Some heat is finally in the kitchen on Joan Baez’ “Diamonds and Rust”, an early unreleased version.  This too must have peeved the Priest.  This was recorded during the Sad Wings of Destiny sessions, but ultimately left off the album.  Not wanting to let the arrangement go to waste, it was re-recorded for Sin After Sin with Roger Glover producing. This earlier version, out the following year, probably confused a few fans who bought both albums.  The Sad Wings version is of high quality.  It lacks the crispness of the Glover recording, but should be absolutely essential to collectors today.  It can be found on a number of releases including Hero, Hero.

“Victim of Changes” was and is a high water mark.  It’s actually an amalgam of part of a song Rob Halford wrote (“Red Light Lady”) with a song by original Priest singer and founder, Al Atkins (“Whiskey Woman”).  To this day, has Halford ever used his scream more effectively?  “Victim of Changes” is nothing less than a desert island classic.  “Victim”, and the rest of the songs, all come of Priest’s immortal second album Sad Wings of Destiny.

“Island of Domination” is not a place you want to visit:  “We gotta get, we gotta get, we gotta get out of this place.  There’s a man with a needle who’s pleading to get to my face.”  The speedy metal delight keeps you there anyway.  “The Ripper” is a brief but undeniable classic, another highpoint from the Gull years.  Finally, “Deceiver” is separated from its first chapter, “Dreamer Deceiver”.  It does sound odd without its companion, but for a brief and explosive rock song to end a side of vinyl, it is certainly more than up to the task.

Finally there is the infamous 18 minute John Hinch interview that so upset the Priest camp upon its release.  Hinch discusses his history with the band, going back to forming a band with Rob Halford called Hiroshima.  Perhaps the guys in Priest were peeved when Hinch recalls playing on the same bill as Judas Priest, who he says were “horrible”.  His description of KK Downing as a “strutting lead guitarist [with] long blonde hair,” isn’t complimentary.  Ian Hill invited Rob and Hinch to join the band to replace Al Atkins, and their drummer Chris “Congo” Campbell.  According to Hinch, they did so reluctantly and with a desire to change the name.  This critique turns to praise, especially after Glenn Tipton joined the band to fill out the sound.  Perhaps his recollections don’t match those of the band, but it is otherwise impossible to find any other interviews with the drummer from Priest’s first album.  If you want a perspective from the drum stool in 1974, here it is.  What’s missing is any comment on why he was let go.

Ultimately it is up to the fan to decide where to draw the line on what to buy, and what not to buy.  Since the early “Diamonds and Rust” is also on Hero, Hero, one could choose to only buy that release, if they decide they don’t need the Hinch interview.  One could even buy both, or neither.  Personally speaking, I would have bought this anyway if only for the unique cover art.  It is your decision, but The Best of Judas Priest is a decent listen.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla (1974)

PRIEST WEEK

Welcome to PRIEST WEEK!  It’s all Judas Priest, all week.  Let’s go!


JUDAS PRIEST – Rocka Rolla (1974 Gull Records)

Years before the glory of Sad Wings of Destiny, Judas Priest was just another Birmingham bar band playing their version of the blues. Original lead singer and founder Al Atkins wrote a lot of the early material, with a variety of lineups.  Atkins quit the band in the early 1970’s and “Bob” Halford was brought in, along with second guitarist Glen Tipton.  Judas Priest as we know it was born.

I remember the next door neighbor George played me the song “Rocka Rolla” and I immediately loved it.  It had a cool riff and a hypnotic chorus.  Years later (1989) I walked into Sam the Record Man and bought my LP copy off the near-legendary Al King. Finding a copy on cassette was nigh on impossible so I bought an LP.  Little did I realize that was a good move.  I can still play the LP and it sounds great, whereas a cassette would be in a Thunder Bay landfill by now.

Unfortunately Rocka Rolla disappointed me.  I didn’t like it when I got it in ’89 and I still find it kinda dull.  The band wrote a lot of songs with Al Atkins, largely blues-based rock, and that’s what Rocka Rolla is: Leftovers from the Atkins era, slow blues jammers meandering along at a leisurely pace.  There is precious little heavy metal here. “Run of the Mill” and the “Winter” suite, for example, run the gamut from hippy-dippy flower power love to amateur British bar blues. Yet, Jethro Tull these guys were not, and Rocka Rolla is strictly second rate.  The drummer on Rocka Rolla was John Hinch, a musician that Tipton described as “inadequate” to play Priest’s more challenging material.  Maybe that is one reason that Rocka Rolla lacks power.

There are a couple decent moments that keep this album from being a 1-star stinker. The title track is a fun proto-metal number, with a neat classic sounding riff. There is also the outro to “Dying to Meet You”, known as the “Hero, Hero” section which actually has some spark. “Never Satisfied” has some powerful moments.  “One For the Road” is a good song.  The rest is basically a band trying to find its direction, not sure whether it’s a jam band, a blues band, or a rock band, and excelling at none of those sounds.

There’s a bonus track on some CD versions, tacked-on but unrelated. This is the version of “Diamonds & Rust” from the Best Of album. Great song and great version, sounding totally out of place here.  Also of note, there are two album covers.  I prefer the soda bottle cap much more than that weird football player bomber guy.

Two years later, Judas Priest laid down one of my all-time favourite metal classics Sad Wings of Destiny.  How they turned the ship around so drastically is beyond me. New songs, new chemistry?  Let’s be grateful they did turn it around, for if this band failed to do so you never would have heard of them.

2/5 stars

More PRIEST at mikeladano.com:

JUDAS PRIEST – Nostradamus  (2008 Sony deluxe edition)
JUDAS PRIEST – Rising In The East (2005 DVD, live in Japan)
JUDAS PRIEST – Turbo (1986)