judas priest

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

 

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REVIEW: Judas Priest – Ram It Down (Remastered)

JUDAS PRIEST – Ram It Down (Originally 1988, 2001 Sony remaster)

Judas Priest seemed pretty lost in the late 80s.  They were bigger than ever, but they lost focus of their musical direction.  Producer Tom Allom had cursed them with a robotic plod, far removed from the lively firepower of yesteryear.  When they released Turbo in 1986, they had gone as far down those roads as possible.  It was am ambitious departure, but 100% a product of the 1980s.

For Turbo, Priest had written enough songs for a double album.  Twin Turbos, as it was to be called, was supposed to reflect all facets of metal, but the record comany got cold feet and a single disc was issued.  It contained the most techno-commercial tracks, while Priest held onto the rest for another day.  That day came in 1988 when Priest (again with producer Tom Allom) released Ram It Down, largely made up of Turbo outtakes.  The album was hyped as a return to the heavy Priest of yore, and this was at least partly true, but fans were unconvinced by it.  In comparison with Turbo, yes, Ram It Down was heavier.  But Priest had gone as far as they could with Allom.  Ram It Down was too sterile and bogged down with filler.

Certainly the title track opens Ram It Down on a thrash-like note.  As if to silence to critics, it was a proud metal statement with an opening Rob Halford scream that curdles the brain.  The weakness is drummer Dave Holland on his final Priest outing.  Only when Scott Travis joined Priest in 1990 did they acquire a drummer who could play the kind of beats at the speed they needed.  On Ram It Down, Priest were held back by the drummer and clunky production, two mistakes they fixed on 1990’s Painkiller.  The lyrics also seem dumbed-down for the 80s.  “Thousands of cars, and a million guitars, screaming with power in the air,” is cool but cliche.

“Heavy Metal” is more of the same lyrically, an ode to the power and glory of power chords.  Rob Halford’s performance is fantastic, and the man has rarely sounded as fantastic as he does on Ram It Down.  You can’t say the same for the words, the highschool equivalent of poetry.  On the music front, Priest were now following rather than leading.  They were on the same clunky metal trip as bands such as Scorpions at the same time.  There audible Kiss and Whitesnake influences on the album, with Rob sometimes sounding like he was trying to write a Gene Simmons tune.  “Love You to Death” on side two sounds right out of the Demon’s closet.  The embarrassingly terrible  “Love Zone” and “Come and Get It” both sound as if Coverdale co-wrote them on the sly.  Whether Priest were consciously copying other bands or just lost, who knows.  (“Love Zone” is one of the few songs that Halford almost seemed to write gender specific.  “With your razor nails and painted smile” are not specifically referring to a female, but certainly that was the general assumption.)

There are definitely a few cool tracks that deserve mention.  The first is “Hard as Iron” which had to be one of the fastest Priest songs to date.  It’s still held back by the production, but has some serious energy to it.  Like metal espresso injected right into the brain!  The other standout is “Blood Red Skies”, a forgotten highlight of this album and indeed of the Priest catalog in general.  (I actually used “Blood Red Skies” in a poetry project for school.  A girl liked it so much she asked for a copy of the lyrics.)  Using the synth effectively, “Blood Red Skies” paints a Terminator-like future with humans hunted by beings with “pneumatic fingers”, “laser eyes” and “computer sights”.  Halford  pours power and anguish into it, as a human freedom fighter.  “As I die, a legend will be born!”  Cheesey?  Absolutely.  Priest perfection?  Yes indeed!

There are also two mis-steps on Ram It Down that must be addressed.  The first and most obvious is “Johnny B. Goode”, from the 1988 movie Johnny Be Good starring Anthony Michael Hall and some guy named Robert Downey Something.  This track should have been kept off the album.  As a novelty single, sure, you can dig it.  It’s a stereotypical cliche-ridden metal cover, and that’s fun for a goof.  As a Priest album track, it only serves to completely destroy any momentum that Ram It Down managed to build.  Then there is “Monsters of Rock”.  This awful excuse for a song is only 5:31 long, but seems twice that.  It is the prototype for the even more awful “Loch Ness” from Angel of Retribution.  Most buyers probably didn’t finish listening to the album because of this bloated and aimless track.

The Priest Re-masters collection had two bonus tracks per studio album.  Ram It Down provides two completely unrelated but great tracks:  live versions of “Bloodstone” and “Night Comes Down”.  The liner notes don’t state when they were recorded, but live versions of either are always welcome in any Priest collection.  It’s interesting that bonus tracks from these actual sessions, such as “Red, White and Blue”, were used on other CDs but not Ram It Down.

Priest may have known Ram It Down wasn’t the metal album they hoped to make.  They cleared house afterwards.  Dave Holland and Tom Allom were done, and there is no question that Painkiller was superior to Ram It Down because of that.

2/5 stars

 

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

REVIEW: Al Atkins – Victim of Changes (1998)

scan_20161117AL ATKINS – Victim of Changes (1998 Pulse)

Al Atkins was the original lead singer in Judas Priest, before “Bob” Halford was invited to join. You’ll find a number of Atkins credits on the first two Priest albums, even though he was out of the band by that time. In fact, Atkins formed a band called Judas Priest in 1969. The band were named by bassist Bruno Stapenhill. They split in 1970, and Atkins went looking for a new band. He found them in Ken “KK” Downing and Ian “Skull” Hill, who were looking for a singer. With Atkins and drummer John Ellis, they eventually settled on the name Judas Priest, same as Atkins’ prior band. And yes, that means that Ian Hill is actually the only remaining original member of Judas Priest.

Atkins wrote and co-wrote much of Priest’s earliest material. Before he left, he wrote a song called “Whiskey Woman”. Rob Halford used that song and merged it with one of his called “Red Light Lady”. The result was “Victim of Changes”, the first and perhaps greatest of Judas Priest’s epics. Two other songs he wrote in Priest were “Mind Conception” and “Holy is the Man” which were demoed but never released.

Atkins worked a 9-5 job after Priest, but got back into music again in short order. His fourth solo album, Victim of Changes, was essentially a tribute to his Judas Priest years. It is a collection of new recordings of (mostly) a lot of numbers that Priest played live during the Atkins era.  As a gimmick, he had Priest’s drummer from the 1980s, Dave Holland, on this album.

Atkins and Halford couldn’t sound less alike.  Rob is known for his high-pitched operatics.  Atkins has a gutsier, grittier sound, somewhat like a Paul Di’anno meeting Blaze Bayley.  There is no question that Rob is the right singer for Judas Priest, so it is really only a matter of curiosity to hear these tunes with Atkins singing.  The tunes are at least good.

The unreleased “Mind Conception” commences the disc, re-recorded and very modern sounding especially in the guitars.  It is difficult to know exactly what the original “Mind Conception” sounded like, but it’s very safe to say it would not have sounded like this.  In the liner notes, Atkins states the original demos were recorded stoned and with a sore throat.  “Holy is the Man” has a slower groove to it, and would work very nicely as a modern Priest track.  As the only representation of these unreleased tracks available, die-hard Priest collectors will want to hear them.  Another track of interest is the cover of Quatermass’ “Black Sheep of the Family” which Priest played live at their earliest gigs (along with Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic”).  Rainbow’s recording is still the one to beat.

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The familiar Priest tracks are actually anything but.  They are probably arranged more like the way Priest used to play them in the early days.  “Never Satisfied” is extended with a tough bluesy acoustic intro.  The heavy parts have a Zeppelin-y beat, due to Holland’s straightforward style.  Same with “Winter”.  Then there is “Caviar and Meths” which is a whopping 7:12 long.  According to Atkins, this song was their big finale live, but never recorded in full in the studio.  This version is the full-length arrangement that they used to close with live.  And it’s brilliant.  Finally there is “Victim of Changes” itself, and Atkins has some help from a backup singer for the high parts that Rob does.

There are a couple tracks that could be considered filler, since they have nothing to do with Judas Priest.  These are the instrumentals “The Melt Down” and “Metanoia”, written by guitarist Paul May.  They are excellent tracks, however, and should not be ignored.  (“Metanoia” serves as a postscript to “Winter” on the CD.) They are European sounding heavy metal tracks, loaded with guitar drama and ferocity.

Check out Victim of Changes for a glance at what Priest might have sounded like with Al Atkins singing lead.  One can hope for those unreleased demos to surface, but one can also wish for the moon.

3/5 stars

#530: Sauna

GETTING MORE TALE #530: Sauna

Anyone who has ever shared a workspace, a home, or a car with another human has probably had this experience:  It is sometimes very difficult to get two people to agree on what temperature it should be inside!

I walked into work recently on a cold November morn’.  We were blessed with a mild fall, but now winter has come, so bundle up.  I work in an office in an old building.  I’m as far away from the furnace as you can get.  I’m often very cold in the winter, and too warm in the summer, but certainly not always.  The best way for me to control the temperature in my office is by putting a big 500 ream of 8.5″ x 11″ paper on top of the vent.  I had to use the vent method to prevent my office from becoming a sauna.

The previous day, somebody cranked the heat up on the office thermostat.  Whoever did cranked it way, way up.  For whatever reason, all the heat seemed to be concentrated in my office.  I could feel it in the hallway, which was warm, but my office was sweltering!  Every surface in my office was hot:  my desk, my filing cabinet, the walls, my computer…even the window was warm!  Meanwhile, it was -2°C outside. It really had to be hot inside to warm up the window that much. I covered the vent blasting all that hot air. Then I removed my winter coat, and my dress shirt leaving only my Iron Maiden T-shirt beneath. I was still sweating. I had to crack open an outside door just to get some relief.

Whatever happened, it took a few hours for the room to cool down once the thermostat had been reset. The Maiden shirt was a hit; it was suggested I wear it to the office Christmas luncheon. I was able to work comfortably (and fully shirted) the rest of the day.

It reminded me of the constant thermostat battles at the Record Store. In the store I worked, there was a retail storefront and an office in the back. The office people would be constantly fiddling with the thermostat while the people up front doing the real work had to sweat it out. It wasn’t a winnable battle so I didn’t even fight. With hot lights beating down on the counter, I’d sometimes have to turn them off to stay cool. At night when the office people went home, we could at least control the temperature again. But if we failed to leave the heat on overnight in winter, there would be hell to pay! Though few people worry about it, temperatures under 20°C could theoretically do damage to a computer’s hard drive. Employees would constantly be warned of the penalties.

“Mike! Your employees forgot to leave the heat on last night! I could see my own breath this morning! Remind them if those computers break down they’ll be paying to replace them!”

A hard drive costs less than a hundred bucks. Heating a large store…that’s expensive. But I didn’t make the rules, and nobody asked my opinion!

As we Canadians hunker down for yet another winter, get ready for the temperature arguments.  Fighting about tunes in the car will be replaced by “turn up/down the heat, I’m freezing/boiling!”  Best of all are those days where you don’t know if you’re warm or cold.  All perspective is lost on those days.  You can’t even tell if you’re comfortable anymore.  Join me in celebrating this joyful time of year, as some freeze and others work in a room hot as a sauna!

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Battle Cry (2016)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20160407JUDAS PRIEST – Battle Cry (2016 Sony)

Woah-ho!  Here comes the Priest with yet another live album!  How many does this make it?  Officially that’s six, not including live discs within deluxe editions, or live DVDs!  Battle Cry is the newest, recorded last year at Wacken (August 1 2015).

Some fans like to moan and complain every time an older band like Priest or Maiden release a live album.  You can see their point, but at the same time, how much longer will Priest be touring?  Don’t you want a live album with all their newest songs?  Priest’s last album, 2014’s Redeemer of Souls, was a triumphant return for the band, who had suffered a major lineup change.  KK Downing was out, and new kid Richie Faulkner was surprisingly able to take his place on the stage, and in the songwriting.  Rather than suffer from this blow, Priest simply kept going full speed ahead.  A live album is compulsory after this much activity.  Three of the new songs are included on the disc, in among a smattering of classics, but nothing from Nostradamus (2008) or Angel of Retribution (2005).  Fear not; you can get some of those songs on the live CD A Touch of Evil.

Here is a handy-dandy chart to show you where these songs originated, not counting intros “Battle Cry” and “The Hellion”.

priest chart

You’ll notice a huge 23 year gap in the music presented.  This isn’t uncommon for rock bands of Priest’s age.  There are so many classics, not to mention new songs to play, but not enough time.  As such, albums from later periods, or “cult” songs, are often overlooked.  The unfortunate effect of this is an unspoken implication that maybe the music between 1990 and 2014 wasn’t very good.  Now granted, Priest did have a lineup change during that period.  From 1997-2004, they were with singer Ripper Owens, and Priest have yet to revisit any of that material.

Proving that nothing has been lost with the departure of Downing, “Dragonaut” opens the show on a fast heavy note.  Faulkner is a perfect fit, acting in unison with Glenn Tipton to produce the same kind of Priest guitarmonies that you’re used to hearing.  “Halls of Valhalla”, another new track, rocks just as hard, but with the complexity of the Priest of yesteryear.  The musical chops of this band often go overlooked, but just listen to them play.  As for Halford?  He ain’t no spring chicken, but his singing style has changed to suit.  Within that framework, the man is a demon.  He can still do things with his voice that few can.  The final new song is “Redeemer of Souls”, a little stiff by comparison but certainly up to snuff.

A few lesser-played songs really spice up the set.   “Devil’s Child” from Screaming For Vengeance is a treat, and “Jawbreaker” from Defenders of the Faith is a nice switch up from “Freewheel Burning”.   Wacken probably would have rioted if songs like “Breaking the Law” and “Metal Gods” were not played, so of course you can count on the hits being represented.  A long guitar solo and instrumental section during “Another Thing Coming” is another surprise.  Halford used to do a long singalong at this point of the show, but that’s been shortened in favour of a pretty damn cool Richie Faulkner guitar solo.   Way to give the spotlight to the new kid — that is really classy.

Because there’s not enough time on a single disc, “Living After Midnight”, the final encore of the show, was axed.  Instead, “Painkiller” ends this CD, certainly an interesting choice for a closer.  This is the only song during which Rob’s voice can’t keep up.  The song is just insane; it always has been, and you can’t fault the guy for not quite getting there.

Battle Cry is yet another in a long string of great live Judas Priest albums.  Shoulda woulda coulda been a double CD.  The only two songs missing from this show are “Turbo Lover” and “Living After Midnight”, but wouldn’t you prefer having them?

3.75/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

Welcome to PRIEST WEEKEND! It’s a long Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and…

Well, here’s the truth of it. I had three Judas Priest reviews lined up and needed a spot to schedule them. A three day weekend worked. That’s how much thought went into the scheduling of this Thanksgiving theme.

Enjoy PRIEST WEEKEND starting with their immortal second album…

Scan_20150930JUDAS PRIEST – Sad Wings of Destiny (1976 Gull)

It’s quite a shame that Judas Priest haven’t regained the rights to their first and second albums.  Too many fly-by-night labels have done shoddy or half-arsed reissues of the albums and Sad Wings is no exception.  This one, on Snapper, isn’t too objectionable.  It’s funny to see “digitally mastered” on the front sticker, as if this is some kind of selling feature.  All CDs are digitally mastered!  Remember that old AAD, ADD, DDD logo that used to appear on CDs?  The A and D refers to analog or digital processes: recording, mixing, and mastering.  Every CD is at least AAD.  The “informative liner notes” (by somebody called “Krusher”) is just a blubbering general history essay on the band.

Fortunately, no matter how it’s packaged, the music is exceptional.

“Victim of Changes” defines “epic”, and probably remains Judas Priest’s definitive word on the epic song.  This is actually a mashup of two earlier songs called “Red Light Lady”, written by Rob Halford, and “Whiskey Woman” by original singer and founder, Al Atkins.  That’s how it came to be that Halford shares a writing credit with his predecessor, an unusual circumstance indeed!   The finished song “Victim of Changes” has everything: the concrete heavy riffs, the drama, the melody and the unearthly screams!  It takes its time, but it simply lays waste to the landscape.  By the time Rob nails his final scream, you may find yourself hard of hearing.  As if that wasn’t enough, “The Ripper” (a shorty) contains even more screams-per-minute than “Victim”.  Priest seemed to take a turn away from blues, towards metal on Sad Wings of Destiny.  The first two songs are as sharp and devastating as anything else in the Priest canon.

Although they are often separated on compilations and whatnot, “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Deceiver” are more or less one song.  One sounds incomplete without the other.  “Dreamer Deceiver” is an airy, acoustic number about some sort of ethereal being.  It is as entrancing as its title character:

“We followed the Dreamer through the purple hazy clouds,
He could control our sense of time.
We thought were lost but, no matter how we tried,
Everyone was in peace of mind.”

Rob’s vocal performance on this one ranges from the deep and dramatic, to the wails that Priest fans crave.  It is the blueprint for similar early Iron Maiden tracks such as “Remember Tomorrow”.  Even the guitar solo is a well-composed piece of music, but this is just the beginning.  Morphing into “Deceiver”, the acoustic plucking has changed to an electric chug.  This time the guitar solo blazes rather than cries.  “Deceiver” burns out quick, ending the first side.

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Side two begins, as it obviously should, with a piano instrumental!  Glenn Tipton wrote and performed “Prelude” which is really just another track meant for you to let your guard down…before being ploughed over by the evil “Tyrant”!  He is the destructor, and every man shall fall!  The way Rob screams it, you believe it.  This is straight up the alley of prior tunes, like “Ripper” and “Deceiver”:  fast, lean, and heavy as balls!

“Genocide” is a change of pace, a leaning towards the mid-tempo ground that Priest would find great success with later.  There is a Priest stamp to it: a simple 4/4 beat, a couple of cool riffs, verses, chorus and solo…but I like the slow middle section best.  “Sin after sin…I have endured, but the wounds I bear, are the wounds of love.”  Sin After Sin was used as the next Priest album title.  Then, another surprise.  “Epitaph” is a piano ballad with Rob singing with a Queen-like backdrop of vocals.  Only piano and vocals, that is it.  Once again this is a Glenn Tipton song, and even though Priest let on that they had quiet tendencies, this is still a bit of a shocker.  “Pretty” is an appropriate word.  It is a tour de force for Rob, who performed some very intricate singing.

Chugging off to into the horizon, “Island of Domination” is the final track on a purely excellent heavy metal album.  Multi-layered Halford screams usher in the final assault.  Rocking both heavily and intelligently, the mighty Priest finished the album with a blitzkrieg, taking no prisoners.  From gallop to groove, “Island of Domination” has a bit of everything Priest did well.

What an album.  Do you like heavy metal music?  Then you need Sad Wings.  Period.  Exclamation point!

5/5 stars

#433.5: Top 15 on the 15th (by Uncle Meat)

Getting More Tale #433.5 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th – Guest shot by Uncle Meat

This is an event spanning many sites and writers in the World Wide Web.  I will link to as many as possible; my own Top 15 can be found here.  A few months ago, the challenge was thrown down to all comers:  List your top 15 albums of all time!  The date September 15 was chosen for the deadline.

Uncle Meat laboured hard on his Top 15, eventually whittling it down from a list of 31 great records*.  Without any commentary, here they are.  His only requirement:  No live albums.

RUST15. Rust in Peace – Megadeth

SCREAMING14. Screaming For Vengeance – Judas Priest

EARTHQUAKES13. Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos

CLOSE12. Close to the Edge – Yes

CONSOLERS11. Consolers of the Lonely – The Raconteurs

CLUTCHING10. Clutching at Straws – Marillion

REIGN9. Reign in Blood – Slayer

MINDCRIME8. Operation: Mindcrime – Queensryche

WHALE7. Whale Music – The Rheostatics

MISPLACED6. Misplaced Childhood – Marillion

MOVING5. Moving Pictures – Rush

ROXY4. Roxy and Elsewhere – Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

PET3. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys

HEMISPHERES2. Hemispheres – Rush

CORAZON1. El Corazón – Steve Earle

* For shits and giggles, here are the rest of The Meat’s albums that didn’t make the final cut.

  • White Pepper – Ween
  • Sky Valley – Kyuss
  • Harvest – Neil Young
  • Heaven and Hell – Black Sabbath
  • Fireball – Deep Purple
  • Somewhere in Time – Iron Maiden
  • Tenacious D – Tenacious D
  • Queens of the Stone Age – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Dogman – King’s X
  • American II: Unchained – Johnny Cash
  • Sheer Heart Attack – Queen
  • Noisy Nights – Uzeb
  • White City – Pete Townsend
  • Van Halen – Van Halen
  • Let There Be Rock – AC/DC
  • Kristopherson – Kris Kristopherson

#433: Top 15 on the 15th (by LeBrain)

15

Getting More Tale #433 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th

This is an event spanning many sites and writers in the World Wide Web today!  I will link to as many as possible.  A few months ago, the challenge was thrown down to all comers:  List your top 15 albums of all time!  The date September 15 was chosen for the deadline.

Hashtag it:  #top15onthe15th

You might have to wait for some of these to go live, but here are the links I have so far:

J at Resurrection Songs – Top 15 on the 15th
Uncle Meat – Top 15 on the 15th
Iron Tom Sharpe – Top 15 on the 15th
James at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Sarca at Caught me Gaming – My Top 15 Music Albums of All Time
Deke at Arena Rock – DeKEs All Time Top 15 (Kinda,Sorta)
Geoff at the 1001 – Top 15 Albums
Aaron at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Danica at Living a Beautiful Life – My Top 15 Albums of All Time
1537 from 1537 – Top 15 Books About Music
We Left This World Today – 15 is not enough…
Andytallman from A Hole in the Head – Top 15 Albums of All Time
Pop Culture Forays – Top 15 Albums
Brian from Boppin’s Blog – Top 15 on the 15th
Ovidiu Boar at Tangled Up In Music – Top 15 on the 15th
80sMetalMan – My Top 15 Albums
Jimmy at kingcrimsonblog – Top 15 on the 15th
Another Bad Conversation – My Top 15 on the 15th
Nick from Nick Green’s Reviews – Top 15 on the 15th
Zack at The Audible Stew – #top15onthe15th
Quirky T at The Guitar Train – The Guitar Train’s Top 15 Albums
Ian at The 80s didn’t suck – Top 15 Albums (Plus 54 Others)


Oh, how I loathe lists! Readers seem to love “Top Whatever” lists; different kinds, but I sure do hate making them.

However, I don’t like doing things in half-measures either. So for this, the Top 15 on the 15th, I’ve gone one step beyond. Not only do you get my Top 15 on the 15th, but also a list of the Top 15 tracks to listen to from these 15 amazing albums.

As of today, here are my Top 15. These will change periodically, probably tomorrow, and again the day after. See why I hate lists?  In the end I decided that I wanted to fairly represent some of my favourite artists.  But enough whining from me — let’s rock.  Spin these little bastards for a good time!

LEATHER15. Judas Priest – Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine)

VACATIONS14. Max Webster – A Million Vacations

NEWS13. Queen – News of the World

SCHOOL12. Alice Cooper – School’s Out

BEATLES11. The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

JOHNNY10. Thin Lizzy – Johnny the Fox

HOUSES9. Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

SAN8. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin

ANGEL7. Faith No More – Angel Dust

MOVING6. Rush – Moving Pictures

19845. Van Halen – 1984

Let’s stop here for a moment.  The thing about my top albums list is, the top four never change.  Four of these five albums have been in my top five for a long as I can remember making lists for.  The order may change, but that top four have been my top four, forever.  They are indelibly heat-stamped onto my grey matter.  These are as much a part of me as my left arm!

PIECE4. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind

HOTTER3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell

FIREBALL2. Deep Purple – Fireball

BORN1. Black Sabbath – Born Again

Right there are 15 incredible collections of music, both studio and live. But let’s not fool ourselves. Nobody is going to listen to all 15 of those albums just because some guy on the internet who goes by the name of “LeBrain” said so. I have chosen to distill these 15 amazing records down into 15 key tracks. I’m sure nobody needs an introduction to the big hits, so here are tracks you may not have heard. If you have ever cared about rock music, then you need to listen to these Top 15 Songs from the Top 15 Albums, on the 15th!

1. Rush – “Vital Signs”

2. Black Sabbath – “Disturbing the Priest”

3. Queen – “It’s Late”

4. Iron Maiden – “Where Eagles Dare”

5. The Beatles – “Dear Prudence”

6. Johnny Cash – “San Quentin”


“If any of the guards are still speakin’ to me, can I get a glass of water?”

7. Led Zeppelin – “The Ocean”

8. Thin Lizzy – “Massacre”

9. Alice Cooper – “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets”

10. Deep Purple – “Fools”

11. Iron Maiden – “Revelations”

12. Judas Priest – “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)”

13. Alice Cooper – “My Stars”

14. Queen – “Spread Your Wings”

15. Deep Purple – “No No No”

Astute readers will realize that one singer appears on two albums. Ian Gillan was fronting Black Sabbath in ’83 for Born Again, and of course is best known as Deep Purple’s lead howler. Does this double appearance make Ian Gillan the greatest rock vocalist of all time? No. But the greatest does appear, with Queen on News of the World – Freddie Mercury!

#431: Oh Judas Priest!

The same shirt I had

The same shirt I had

GETTING MORE TALE #431: Oh Judas Priest!

I began writing Record Store Tales about 15 years ago.  In the time between then and now, a lot of the earlier chapters were cut.  One that did not make it was called “Persecution I”.  This was some background material, on what it was like growing up as a heavy metal kid in a Catholic school.

Hint: it wasn’t fun.

Now that Record Store Tales is finished, I can revisit some of these old stories.

Grades 7 and 8 were essentially just two years of waiting to finally graduate and get the hell out of there.   The bullies were relentless and nasty.  I also had the worst teacher for both years.  Her method of discipline was to humiliate students in front of the class.  This woman was the definition of strict. I still talk to some people from grades 7 and 8, and they seem to remember the teacher the same way I do.   She was unpleasant and mean.

It was always difficult when a kid like me showed up on the first day of class looking different than they did before summer holidays began.  I didn’t realize that.  I thought people might think I was pretty cool all of a sudden, showing up in my brand new Judas Priest T-shirt.*  My grandpa had also given me this camouflage army hat, to which I affixed my favorite rock buttons of Iron Maiden.

The problem with my new look was, the kids who did like heavy metal before had suddenly abandoned the greatest music of all time, in favour of New Wave bands.  Where Ian Johnson had previously been boasting about how awesome this new band called Metallica were, suddenly he had grown a rat tail and gone New Wave.  He mocked me as hopelessly behind the times.  He even had the sack to make fun of me for liking W.A.S.P. when he used to like W.A.S.P. more than I did.  I had counted on him as a metal ally, but he was no longer.  He joined the rest of the crowd in mocking me.

On the first day back, the teacher walked up to me and pointed to my Priest shirt.

“What does that say?”

I thought she was referring to the small writing at the bottom.

“It says ‘Rock Hard Ride Free’,” I answered.

“No up here!  What does that say?”

“It says Judas Priest,” I said, starting to realize maybe she was offended by the “Judas” part.

“Well I never!” she began with her rant.  “In all my years I have never seen anyone wear something so disgusting in my classroom.   Do you even know what that means?”

I was really upset and confused.  “It’s just the name of a band.”

“No it is not!  My father used to say that when he was very, very angry.  That is a very distasteful phrase.  I won’t have those words in my classroom.”  I could hear the chuckles of the other kids as she tore into me some more.  “I don’t understand it,” she continued. “You should not be wearing that filth.  What is the matter with you?”

The same teacher liked to tell us that we were “the worst, most ill-behaved class” she had ever taught.  I think she just said that every year.

I knew that the words “Judas” and “Priest” had obvious religious connotations, but how was I to know that it was once considered a “swear”?  Nobody in my family said it.  My dad was more blunt in his swearing – “shit”, “fuck”, “damn” and so on.  None of this esoteric “Judas Priest” nonsense.  When my dad swore he went all in.  I was completely ignorant, and innocent of any wrongdoing.

Needless to say, I never wore that shirt to school again.  I still have it, as it’s an important part of my metal upbringing.  It was clear that my teacher wasn’t impressed, and the fact that it was the T-shirt of a metal band didn’t do me any favours.  If it wasn’t a hymn, then it probably wasn’t worth singing to her.

RIDE FREE

Harassment continued to the bitter end.  Inside one of the cabinets in the classroom, somebody had stuck a Kiss sticker on the back of one of the doors.  It looked like it had been there since the 1970’s, and it probably had been.  However I was the only kid in that school in 1985 who liked Kiss, so I was screwed one way or another.  As the rest of the class howled, “Mike put it there! He’s the only one who likes Kiss!” I just knew I could not win.

There was one incident that is so surreal that I’m not even sure it actually happened anymore.  My memories of it are clear, but I it seems so weird and unlikely.  I’m willing to accept the possibility that it never happened at all, and might just be a very vivid dream from back then that has been mis-remembered as an actual event.   It’s not impossible, but unless someone else confirms the memory I’m not willing to stand behind this as fact.  I’m including it anyway.  If anything it illustrates how the whole era felt to a metalhead in a Catholic school.

In my memory it was a chilly, damp fall morning.  We were out at recess.   The schoolyard was bordered by a gravel pathway now known as the Dom Cardillo trail, named after the beloved former Kitchener mayor, who died in 2013.  Parked on the pathway was a white van, and a small crowd of kids was gathered around it.  Curiosity must have got the better of me so I went over to see what was going on.

Inside the van were two men, who were preaching the evils of drugs and heavy metal.  According to these two guys, the two went hand in hand.  Stay away from drugs, and stay away from metal.  If you listen to heavy metal, you will be drawn into an evil web of drugs and alcohol, said the two men to the crowd.

This is an assumption that has always pissed me off:  metal = drugs.  Or metal = evil.  Especially among the Catholic crowd, this was the way of thinking.  These folks had never bothered to actually listen to the music and lyrics.  When Gene Simmons sang in 1981, “I don’t need to get wasted, it only holds me down,” he was being sincere.   “All I need is a will of my own, and the balls to stand alone.  I believe in me.”  Even taken at face value, however, these words did not jibe with what we were being taught in school.  We were not taught to exercise our own free will, and to stand on our own.  We were told to stand with God, and follow His will.  I don’t believe life is that simple.  We have brains for a reason and we must use them to do what we believe to be right, for ourselves and for the world around us.  Encouraging us to think for ourselves was not in the school curriculum.  I gave myself enough credit to know the difference between good and bad.  If the music made me feel good, made me feel stronger and more confident, and didn’t hurt anyone, then what was the problem?  It probably didn’t help my cause that a lot of rock lyrics encouraged rebellion against authority figures.

The two guys in the van asked the crowd, “Does anyone here listen to heavy metal music?”

Before I knew it, the kids laughed and pushed me to the front of the crowd.  I fought against them but I found myself at the front, facing the two guys in the van.  The kids were shouting, “He does! He does!”

Face to face with the disapproving guy in the driver’s seat of the van, he asked me, “So you listen to heavy metal?”

“Yes,” I answered quietly.

“So you do drugs then?” he responded.

“No!” I protested, “I don’t do drugs!”

“But you listen to heavy metal music,” responded the man, as if one equaled the other.

I had enough and pushed my way out of the crowd again.  I could hear all the laughing behind me.  I walked away as fast as I could without looking like I was running.  Here I was being branded a druggie based on the music I listened to.

These events happened 30 years ago, and the van incident does not feel real.  It feels more like a dream and I’ll probably never know if it really happened or not.   It seems too weird to have really happened, but you never know.  It’s not impossible, just surreal.

Grade 8 ended on a final, humiliating note.  We were all supposed to choose which highschool we wanted to go to.  The expectation was that we were to attend the Catholic school.  Three or four of us did not, and applied to the public school Grand River Collegiate.  That was obviously going to be my escape route.  It was a way to get away from the nasty kids who tormented me every day, but it certainly wasn’t teacher approved.  She was not happy, at all.

She had already told the entire class that whoever didn’t attend the annual Mount Mary religious retreat would end up on drugs, dead, or both.  “Every student I ever had who did not go to Mount Mary grew up to do drugs, or killed themselves,” she told us.  Hooray for religious retreats, where music and music-related T-shirts were not allowed.

The day that she handed out our acceptance papers for the highschools, she took one last scornful shot at me.  “Shame on you!” she scolded in front of the class.  “Not going to St. Jerome’s high school just so you can be with your friends,” she continued.  “Shame on you.”

This time, I didn’t care.  School was so close to being over it didn’t matter.  In a few weeks, she’d have no power over me anymore.  There was nothing she could say or do to ever humiliate me again.  The bullies would be gone too, off to their own school while I had the chance to make new friends.  I wouldn’t have to feel ashamed of the T-shirts I wore, or the bands I liked.

My poor sister had another four years of that school to go, which she dubbed the “Hell Hole” (based on the Spinal Tap song of the same name).  Any time we drove by, she’d sing, “Livin’ in a hell hole…”  She even ended up with the same damn teacher, who hadn’t changed a bit.  When my sister struggled in math, she was publicly chided in class.  “Your father is a banker!” shouted the teacher.  “How can you not do math?  Shame on you!”

There is no shame.  Be proud of who you are.  Believe in yourself!

I was so frightened
I almost ran away
I didn’t know that I could do
Anything I needed to

And then a bolt of lightnin’
Hit me on my head
Then I began to see
I just needed to believe in me

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

They said, “I didn’t stand a chance”
I wouldn’t win no way
But I’ve got news for you
There’s nothin’ I can’t do

Ain’t no pretendin’
Ain’t no make believe
But I’ve got to be the one
I gotta do what must be done

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

Then I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me
I believe in me
Yes, I believe in me, yeah

I don’t need no money
I don’t need no fame, no
I just need to believe in me
And I know most definitely

Don’t need to get wasted
It only holds me down
I just need a will of my own
And the balls to stand alone

‘Cause I, I believe in me
And I, I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

I believe in me
I believe in somethin’ more
Than you can understand
Yes, I believe in me

Yes, I believe in me
Yes, I believe in me
Yes, I believe in me

* I found the shirt online.  $700, yup.