Priest Week

Part 272: Priest Week – The Re-Masters

PRIEST WEEK

It’s the end of PRIEST WEEK! It was all Judas Priest all week, and what better way to end it then with a 12 CD remastered box set?
Monday:  Rocka Rolla (1974)
Tuesday: Priest…Live! (1987)

Wednesday: Metal Works 73-93 (1993)
Thursday: Demolition (2001 Japanese version)

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 272:  PRIEST WEEK – The Re-Masters

When Judas Priest began reissuing their albums in 2001 (in three waves of four CDs each), of course I had to have all 12.  I’ve been a fan of the band since I was a kid, and my complete Judas Priest collection has always brought me much joy.  Priest’s “Re-masters” series included all the studio and live albums from 1977’s Sin After Sin to 1990’s Painkiller.  Each was expanded with two bonus tracks, with the exception of the live albums.  Unleashed in the East contained the four bonus tracks from the Japanese Priest in the East release (which I already had) and Priest…Live had three extra songs.  (Today, there is a new budget box set that collects the entire Halford era into one box called The Complete Albums Collection.)

In late 2001, local record store legend Al “the King” dropped into my store to sell some discs.  Nimble-minded readers will recall that on day 1 of Priest Week, Al King sold me my vinyl copy of Rocka Rolla in 1989!  Al now worked at another store in town called Encore Records.  Al’s a good guy.  He didn’t see us so much as competition, because really we catered to different groups of people.  There were certain discs that Al couldn’t sell at Encore (pop and mainstream stuff), and he knew I would give him the fairest prices in town, so he came to me.  It was a good mutually beneficial arrangement.  I wanted his stock and he wanted the money!

On this afternoon, I chatted with Al while going through his discs, and he informed me of a forthcoming Priest collectible.

“It’s expensive,” he began, “but it does look cool.  It’s a UK import.  I sold one to this really excited guy, but Mark’s trying to order another one in.  If you want it no problem, but fair warning, it’s not cheap.”

“Tell me more!” I said to Al.

PRIEST WORKINGThe details were scant.  The box set was titled The Re-Masters, and it contained four CDs with room for the other eight, sold separately.  The CDs included with the box were the first four of the Columbia years:  Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Killing Machine (Hell Bent for Leather) and Unleashed in the East.  It was an attractive box, printed to look like it is held together by metal rivets.  There was also supposed to be a booklet included.  At the time, I was obsessed with collecting the “best” versions of anything.  This meant having all the songs, and the best packaging available.  I asked Al to hold the box for me.  At various points in the conversation, I felt like Al was trying to talk me out of buying it due to the price!  What Al didn’t understand was my deep obsession for this band.

A few days later I headed down to Encore and bought my treasure.  I eagerly opened it up and discovered one little additional bonus!  Nothing major, but cool enough for me:  the four CDs included had embossed silver logos on both front and back covers, instead of the regular printed ones.  This differentiated the discs from the versions I could buy separately at retail.  Also, Hell Bent for Leather was indeed included under the UK name Killing Machine, something I hadn’t seen on CD before. Finally, once all 12 discs were collected, together the CD spines read JUDAS PRIEST and depicted their “devil’s tuning fork” logo.  The spaces for the 8 discs sold separately were taken up by individual foam spacers.

Back covers with silver embossed “tuning fork” logo, and without.

The bonus tracks were a mixed bag of live and demo songs from all over Priest history, but some, such as “Race With the Devil” (The Gun cover) were incredible and classic.  One by one, I added to the set.  Some discs came in used rather quickly:  Point of Entry was one such disc.  Others I had to order via Amazon, or buy in-store at Encore, such as Turbo and Painkiller.  But I did get them all, and my complete Priest Re-Masters set has served me well for over a decade now.  Although I have since bought the newer deluxe editions of Screaming for Vengeance and British Steel (with bonus DVDs) I have felt no need to replace this box set with anything else.  Having to buy the discs individually and complete it myself makes it rare to find, not to mention the box was made only in small numbers.  Some fans expected more out of the box set, and some were upset that the Gull Records and Ripper Owens years are not represented inside, even though Ripper was still the current singer.  My attitude was and is, “Who cares?”  It’s a great looking set and it comprises a complete era of Priest.  I like it a lot and according to Al King I’m one of two guys in town that own it.  Cool.

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REVIEW: Judas Priest – Demolition (2001 Japanese version)

PRIEST WEEK

Its PRIEST WEEK!  
Monday:  Rocka Rolla (1974)
Tuesday: Priest…Live! (1987)

Wednesday: Metal Works 73-93 (1993)


JUDAS PRIEST – Demolition (2001 Victor Japan)

1997:  Judas Priest thudded back into stores with Jugulator, their first without Halford.  It underwhelmed me, and I had to wait four more years for Judas Priest with Tim “Ripper” Owens to finally return again in 2001 with Demolition.  Jugulator was a mixed bag and I hoped for more on the lineup’s second album.  I was excited; according to my journal I played my copy three times in the first 24 hours.  It doesn’t indicate how many of those plays happened in the record store!

As a die hard fan, I had a lot riding on the first album with Ripper, Jugulator. It was a let down, probably even more so since the new singer was so damn good!  The live album that followed, ’98 Live Meltdown, won me over in a big way, the Jugulator songs being much better live.  Ripper had an amazing voice with power to spare, but the lyrics (which he did not write) were juvenile and the music was a tad monotonous. Demolition is marginally better lyrically, and much improved musically.

The winner of Worst Lyric Award 2001 was “Cyberface”.  As I have stated before, I generally do not like songs about the internet! “Don’t access the site/or beware his megabyte/no virus scan/detects the man”.  I’m guessing Glenn just got high-speed at his house or something.  This is a low point, but on some tracks we’re getting back to respectability!

The sound and production of the album was still too 1990’s in style. The guitars are good and chunky, the bass, usually lacking on Priest albums, is in your face, and Scott Travis is seriously kickin’ it on the drum kit. The guitars and vocals sound a tad too processed, though. A little too much tinkering with the effects racks. Ripper’s not screaming as much as he used to. I imagine his voice was already starting to wear, considering the great job he did on tour. Still, he rips it out for a couple tracks and it’s very welcome.

Songwriting-wise, the band are coming up with much more interesting riffs and songs than last time.  Perhaps Jugulator suffered from lack of variety.  On Demolition we run the gamut from fast thrash (“Machine Man”) to groove (“One on One”) to ballads (“Close to You”).  At 13 songs, I think Demolition could have stood for some editing.  Lose “Cyberface” and “Feed on Me”.  What you’d be left with would have been a strong collection of songs.  The truth is that a handful of tunes, like “Bloodsuckers” and “Metal Messiah” could have been on a Halford-era album.

PRIEST_0004Elsewhere there are still the modern nu-metal touches that I never liked too much.  The guitar part in “Devil Digger” is a good example, as is the rap-like delivery of Owens on certain parts of certain songs.  But Ripper didn’t write the songs.  Don’t blame him.

There’s only one tune that Ripper had a writing credit on, which is the Japanese bonus track “What’s My Name”.  This is the only song in Priest history with a Ripper Owens writing credit. Live, Mr. Owens often introduced the Priest classic “The Ripper” by inciting the crowd to yell his name.  “What’s my name?” Ripper would ask the crowd.  That’s where the title comes from, and it’s a pretty good song.  This is one I’d been hunting for, for years.  I’ve bought Demoltion three times now.   First was the regular CD, then a European digipack with two B-sides*, and finally this Japanese edition.

The worst thing about Demolition is the nondescript cover.  Mark Wilkinson must have been too busy drawing new Eddies for the reunited Iron Maiden or something, because this cover is by L-Space design instead.  And it sucks.  Not that Judas Priest have always had the greatest album covers (Stained Class, anyone?) but this sucks.  At least the Japanese version came with a sticker sheet of the new Priest logo.

Anyhow, I really do like this album.  The Ripper era of Priest was uneven, and although Demolition is overly long it does contain enough Priest metal to salve the soul.

3.5/5 stars

PRIEST_0001* The two B-sides were the ’98 re-recordings of “Rapid Fire”, and “Green Manalishi”.  “Rapid Fire” is thrashed up with additional lyrics, and “Green Manalishi” is slowed down to a grind.  These were both originally released on the 1998 Japanese CD single for “Bullet Train”, which I already have.  Therefore my digipack version of Demolition will be passed on to another rock fan.

Digipack version of Demolition

Digipack version of Demolition

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Metal Works 73-93

PRIEST WEEK

Its PRIEST WEEK!  
Monday:  Rocka Rolla (1974)
Tuesday: Priest…Live! (1987)

JUDAS PRIEST – Metal Works 73-93 (1993)

1973 to 1993? But didn’t the first album (Rocka Rolla, which has no songs on this CD) come out in 1974? Doesn’t this CD only actually include music from 1977-1990?  And didn’t Al Atkins form the original Judas Priest in 1969?  1973 was the year that Atkins left to be replaced by Rob Halford, who himself quit in 1992. So, 1973-1993? OK, I guess I’ll play along.

METAL WORKS_0005Due to complications and conflicts with Gull Records, Metal Works 1973-1993 contains no songs from the first two albums (the aforementioned Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings of Destiny). Instead, a live version (from Unleashed in the East) of “Victim of Changes” is subbed in to represent the early period of the Priest. After that, every album is given a look-see.

Aside from the tracks that couldn’t be included for legal reasons, it is hard to argue with most of this track list. It is a near-perfect representation of pre-Ripper Priest, with the odd track I’d swap out for another, but more or less awesome all the way through. Personally I think “Night Crawler” is and pretty much always has been an excessively cheesy song…like sharp cheddar. I would have put on something else from Painkiller, like “Between The Hammer and the Anvil” or the battering “Hell Patrol”.  

Most conspicuous by its absence is “Green Manalishi”. Maybe the band decided not to include a cover (Fleetwood Mac), even if it’s one of the best things that Priest have ever recorded.   I think “Green Manalishi” today is equally associated with Priest than Fleetwood Mac, if not more so by a hair.  It may as well be their own song.

Many longtime personal faves are included: I love “Bloodstone”, “Desert Plains”, “Night Comes Down”, and “Blood Red Skies”.  These are songs that weren’t necessarily “hits”, but were huge hits with my teenage self.  There’s one inclusion that bugs me, and that’s “Headed Out to the Highway”.  I love that song, but unfortunately somebody chose to use the Priest…Live! version over the original Point of Entry track.  Furthermore, none of the live substitutions are listed as such on the back cover.  There is no indication on the back that any songs are anything but the original.  I consider that dishonest.

METAL WORKS_0003

The liner notes are interesting for a quick read; tales from four of Judas Priest’s members (Rob, Ian, KK and Glenn) for each of the songs. Nothing earth shattering, just some fun brief stories. It’s interesting, however, how Priest completely glossed over Rob’s departure in the liner notes. Indeed, by reading, one would have no idea he was gone. A little misleading to the metal mongers of the time, especially with Rob about to debut his new band Fight a couple months later….

This 2 CD set is polished off with some fine artwork from Mark Wilkinson, tying in the “metal works” theme with a nod to Birmingham with some iconic characters and images from Priest covers past.  The Painkiller does battle with the bird of prey from Screaming For Vengeance, with lots going on in the background.

The summer of ’93 was loaded with expensive sets for metal fans to buy.  Ozzy Osbourne put out the double Live & Loud.  Van Halen released Live: Right Here, Right Now, also a 2 CD set.  Iron Maiden had two separate single disc live albums, followed by a double live in the fall.  That right there is a lot of cash to be spent, and that’s just a handful of essential purchases that fans had to choose from.   There was a ton of new music to buy, not including the grunge bands vying for our dollars that year.   Priest failed to deliver in terms of value.  Metal Works 73-93 was an expensive collection featuring no music fans didn’t have, and those darned live tracks.  It felt tossed off.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Priest…Live! (1987)

PRIEST WEEK

Its PRIEST WEEK!  Yesterday’s installment:  Rocka Rolla (1974).

JUDAS PRIEST – Priest…Live! (1987, 2001 Sony 2 CD remastered edition)

I have a long history with Priest…Live!  My cassette was originally bought at Stedman’s in Kincardine Ontario, July 1987.  An LP copy was sold to me by a co-worker named Chris from his own collection about a decade later.  Finally I bought a 2 CD remaster which is the last version I hope I’ll need.

Priest…Live!was my first Priest live album. I got the albums out of order: Defenders, Screaming, Turbo, Priest Live. Then, after discovering the pre-Screaming songs for the first time, I slowly began expanding backwards: Point of Entry, British Steel, Unleashed, Rocka Rolla, Sad Wings…

IMG_20140215_063851_edit_edit

Because of this album’s crucial role of introducing me to “old Priest”, I have a really hard time being critical about it. I will say this: This version of “Metal Gods” with the really melodic chorus is awesome. It’s my favourite version of this song, by a fair bit. I don’t know if that was live or overdubs or backing tapes or whatever. It sounds really cool.

Regardless of how I feel about “Metal Gods”, I can tell you that Priest Live covers pretty most all of the critical post-Unleashed numbers from 1980 (British Steel) to 1986 (Turbo). You get all the tracks you’d expect from the 1980’s: “Freewheel Burning”, “Turbo Lover”, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”, “Living After Midnight”, “Heading Out To The Highway”. Clearly the concept here is to have no songs that overlap with the band’s previous live album, Unleashed in the East, a tactic used by other bands such as Kiss, on records like Kiss Alive II. While being fair to the fans economically speaking, as a live concert experience that means you’re missing out on “Green Manalishi”.

Luckily this remaster is now expanded to two CDs, and decked out with three bonus tracks including the crucial “Hell Bent For Leather”, but this remains the only holdover from the pre-1980 period.  While the home video/DVD version of Priest Live contains “Green Manalishi”, that video was taken from just one show (Dallas, Texas) while the CD has songs from an Atlanta concert as well.  Essentially the CD and DVD versions are two different things.  In addition to “Green Manalishi”, the DVD also has “Locked In” and “Desert Plains”.  Live versions of these songs do exist on Priest remasters, but they are different versions, not the Dallas recordings.

Live in Dallas, but not the version on the album.

I enjoy the running order.  To begin the concert with the mellow and dramatic “Out In the Cold” was a really cool, daring move.  It sets the stage for a dramatic concert.  From there it’s pedal to the metal:  “Heading Out to the Highway”, “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law”…

I know from an old Guitar World interview that KK and Glenn felt the album could have been mixed better, that too much time was spent “fixing it” in the mix. Sure enough the crowd noise sounds artificially enhanced and there are backing vocals that I am certain are not live. Otherwise, the record sounds pretty good!  But that could just be the nostalgia talking. The guitars could have had more teeth; it was the 80’s though. Dave Holland’s snare sound is in the annoyingly high range, but these are not major concerns. Halford’s interaction with the crowd is more friendly than usual, which is nice especially after viewing something like the Rising in the East DVD. He does do a couple annoying sing-alongs, with the crowd…I’m sure it was fun to be there, they’re not fun to listen to on headphones.

One more nostalgic point: I remember buying this back in that summer of the 1987 and thinking, “Why did Priest change their logo?” I loved the old logo. I never really thought this was a good album cover.  Very plain, which seemed to be the fashion in the late 80’s, a decade that Priest Live embraces without shame.

4/5 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)