Tom Allom

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)

JUDAS PRIEST – Firepower (2018 Sony)

It’s 2018 and the Priest is back.  The excitement for the mighty metal band’s return has been restrained by the knowledge that Glenn Tipton is too ill to tour.  Parkinson’s disease — what a bastard that is.  Co-producer Andy Sneap has stepped up to take over Glenn’s guitar parts on tour.

Meanwhile on album, Glenn’s contributions to Firepower can be heard.  Sneap and classic Priest producer Tom Allom recorded one of the most biting Priest albums to date.  More impressive than the sound they captured are the performances.  Rob Halford in particular is more expressive than he has been in years.

At 14 tracks and almost an hour, Firepower suffers only from too many tracks.  There are a couple that clearly could have been cut and left for B-sides or bonus tracks.  “Flame Thrower” (similar to “Hot For Love” from Turbo), though a cool title, would have been great on a B-side.  On album, I’d rather race ahead to some of the more exciting tracks.

Firepower throws it back to sounds of the past.  Sometimes it’s Painkiller, and sometimes Angel of Retribution.  Rock writer Heavy Metal Overload noticed sonic similarities to Halford’s Resurrection CD.   At other times it’s brand new, because guitarist Richie Faulkner brings new things to the table, such as slide.

There are many highlights among the 14 tracks.  “Evil Never Dies” and “Never the Heroes” both immediately jump out for their melodic mastery.  Rob is sounding better than he has on the last couple, with a few tasty screams to enjoy.  As time goes on, new favourites will replace old.  Perhaps it’ll be “Spectre”, “No Surrender”,  “Children of the Sun”, “Rising From the Ruins” or even “Flame Thrower”!  Another highlight:  mellow album closer “Sea of Red” which bears lyrical similarities to “Blood Red Skies” from 1988’s Ram It Down.  In general, Firepower is about fighting back.

The cover art by Claudio Bergamin is Priest’s new mascot, “Titanicus”.  Silly name aside, this one Priest’s best album cover in decades.  (Mark Wilkinson continues to contribute to the packaging art as well.)  Notice how Bergamin’s lines match up with the style of past Priest albums like Screaming for Vengeance.

It’s hard to imagine a better album this late in their career.  Priest have done it again.  Firepower lives up to its name.

4.5/5 stars



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:

REVIEW: Def Leppard – On Through the Night (1980)

DEF LEPPARD – On Through the Night (1980 Phonogram)

A bright young LeBrain in grade 11,
During the glorious 80’s,
Needed new music to feel like heaven,
To woo some lovely young ladies.

In 1980 Def Leppard came out,
With the LP On Through the Night,
It is heavy with screams and plenty shouts,
It makes me feel alright alright alright.

“Hello America”! It’s the “Rock Brigade”!
I played these singles on my ghetto blaster,
Unpolished – but the tunes made the grade,
Heavy ones like “Answer to the Master”.

Producer was Tom Allom of Judas Priest fame,
A heavy raw album he did record,
Leppard had not yet joined the hit game,
No big tricks on the electronic soundboard.

“It Could Be You” rocking out to this one,
Reckless abandon with axes ablaze,
“Wasted” blasts you like a shotgun,
Nothing left to see but a smokey haze.

Sophistication will not be found anywhere,
Maybe a little on the closer “Overture”,
Loud guitars drums blasting and long hair,
For your metal sickness this is the cure.

On Through the Night straight into battle,
Leppard hit the launching pad hard,
With the New Wave of British Heavy Metal,
The Lep became leaders of the new guard.

The story continues today as Leppard survive,
Still prowling the concert stage all over the world,
Fans clamour to hear these old song lives,
And so on Viva Hysteria, “Wasted” was unfurled.

This is but the seed that would grow into a beast,
The mere beginning of something great,
Pick up this record at the very least,
You will find it is very difficult to hate.

4/5 stars

Further reading:

DEF LEPPARD – On Through the Night (1980) review by DEKE at ARENA ROCK
DEF LEPPARD – The Def Leppard E.P. (1979) EP review
DEF LEPPARD – “Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979) single review
DEF LEPPARD – “Hello America” / “Good Morning Freedom” (1980) single review

REVIEW: Judas Priest – A Touch of Evil – Live (2009 Japanese and iTunes versions)

JUDAS PRIEST – A Touch of Evil – Live (2009)

A Touch of Evil is, depending on how you count, either Priest’s 5th or 7th live album.  Regardless, it’s their first official live album since the Rob Halford reunion. The goal here was to give fans versions of songs never before released live on CD. However, when Priest claim that, they’re not counting the live albums they did with “Ripper” Owens on vocals, or the live songs released on remasters and box sets.

This is a great CD, and it’s very well recorded and mixed. Tom Allom came back to the mixing board after a 21 year break from the Priest. The guitars are driving, the drums are loud & clear but not overwhelming. Allom has done a great job. You can’t hear any obvious tampering or overdubbing (even though, let’s be honest, you know on every live album released today there must be some).

Rob Halford’s voice really struggles on “Painkiller” but absolutely shreds on “Hellrider”. “Hellrider”, in fact, is even better than its 2005 studio version. Halford is now singing in a lower register and saving his screams for special moments in the songs. Don’t forget, he has been screaming for 35 years by this album. He tends to be stronger on more recent material. The rest of the band show no signs of slowing down at all, especially Scott Travis on the drums.

It is absolutely great to hear two songs from the Nostradamus CD recorded live. “Prophecy” is one of my favourites from that album and I hope the band get to play the whole album live one day. It is also fantastic to hear “Dissident Aggressor” which was originally released on Sin After Sin in 1977. It is still heavy and powerful, although Rob has changed the vocal melodies a bit, out of necessity. “Beyond The Realms Of Death” is another great one to have with Rob singing, from 1978’s Stained Class. For a while in 1990 I thought they’d never play it live again, after the band’s “suicide trial”, even though they emerged victorious.

Japanese bonus tracks are “Worth Fighting For” and “Deal With The Devil” both from 2005’s Angel Of Retribution. I think these (and “Hellrider) are the same versions as the Rising In The East DVD. “Worth Fighting For” is one of my favourite recent Priest tunes.  It’s a great mid-tempo burner.  The iTunes bonus track is “Breaking The Law”, the only song absolutely positively undeniably released before on an official Priest-with-Rob live CD (Priest…Live!). This version of “Breaking” is faster than the studio version, and very enjoyable for the sheer glee that emanates from it.


The artwork for this CD, sadly, sucks. Mark Wilkinson has done some great covers for Priest (see: Painkiller), Iron Maiden, and Marillion. Here there’s a picture of the world on fire, or something. A comment on global warming? You decide. The liner notes also, sadly, suck. There are no indications as to which shows these songs were taken from, or even which tour (the CD culls from 2005 and 2008 tours). There is a brief note from the band about how awesome they are, as they have done on previous live albums. There are some cool pictures, but little else (the Japanese version has lyrics).

I don’t think this CD is essential to anybody but Priest fans. Newcomers would be wiser to buy Unleashed In The East first, and maybe even Priest…Live! before buying this. Priest fans will enjoy hearing live versions of these songs, because they already own “Another Thing Coming” and “Living After Midnight” elsewhere. So, if you are a Priest fan, pick it up and enjoy the sonic blast of metal fury as only Priest can deliver!

4/5 stars

*Note: There is supposedly a Russian version with another bonus track, also taken from the Rising in the East DVD: “Angel”. I question whether this is an official release or not.

REVIEW: Judas Priest – British Steel (30th Anniversary Edition, pt. 1)

Part one of two.  Today we’ll be looking at Judas Priest’s landmark album British Steel.  Tomorrow, the second and third discs of the 30th Anniversary Edition:  British Steel live!

JUDAS PRIEST – British Steel (30th Anniversary Edition, 2010 Sony)

Man, does this make me feel old. Back in my highschool days when I first got serious collecting music, British Steel was a must-have. It was considered the quintessential Priest platter, and even back then when it was only in the recent past, it still had all the makings of a classic. Then, on its 30th (!) anniversary in 2010, it was given the treatment it deserves, perhaps not the exact treatment we dreamed of, but it is certainly satisfying enough.

I’ve bought British Steel five times now. First was my original cassette back in highschool. Then I picked up a used vinyl, probably from a co-worker named Chris that was purging all his metal (for shame, but I got a lot of Priest from him). I bought the remastered CD (with bonus tracks) when it came out in 2001, then a 180 gram vinyl reissue a couple years ago. Let’s just say I’ll be really pissed off if Priest decide to do a 35th anniversary edition.

Disc one appears to be the same audio as the 2001 remaster. The credits are not clear, but that would be logical since the CD is identical down to the two included bonus tracks. These are a live version of “Grinder” from an unknown tour, and the completely unrelated “Red, White & Blue”. This song has no place on the album as it was written and recorded for the Turbo/Ram It Down sessions in the late 80’s. I’m not sure why it was retained for this 30th anniversary edition; it seems sloppy to leave it.

My original cassette edition of British Steel had a different track order. “Breaking the Law” commenced the set, so it is still shocking to me to hear British Steel open with “Rapid Fire”. Beginning with your heaviest guns can be a big gamble. “Rapid Fire” was borderline thrash metal, before that term had really been coined. The brutal lyrics are among Halford’s most enjoyable to listen to due to clever internal rhymes:

“Wielding the axe comes the one culmination
That’s always seemed certain to bring down the curtain on greed
Sifting the good from the bad it’s the age for the rage
Of the dogs which must fall to the just and be free.”

Unfortunately “Rapid Fire” also introduces the big problem with British Steel and every Judas Priest album for the next decade: The robotic combination of producer Tom Allom and new drummer Dave Holland (ex-Trapeze). Where Priest had enjoyed the lyrical swing from great drummers such as Simon Phillips and Les Binks, they had chosen Holland to usher in the 1980’s. Coming from a funk rock band such as Trapeze, I’m still not sure how Priest arrived at Holland. His style is certainly not to my taste. While he is known for some simple but tasty fills from time to time, as far as I’m concerned a drum machine could have done the same job.

The second track is the classic “Metal Gods”, complete with the banging of silverware on Ringo Starr’s kitchen countertops to simulate the marching of a robot army. On a track like this, Holland’s robotic rhythm works perfectly. “Breaking the Law”, made immortal by Beavis and Butthead, is a song every metal fan should know. Though heavy, it was simpler and more accessible than much of the music Priest had recorded before.

Some of Priest’s worst lyrics can be found on “Grinder”. It’s too bad because “Grinder” has a cool relentless beat. But I just can’t sing along to “Grinder, looking for meat. Grinder, wants you to eat.” On the other hand, I do love lines like, “Got no use for routine, I shiver at the thought. Open skies are my scene, this boy won’t get caught.”

“United” is a cool slow anthem, marked by Dave Holland’s echoey drums. I always considered it a brother song to “Take On All the World” from Killing Machine. It has a similar vibe and direction. On the original LP, it appropriately closed side one.

Side two was introduced by “You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise”. You gotta love that title. This is a pretty standard hard rocker, catchy and strong. It also fits with the more accessible direction of British Steel in general. Following it is the ultimate Priest single “Living After Midnight”. I still enjoy this song. I enjoyed it when I was a kid, and it was the theme song for the WWF tag team, the Mightnight Rockers (later The Rockers: Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty)! It’s one of those songs that everybody knows.

“The Rage” was estimated by bassist Ian Hill as one of only two bass intros he got to play. It’s a slow groove, angry musically and lyrically. The guitar solos absolutely complete this song as the classic that it is. From slow to fast, “Steeler” is next, the final song of the original nine. KK and Glen throw down some serious guitars on top of this scorcher. Lyrically, the title seems to be quite blunt as to what this song is about. Sounds like Priest are pissed off about being robbed, as so many bands were:

“Check for decoys, stay sharp edged,
Double crossers get your head,
Carpet baggers bluff and strike,
Kiss of Judas, spider like.”

What a statement to end an album like British Steel on, as it crashes to a close on one final power chord.

…Only to be followed by “Red, White & Blue” which sounds absolutely silly and out of place by comparison. I don’t think it would have been a good song if it were included on Turbo or Ram It Down where it belonged, and it’s definitely not a good song on British Steel. I don’t know how to describe it but to say it’s definitely of outtake quality.

Then from Long Beach, California comes “Grinder” live. This is probably from 1984, Defenders of the Faith tour. It’s interesting to compare the live versions on discs one and two, since it’s so many years later. There is no question Rob’s voice has changed, but that’s stating the obvious.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the live portion of this 30th anniversary set. Be sure to come back then, or better yet subscribe! As for British Steel?

4/5 stars

1. “Rapid Fire”
2. “Metal Gods”
3. “Breaking the Law”
4. “Grinder”
5. “United”
6. “You Don’t Have to Be Old to Be Wise”
7. “Living After Midnight”
8. “The Rage”
9. “Steeler”
2001 bonus tracks
10. “Red, White & Blue”
11. “Grinder”


REVIEW: Judas Priest – Metal Works 73-93


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.


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)


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…


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

Blu-ray REVIEW: Classic Albums – Black Sabbath – Paranoid


SABBATH DELUXE EDITIONS:  Black Sabbath Paranoid Master of Reality Heaven and Hell Mob Rules Born Again Seventh Star The Eternal Idol Dehumanizer

Other SABBATH reviews:  13 (new album) Headless Cross Forbidden Bootleg CD: Forbidden Rough Mix  Concert review: Forbidden tour July 22 1995 Kitchener Ontario HEAVEN & HELL: Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell – Live in Europe  BILL WARD: Ward One: Along The Way BILL WARD: “Straws” / “The Dark Half Hour” singles

CLASSIC PARANOID_0001CLASSIC ALBUMS:  Paranoid – BLACK SABBATH (2010 Eagle Vision Blu-ray)

Those familiar with Black Sabbath know that Tony and Geezer don’t necessarily make the best interviewees. Their answers are often monotone, bland, and only vaguely remembered. Maybe somebody gave them some coffee before this video.  Geezer in particular seems more animated, but they both appear actually alive! Bill Ward is Bill Ward, of course.  Ozzy can barely get his voice above a croaking whisper. None of that matters though, because this Blu-ray disc is not about the present, it’s about the distant past, 40+ years distant in fact: the landmark metal album of metal albums, Paranoid.

Everybody reading this knows Paranoid from front to back (I hope so, anyway) and has probably bought it more than once. If you don’t know Paranoid, get the album!  Go!  Listen to it, come back, and finish reading this review later.

Like all Classic Albums discs, this deconstructs classic tunes to the individual layers.  You are invited to hear the basic tracks for songs such as “Iron Man”, “Fairies Wear Boots”, “Planet Caravan”, “Black Sabbath”, and more. Engineer Tom Allom (perhaps best known for his production work with Judas Priest) is your tour guide. Stripped of vocals and guitar, you can hear the rhythm section clearly.  Hearing Bill and Geezer playing together without adornment is a revelation. If anyone comes out looking very underrated in the Sabbath saga, it is Bill Ward and Geezer Butler, who are psychically locked-in and loose.

Meanwhile, in new footage from the here and now, Iommi demonstrates some of the most famous riffs and solos in Sabbath history.  Meanwhile Ozzy explains how he wrote melodies. This story is unfolded within the context of the late 60’s and early 70’s, and what Sabbath stood for in those tumultuous times.

Bonus features are generous, like all Classic Albums discs. About 45 minutes of additional footage is available, discussing songs and topics that didn’t make the cut of the main Blu-ray feature itself. None of it is filler, all of it is worth watching and probably would have made a completely un-boring extended feature anyway, had it been left in.

My only complaint is the resolution of this disc is only 1080i. Minor complaint at that.

As a companion piece, I highly recommend getting Paranoid in its 3 disc expanded edition. The reason being is, on this Blu-ray you will hear demo versions of songs with alternate lyrics. If you want all of these demos complete and uncut, you have to get the 3 disc version of Paranoid which includes them all (as well as the album’s original Quad mix).

Oh, and one last thing:  Henry Rollins.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979 single)

Part 4 of my 4-part series on early Def Leppard singles!

DEF LEPPARD – “Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979 Vertigo/Phonogram single)

My initial thinking regarding this single was that I didn’t need it; both songs are available on On Through the Night.  Then I found out that these single versions of “Wasted” and “Hello America” are earlier, non-album recordings.  Rick Allen was in the band by this time but On Through the Night had yet to be recorded.  This immediately put the single on my radar as a must-have.

On Through the Night was produced by Tom Allom (Judas Priest) but before settling on him, Leppard tried out Nick Tauber due to his history with Thin Lizzy.  (He also produced Sheer Greed by Girl, the band that featured future Leppard alumnus Phil Collen.)  Tauber worked on the earlier, folksier Lizzy, not the later version of the band that rocked out such classics as “Jailbreak” and “Bad Reputation”.

The story goes that the record label was unhappy with Nick Tauber’s results and put a halt to his work on the album.  He had finished four songs:  These two, plus “Rock Brigade”, and “Glad I’m Alive” which both remain unreleased.  The label released “Wasted” as a single while recruiting Tom Allom to start over on the album.

“Wasted” boasts one of Leppard’s all time greatest riffs, if not the greatest.  You can see how this song has remained a cult favourite all these decades later.  This earlier version isn’t as adrenalized (pardon the pun) as the later album version, but there’s otherwise nothing wrong with it.  I think Allom’s album version is safely still the definitive one.  The two tracks are not that dissimilar, just Allom’s more in tune with the current heavy metal sounds.

The B-side, “Hello America”, would become a single in its own right the following year, in its guise as an Allom track.  This might be one that I prefer in its Tauber version.  Allom added a synthesizer riff to the chorus of “Hello America” that I always felt dated the tune.  While this version is not as manic or electrified, it does have the bare unadorned chorus.  There are bonuses to both versions.

It’s kind of funny to hear how shaky Joe Elliott’s voice was back then.  He grew into a powerful screamer by the High ‘n’ Dry album, which is my favourite period of Def Leppard.  They were all young back then, but Joe was clearly not as confident nor in his control of his voice in 1979.

Still, as a purchase, as a single, as a collectible, I am very happy with this.  My only regret is that I didn’t find one with a picture sleeve.

4.5/5 stars