This brief but great clip has MuchMusic’s Terry David Mulligan getting Rob Halford to open up about drugs and Judas Priest’s image. TDM hosted a show called MuchWest, but this was aired on the Power Hour. Summer 1986, (presumably from Expo ’86) and Rob’s got a moustache and slick, long hair! Definitely a look that didn’t stick.
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.
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!
For Superdeke’s amazing review including some tidbits about who the drummer(s) on this live album really is (are), check it out: superdekes.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/judas-priestlive-in-kansas-city1986
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)
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.
The 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.
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.
Due 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.
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.
JUDAS PRIEST – Turbo (1986)
Most people know the story by now: Turbo wasn’t supposed to be so lite. It was originally supposed to be a double album called Twin Turbos, featuring a mix of styles from ballads to hard rock to heavy metal. When the record company balked, they put the most commercial stuff out as Turbo, saving the rest of the songs for later use. Some, such as the awesome “Heart of a Lion” (later covered by Scott Travis’ band Racer X) and “Red White & Blue” ended up on Priest box sets and remasters. Other songs such as “Ram It Down” were re-recorded with a heavier sound and put out on the next album.
If you’re one of the many who considers Turbo one of the worst (if not the worst) Judas Priest album, I get it. It was their “sell out” album. It’s cold, it’s synthetic, it’s somewhat soulless. I understand. However, I tend to look at the Judas Priest back catalog, the complete gestalt, if you will, as one whole. Looking at this album in context, it is clear that Turbo is a unique record in Judas Priest’s canon, and indeed the whole of heavy metal in general. There’s never been an album that sounds quite like Turbo and it’s likely that there never will be again.
Turbo came in ’86 while Priest decided to experiment with guitar synthesizers. These are not keyboards on this album, but guitars played through a synth. Priest have done it since (Ram It Down, Nostradamus) but never again to this degree. Some of the sounds on this album are really cool. That weird vacuum cleaner combined with a jet engine sound in the opening of “Turbo Lover”, for example? Cool.
The songs are also good, albeit commercia hard rock. Priest had been increasing the commercial tendencies ever since British Steel, but on Turbo it veered heavily into MTV territory. “Turbo Lover” is an example of this. There’s not much in terms of a riff, which used to be the bedrock of a Priest song. The melody is the framework on which you hang the cool sounds and robotic groove. But it works, and the song is often brought out into the setlist, still — the only song from Turbo to make the setlist post-1987.
“Locked In” is a bit more rockin’, not a great song, but at least it ups the tempo a bit. The shout-chorus of “Private Property” is catchy as hell and this could easily have been a single. It sounded great live with the crowd joining in.
“Parental Guidance”, was probably my favourite Priest song in ’86-87. It’s just really catchy. It’s not heavy metal, but it’s really well-written pop metal. And as kids, we dug the words, even though Halford was 35 years old when he wrote them!
“Rock You All Around The World” closed side one, a fast number designed to get the crowd going nuts in concert. Sounds like Scorpions to me.
Side two started off with the long, dramatic epic, “Out in the Cold”. Man, what a great song. This one opened the live show in 1986 (and the following live album, Priest Live). I guess this would technically be the ballad of the album!
A pair of so-so songs follow, “Wild Nights, Hot And Crazy Days” (sounds like Van Hagar) and “Hot For Love” (another fast one that could have been covered by Scorpions). Not great songs, but at least they’re rockers. “Wild Nights” is kind of one of those 80’s party rockers. Nothing special, but it suited the times.
The final song is a total winner, “Reckless”, written for the Top Gun soundtrack but held back for this album. Awesome tune, “coming at galeforce ten.” This is just a perfect rock song for Judas Priest. Not a metal song, a rock song. It’s as aggressive as it gets on this album and it has a great solo, too.
There are two bonus tracks on the current remastered edition, “All Fired Up” (a lacklustre outtake) and a live version of “Locked In”. Since “Locked In” didn’t make 1987’s Priest Live album, it makes good sense to include it here. It was a single/video, released at the exact same time as “Turbo Lover” but always remained in that song’s shadow. Good to finally have a live version.
Liner notes and pictures are included. This album also contains the infamous “lead break credits”! While I don’t know if Glenn and Ken are interesting enough guitar players to warrant lead break credits for every song, it was a feature I enjoyed at the time and helped me identify the individual styles of the two players.