After the band’s second album, “Sad Wings of Destiny”, they were growing tired of their relationship with their current label Gull. They were discouraged at the cheapness of the label and the lack of funds they were receiving. And who can blame them. The band jumped ship and wound up with the first major label contract with CBS. All was right with the world.
We still had the same bandmates of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill. The only difference was the drummer, yet again! This seems to be a huge trend with the band. They can’t keep a drummer. It is Spinal Tap in reality. During the recording of the album, the band was unhappy with current drummer, Alan Moore, so they fired him. The band picked up session drummer Simon Phillips to finish recording the album. Now, Simon didn’t want to be a full fledge member so they had to replace him as they needed a drummer for the tour. They wound up with Les Binks to handle those duties. We will see if Les winds up recording the next album.
Since the band was with a bigger label, they actually got a big name for producer. Well, he maybe wasn’t a big name as a producer, but he was a big name bass player for a little band called Deep Purple. They hired the services of Roger Glover to help produce along with Judas Priest. The band was all set. In January 1977, they went in to the studio and after one session with Glover, they fired him. Oh my!! The band finished recording the album on their own, well….not exactly. They struggled a lot so Glover was asked back to finish the album. The album was released on April 8, 1977 and would see the album go Gold. It was the first of eleven straight albums to go Gold for the band! Judas Priest were on their way to stardom.
The album opens with the song “Sinner” and immediately it has a Deep Purple vibe to it, but a tad bit heavier and when you throw in Halford’s vocals you realize this is Priest not Purple. I think I even hear some Zeppelin in the guitars. The drumming is top notch, but it is Downing’s jam session in the middle that takes this one to another level. It is awesome and the album kicks off with one of the best songs on the album.
Then out of left field comes a cover. Not just any cover, but a Joan Baez cover off “Diamonds & Rust”. I mean how do you take a song from the female equivalent to Bob Dylan and turn it in to a metal song. Well, Priest did it and turned in a quite sensational performance. Musically it is great, but I think this is a Halford highlight as he turns in a great performance, possibly one of the best on the album. I would say this might be the most radio friendly of the bunch which is probably why they did this one.
Next up is “Starbreaker” which sees a little blues sound on the guitars, some hellish vocals from Halford and was that handclaps I heard. The song moved a long with a bounce in its steps being driven by Simon Phillips. There is a poorly produced mix in the middle that goes soft and loud that wasn’t really done well, but I can overlook that fact as I enjoy the rest of the song and I love a good guitar solo and this delivered a solid one.
A ballad is up next…a ballad? I wasn’t expecting that and even more unexpected are that there are two on this album. The first is “Last Rose of Summer”. It definitely sounds like a 70’s ballad, but it has its charm as Halford is warm and inviting with his vocals. It meanders along and is actually a pleasant track, but it is a little slow and does drag the vibe of the album down a little.
Priest then takes us to church with the hauntingly eerie organ-like feel (not really an organ) and then Halford sounds like a church choir to all make you feel like you are in church. It has a whole wedding march vibe to it. “Let Us Prey / Call for the Priest” might open like that, but the song quickly turns in to a blistering speedy metal tune. With some serious riffage and unbelievable drumming fills and runs that makes you drop to your knees and worship at the alter of Judas Priest.
“Raw Deal” has been described as homoerotic and Halford’s coming out song and I guess if you really listen to the lyrics, that would be an accurate description. There are some serious innuendos loaded in there. Actually pretty brilliant and subtle. The song opens with a killer riff and Halford delivers a solid vocal performance with some nasty high notes. The song is good, but for me seems to go nowhere musically and seems like it was trying to strive for more but didn’t succeed. I wouldn’t skip it, but I wouldn’t put it my essentials list either.
The second ballad on the album, “Here Comes the Tears” showed a different side of Priest. The song is a little Goth and that was unexpected to me. I wanted to wear all black, paint my nails black, put white powder all over my face and sit around and sulk, but in a good way. I think the standout musically is Ian’s bass as it is the driving force to the song. There is some nice acoustic guitar playing, a mysterious-mood setting piano, a guitar solo that will bring a tear to your eyes and then there is Halford who slays with that voice. The song is amazingly beautiful and nightmarish at the same time. Now my friends, this is how you do a ballad. Wow!
The final track on the album is the best song on the album for me. “Dissident Aggressor” opens with that classic Halford scream that blows your freaking mind. The guitars are brutal and the double bass drum by Simon will lay waste to everyone that hears it. The song is aggressive, nasty and everything that is great about Priest. Tipton and Downing trade solos and you are treated to a feast for your ears. However, this feast is one where you never get full. You can devour at the buffet all night long and never tire.
The CD I have comes with two bonus tracks as well. First up is a cover of The Gun song “Race with the Devil”. The song was actually recorded during the recording sessions for the band’s next album ‘Stained Glass’ and never used. It was added as a bonus track for the 2001 re-release of the album. The song is a killer cover and doesn’t stray too much from the original. Halford’s vocals are stronger and more aggressive and definitely more sane than Adrian Curtis because Adrian’s was a little more nuts on his version with his wild cackling. Musically, Priest take it to another level and metalize it a little more and remove any horns. The Priest song is a pretty cool version. But not sure which one I like more as they are both pretty awesome.
The last track is a live version of the song “Jawbreaker” which was recorded in 1984. I am not sure why a song from ‘Defenders of Faith’ is on here, but glad it is even if it makes zero sense to put something from a different time period of the band. At least “Race of the Devil” was within a year of the album. I will take it as it is a solid live performance of a great song.
- Sinner – Keeper
- Diamonds & Rust (Joan Baez Cover) – Keeper
- Starbreaker – Keeper
- Last Rose of Summer – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Let Us Prey/Call for the Priest – Keeper
- Raw Deal – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Here Come the Tears – Keeper
- Dissident Agressor – Keeper
- Race with the Devil (The Gun cover – Bonus)
- Jawbreaker (Live – Bonus)
The Track Score is 7 out of 8 Tracks or 88%. As you can see, I didn’t rate the bonus tracks because well, they are bonus tracks. I stuck with original album as I will with all their albums where I have bonus tracks. I am three albums in and liking each one a little bit more. This one opened with a rocker and end with an even more rocking track. I enjoyed everything in between even if a couple lesser favorite tracks. Judas Priest seem to be finding themselves now and they felt fresh and alive with this one. Overall a fantastic release and I will give it a solid 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars. This will now be the benchmark for all the rest in my opinion.
UP NEXT: ‘STAINED CLASS’ (1978)
THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION SERIES:
- Rocka Rolla (1974)
- Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
- Sin After Sin (1977)
- Stained Class (1978)
- Killing Machine / Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
- Unleashed in the East (1979)
- British Steel (1980)
- Point of Entry (1981)
- Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
- Defenders of the Faith (1984)
- Turbo (1986)
- Priest…Live! (1987)
- Ram it Down (1988)
- Painkiller (1990)
- Angel of Retribution (2005)
- Nostradamus (2008)
- A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)