While on tour in support of their album ‘Killing Machine’/’Hell Bent For Leather’, Judas Priest decided to record a couple shows for use on a live album. The shows that were recorded were the February 10 & 15, 1979 shows at Kosei Nenkin Hall and Nakono Sun Plaza in Tokyo, Japan. After 5 studio albums, it was time for the world to see what Priest was like live for those that had not seen them in concert. The 70’s were big for Live albums, as seen by UFO, Peter Frampton and Kiss, so why not Judas Priest.
There is a lot of debate on whether the album is actually live. The short answer is yes, it is….sort of. The long answer is much more complicated. The music is definitely live with maybe a few touch-ups in the studio. The vocals, however, are not truly live. Yes, a live person sang them live in to a studio microphone, but these are not the vocals from that show because according to Rob Halford, his vocals on the tape get messed up and they had to be redone. They did record him singing as he would in a live concert setting except he was in a studio. Which explains probably how some of those notes were hit so perfectly. There is a common name people call this album and it is usually, Unleashed in the Studio. Regardless of any of the above, it doesn’t seem to have bothered the buying public because the album quickly went Platinum and is one of the best live albums of all time thanks to the work of producer Tom Allom. You know Tom, he was a recording engineer and producer of the likes of Black Sabbath and he produced Def Leppard’s debut album ‘On Through the Night’.
The album explodes with the song, “Exciter”, then straight in to “Running Wild” and “Sinner”. We see the band shed any of their past psychedelic, blues sound to now be a straight up metal band. The songs on this album are fast, furious and down right lethal. The power of the dual guitars between Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing really are the tour de force on this show. There was a constant battle between the two to see who could out do the other, but still keep it in the context of the song. They played off each other so well. Not to be outdone, Les Binks on drums completely laid waste to everyone with his total annihilation of his drum kit as he pounded through one song after the other.
When you get to “The Ripper” and hear Rob Halford hit that note on the word “Shock” in the opening verse, I swear my head was going to burst. It was one of the coolest things as it was so unexpected. Now, I know the vocals were redone, but they do sound like a live performance. Rob sounds amazing and yes, it is almost perfect, but so what. It feels and sounds like a live album and if they can make it feel that way, they are doing something right.
Then we get two covers in a row with “The Green Manalishi” and “Diamonds and Rust” and I swear they are true Priest songs at this point. There is nothing in them that would make you think they were originally done by other bands. Priest own these songs now for me and I have completely forgotten what the originals sound like. If that wasn’t enough, the opening guitar riffs on “Victim of Changes” comes screaming in and the band is set to devour the rest of the set. The guitars on this one are some of the best for the whole album. The dual guitar work with Priest is exactly why metal bands should have dual guitars as there is so much texture and excitement that can be added to a song. If that wasn’t enough, Halford is as fierce as ever with the vocals. He gets better as the show goes on. A favorite song before this album and even more so now.
The final two tracks are pure destruction with “Genocide” and “Tyrant” and hell even their names are menacing and evil. Let’s talk about how a live performance can turn a so-so song into a totally different beast and elevate it to something better than your remember. Well there isn’t much to talk about since I think I explained it well enough with that statement. These two songs were okay before, but live, they are amazing. Les Binks drumming was maddening and Glenn and K.K. along with the rhythmic bass of Ian Hill are a lethal combination making me regret the last 40 years without a daily dose of Priest in my life.
The original album would be over at this point much to your disappointment as it would be way too short. Thankfully, this disc is the 2001 remaster as there are four bonus tracks including “Rock Forever”, “Delivering the Goods”, “Hell Bent For Leather” and “Starbreaker”. Damn, how could these tracks have been left off the original album as they are nothing short of stellar. Especially hearing “Hell Bent For Leather” live for the first time. A great song even better as they did with every song on this album. And then ending with 6 minutes of “Strabreaker” is an incredible way to end the album. They go out with a bang and quickly make me hit repeat and start this masterpiece over yet again.
What I love about the whole album is that the songs seem to be played a little faster and a lot harder as Priest is bringing the Heavy in Heavy Metal. A live album can leave you feeling a little bored and dull sometimes, but this is not one of those albums as it is like exploring and hearing all these songs in a brand new light. They took these songs to where they hadn’t been before and brought a new life to them and this is one album I will be playing the hell out of it for years to come as this has quickly jumped in to my Top 10 Live Albums of all time!! If I had one complaint, it is minor, there are no songs from the debut, ‘Rocka Rolla’. It would’ve been cool to have one song from that album even as a bonus track. But that one complaint doesn’t detract from the album in the least. I will give this album a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as it is simply outstanding and life changing. If I could, I would add a point for such a killer album cover as well as back cover. If those pictures don’t sum up the album, nothing will. If I wasn’t already becoming a Judas Priest diehard fan from doing this series, I am now quite obsessed and ready to devour the rest of the catalog.
UP NEXT: ‘British Steel’ (1980)
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)