A few weeks back I was on the live stream ‘Grab A Stack of Rock’ with Mike Landano and Harrison, The Mad Metal Man and we went through the giant 50th Anniversary Judas Priest box set. During the show, as we discussed each album, we picked are least favorite and our favorite song off each album. I thought that was a great idea and I thought I’d turn it in to a post as a recap. So, here are my picks for the Best and Worst song on every Judas Priest studio album and there are 18 Albums!! Now, let’s preface this with the fact that these are my choices and not necessarily yours as we can have different opinions. If you watched the show you will see that sometimes my worst song was their favorite so you never know what people like and we all like different things or this would be a very dull world. I hope you enjoy!!
Rocka Rolla (1974)
BEST SONG – “CHEATER”: Written by Halford and Downing. The song has a blues hard rock sound and opens with a great riff and slams it home from there. I love the swagger to the song, the cowbell and the harmonica all screamed classic rock and right up my alley.
WORST SONG – “CAVIAR AND METHS”: An instrumental track written by Atkins, Downing and Hill and at only 2 minutes it didn’t really have time to develop in to much of anything. It is too short, too repetitive and didn’t do anything for me, almost a waste of time and space as it doesn’t make sense with the album.
Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
BEST SONG – “VICTIM OF CHANGES”: An epic almost 8 minute track written by Halford, Downing, Tipton and Al Atkins. The song opens slowly and breaks into a cool double guitar riff. It seems to be a very complex song with lots of rhythm changes and heck even the moods and vibes change throughout. The song is so full of layers and textures that it keeps you engrossed which is needed for such a long track. The thing that clinches the song is Halford’s falsettos and that dramatic, climactic scream at the end. It is legendary!!
For My Sunday Song #300…wow…300, I bring you my favorite song by Judas Priest, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”. The song is off my favorite Priest album 1982’s ‘Screaming for Vengeance’. It was written by Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing and was released as a single to their surprise. And it took off. I saw it on MTV constantly and I was immediately drawn to it. It started to catch on around the country and the next thin you know, the band had a massive hit on their hands. Well, not too massive as it only reached #67 on the Billboard Charts, but it brought people to the shows and that is all this band needed to deliver them the goods.
The song was a last minute add to the album. They were very pleased with what they had, but they just felt one more song was needed and then came this song. It was out of the blue and came to them quickly and easily. It is actually a song of hope and resilience. It is about rising above the noise and facing any issues or troubles that come your way head on and attacking them. It is quite inspiring.
When “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” kicks in there is something absolutely special about it. Instantly you hear a guitar sound like none other. The song feels important, groundbreaking and like nothing I’d ever heard before. I don’t know how to describe the ecstasy of joy I feel for this song. It is heavy, yet melodic and it has an energy to it that is infectious and the one song I can never tire of from the band. It’s driving beat feels like you are in your car, top down, going 100 mphs with no cares in the world and loving every minute of it. It is a massive rush of adrenaline. I am trying to think of other ways to describe how great I think this song is, but at a loss for words now.
For My Sunday Song #299, I bring you “Dissident Aggressor” by Judas Priest. The song is from their 1977 album ‘Sin After Sin” and was written by Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. Although the song didn’t win any awards upon its release, it was won a Grammy over 30 years later for Best Metal Performance as a live version from the album ‘Touch of Evil: Live’. Better late than never!!
The song is about Berlin and the wall. Rob was in Berlin looking out over the wall and noticed that West Berlin was all lit up with bars open and lights, but the East side was dark and blacked out, no life. That contradiction inspired the song. The song appears to be dealing with the brainwashing and violence as a result of those ruling East Berlin. The Dissident Aggressor is someone who goes against the political party and fights to see things change. And the wall does fall, but not for over a decade later.
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 drumming 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 can devour at the buffet all night long and never tire or get full. Rolling Stone magazine described the song as “apocalyptic epic” and I think that sums it up nicely.
For My Sunday Song #298, we are talking “Ripper” by Judas Priest. The song is off their stellar 1976 album ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’. The song was released as the first single off the album and only released in the UK. I don’t have any chart information for it, sorry. The song was written solely by Glenn Tipton and what a great song.
“Ripper” is from the point of view of the legendary UK serial killer, Jack the Ripper…or if you like, Jack the Knife. The song speaks from Jack’s mind telling the world how deranged he was on basically telling you how and when he will kill you. It shows how much Jack enjoys what he is doing and has done and he smile while he does the deed. It is scary and twisted and a brilliant take on perspective.
It is an intense, riff-roaring killer track. The opening guitars of Tipton and Downing stab at you from every angle with such ferocity. And that opening falsetto by Halford is that fatal cut that will slice through you like butter. Is it possible for someone to go so high without any help. That scream has to be mixed with a guitar to go where no man can possibly go, but he does. I like the galloping beat of the drums at certain points and Halford’s pacing on the delivery of the lyrics. It is a menacing, heart racing song and I can see why this was the single because it does make you sit up and take notice.
For My Sunday Song #297, we are talking about the song “Angel” by Judas Priest. The song is off their 2005 album ‘Angel of Retribution’. I picked another song that wasn’t a single and from an album that a lot of fans might not think about. The album is their 15th studio album and the first since 1990’s Painkiller to feature Rob Halford again on vocals.
The lyrics on this one seem to be really deep. That there is a deeper meaning to them that we weren’t meant to really understand. Is it about wanting to die and be taken to the land of peace with Christ? Is it about longing for a lover that has left and he just wants them back to be whole again? Is it about drugs and wanting to escape in them again where he could stop feeling all the pain this world brings? I don’t really have the answer, I guess you can interpret it however you want and none of it would be wrong.
“Angel”, I think this might be one of the best ballads they have done. Rob’s vocals on this might be the best off the album as well. His vocals are smooth at times and full of emotion and it is just him and an acoustic guitar for most of the song. It has a very melancholy tone and is actually quite moving with its beautiful soaring vocals and the sweeping music seems to lift you in the sky with the angels. The bass comes in around the middle and then some electric guitars for the solo. The drums come in towards the end and brings the full band in to play. It is a beautifully constructed song and might be the best song on the album…who am I kidding, it is the best song on the album.
For My Sunday Song #296, we are going to discuss the song “Desert Plains” by Judas Priest. The song is from their 1981 album ‘Point of Entry’. The song wasn’t a single, but for me was one of the very few standout tracks on the album. The album went gold in the U.S. selling over 500,000 copies and went to #39 on the Billboard Charts. Not their best showing but that was all about to change with their next album.
“Desert Plains” can have a lot of meanings. I read it was inspired by the beautiful Arizona desert landscape as that is where Rob Halford was living. The song is possibly about riding your motorcycle down the lonely desert road aching to be with your lover and finally arriving at the end as there is a line “The engine roars between my thighs” that makes me think motorcycle, but I guess it could mean some other thing that is between his thighs getting all hot and bothered.
I also saw someone mention that the song is about life and death. The life part is the person on this side of death missing their lover terribly who has died. The other person, who is dead, is on the other side waiting for them so they can one day be together again. If that is the case then the person on this side of death must die because they are together again. That is a little morbid for me, so I personally lean towards the first one because the song does end with them falling in each others arms, but I don’t feel like they died.
The song opens with a loud, heavy drum beat from Dave Holland and is full of dual guitar work from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing and a thumping bass line from Ian Hill. Rob Halford comes in and gives a serious tone to the vocals which almost feels a little ominous in its presentation. An album that already has “Heading Out to the Highway”, it is another song that feels like you are driving fast down the road and that there is a dangerous element you can’t escape from and is following you about to catch you. Overall, this is a killer track and might be my favorite track on the album.
For My Sunday Song #294, we are going to discuss the song “Blood Red Skies” by Judas Priest off their 1988 album ‘Ram it Down’. The song is not an official single from the album which had some real crappy singles so this would’ve been way better as a single then what the chose. Ok, probably not a better choice as the song is over 7 minutes long so way to long for radio. The album did go gold thanks to songs like this (but mostly due to past success). The song was written by the normal trio of characters with Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Rob Halford.
The song to me is so powerful. There is a real struggle and battle with the singer. And since the singer is Rob, I believe the battle is his struggle with and the world’s acceptance of his homosexuality. He was so afraid of being found out and what that would do to the band and to him. Rightfully so as this was the metal community back in the 80’s and being gay was not widely accepted yet. The song dives in to his personal struggles and what religion says will happen if you are gay, he’s being watched by everyone and is afraid the fame will all go away. But damn it, he is who is and he is going to fight for the right to be who he is and as history has shown, no one cares that he is gay. We all love Rob for Rob and it never hurt him or the band and he is finally happy being who he is.
The most epic song on ‘Ram It Down’ is “Blood Red Skies” the song feels like it is wrapped in a whole Terminator-like vibe. It feels like science fiction in music. The song starts off slower and it sounds like we are in space or something atmospheric like that. There are some acoustic guitars and Rob comes in soft and gentle to keep with the feel of the music. His falsettos are stellar. The song kicks up the tempo with some guitar synthesizer sounds and heavier drumming (although they sound programmed which sucks a little). Rob changes his vocal approach as well getting a little more sinister and angrier. The song takes me back to earlier Priest when they were doing a little more Prog stuff (without the synths though). This is one of the better songs on the album and really reaches new heights with the grand levels it reaches. It is engaging and feels like it is telling some powerful journey which it actually is.
For My Sunday Song #293, we are going to discuss the title track, “Nostradamus”, from the Judas Priest 2008 concept album ‘Nostradamus’. The album focuses on the life and times of the great 16th Century writer and prophecy maker which I think is brilliant. The album went to #11 on the Billboard Charts but I think fell flat after that as people just didn’t get it. They were wrong in my book. The title track did get nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance but lost.
The song is an homage to the man himself. It celebrates everything about the man, the myth, the legend. It vindicates the man that was persecuted for his beliefs. He lived in the 16th Century so I am sure they thought he was a witch or evil with all his visions.
“Nostradamus” has some brilliance to it. Rob is full on operatic in his vocals and he really hits some great notes at the beginning and then the band comes in and slams it home with a massive Halford scream. It does actually have a little of the speed metal and has some classic Priest sounds and that Halford SCREAM!!!! What more could you want. I really love the epic, grandness feel to the song. It takes you on a journey and one you will want to travel again and again. The band went for it on this song and album I personally love it.
For My Sunday Song #291, we are going to go down on the song “Eat Me Alive” by Judas Priest. The song is off their 1984 smash album ‘Defenders of Faith. The song was not a single, but it did make some major news and caused the band a few headaches and probably increased sales as a result.
The most controversial song on the album, “Eat Me Alive”, caught the ear of the PMRC movement. The Parents Music Resource Group, that was started by Tipper Gore, had this song as #3 on their 15 song list that they objected to and felt was offensive. I can’t imagine why as it was only about a guy giving another guy a blow job. Actually, the PMRC thought the song was a snuff song and about killing…boy what were they thinking. Priest weren’t really trying to be corruptive or controversial for that matter, they were just doing a song that was a little tongue-in-cheek and Rob was being Rob with his lyrics plus he was so drunk when he wrote it. Rob as we know now is gay, but back then no one really knew and this was his idea of funny that for some reason no one picked up on.
Anyway, the song is great and rocks out. It is extremely catchy and has a great grove that moves the song forward at a blistering tempo. You can’t help but be “sucked” in by it…sorry…had to go there. For such an interesting topic, the band sounds fierce, menacing and attacks the song with a lot of gusto. They make the song feel terrifying like someone is actually going to get eaten alive, but that isn’t really happening is it.
We are finally to the end of the Judas Priest Complete Albums Collection Series. And we are ending it with a ranking of all the Studio albums for the band which is a total of 18 albums to go through. That is a lot. I knew of Judas Priest and I had heard a ton of songs, but I had never dived deep in the band until I did this series. I received The Complete Albums Collection Box Set for Christmas 2020 and bought the 4 studio albums that were missing from the set and decided to review them all and it has been a blast. I will say that I am a huge fan now.
Out of the 18 albums, there are only 2 they have that I felt were below average and the rest are worth hearing at least to me. That isn’t bad to have 16 albums that rank at least a 3 or higher. My choices might be different from some people and that is okay as we like different things. I really enjoyed the bluesiness of the early albums and the more 80’s style and even the real heaviness of the more current records. I will even admit I liked one of the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens albums. No matter what I heard, I found things I liked and didn’t like. But what I do know is that the original members of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill were a powerful group and there was a magic to their music together. I like Richie Faulkner as he brought a new life to the band and I really liked Scott Travis on drums as he was a force to be reckoned with behind that kit.
Judas Priest was not a one trick pony. They weren’t just heavy metal…they had a blues influence, glam influence, straight up hard rock, speed metal and even a little death metal at times. They could do it all. Any time they had dual guitar solos or Halford hit that trademark scream, I was all in. These guys are one of the best bands to come out of the UK and I can’t believe we have had 50 years of Judas Priest. What a ride it has been. Now, let’s see how I rank the albums and away we go…