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 #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.
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…
As you know, the Turbo album was supposed to be a double album, but the powers-that-be decided the band should only release a single disc album. That meant a lot of songs were scrapped. Well, at least four of those songs wound up on the band’s follow-up, ‘Ram It Down’. The rest of those songs wound up as Bonus tracks on the re-issues and a couple I don’t think have ever seen the light of day. Maybe someday we will hear them.
‘Ram It Down’ was recorded from December 1987 to March of 1988. It would finally be released on May 17, 1988 and would end up being the last album with drummer Dave Holland. There are a few people I know that were quite happy with that move as they always felt Dave’s drumming was a little on the lackluster side. The album would ship gold but only wound up going to #31 on the US Billboard Charts. The album was pretty heavy compared to Turbo, but the songs were no where near as strong and I believe most were disappointed with the end result. In fact, when we did the Nigel Tufnel Top 10 Judas Priest albums on The LeBrain Train several weeks back, none of the three guest even chose this album as one of their Top 10 if that clues you in on anything.
The album kicks off with the classic Halford scream and really slams it home with heavy thrash sounding drums and frantically flying fingers on guitar. The title track, “Ram It Down”, is doing just that. Slamming the fist down to show the world they weren’t a synthesizer band anymore. When compared to the rest of the album, this is one of the better tracks as it still has a little bite and a great dual guitar solo from Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing and man their fingers had to be smoking after the speed of those solos.
As you read yesterday, for Christmas I received Queen’s ‘Queen 40’ Box Sets. I also received this box set from Judas Priest called ‘The Complete Albums Collection’. Now this is not a very accurate title because it really isn’t the “Complete” albums collection as it is missing quite a bit. But before we get to tell you what it is missing, let me tell you why it is called the “Complete” album collection. That is because it contains all 17 Judas Priest albums featuring the classic line up of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K. K. Downing and Ian Hill (2). That was the focus of the collection.
As a result, it is missing the 2 Ripper Owen albums including ‘Jugulator’ (1997) and ‘Demolition’ (2001) as well as 2 Live albums, ’98 Live Meltdown’ and ‘Live in London’ (2003). And since this was released in 2011, it is missing the two newer albums ‘Redeemer of Souls’ (2014) and ‘Firepower’ (2018) both Richie Faulkner on guitar and not K.K. Downing. Oh yeah, and the live album ‘Battle Cry’ from 2016. So technically this isn’t really the “Complete Albums Collection”…but I am okay with that as this is a great beginners set as you get a 17 albums for one low price to get things going.
Let us go through the timeline of what is included. But before we do that, all the CDs come in a cardboard sleeve that is similar to a vinyl album jacket with the original artwork recreated on the album jacket. There are no plastic cases and no CD booklet for each disc. Instead you get a 40 page booklet with photos, liner notes and album credits. And that is it. There is nothing extra special thrown in although a lot of the discs have a couple of the bonus tracks included. This really is just the CDs and no frills.