Judas Priest – ‘A Touch of Evil: Live’ (2009) – Album Review (The Complete Albums Collection Series)

We are now to the final album in the box set, The Complete Albums Collection. Why is it the final album in the set, because it is the last album to feature original guitarist, K.K. Downing. This box set contained ALL albums that featured the 4 main members, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and K.K. Downing. We know it wasn’t because of a single drummer as they close to a 1,000 drummers in their career…and yes, that is an exaggeration. This live album is also the band’s fifth live album, but only 3rd in this series. We won’t be doing the other two any time soon, so sorry about that fact.

This live album was the first one since Rob Halford rejoined the band and it is also noted for an old producer friend of the band sees his return. Tom Allom is back as co-producer with the band and I can’t say that was actually a good thing after you hear my complaints about this album. They did a good job about not repeating any tracks on any other Halford led Live album up to this point. There are a lot of repeats on the Tim “Ripper” Owen albums, but those don’t count for this conversation. Why don’t we jump straight in to this release.

The album took songs from the band’s tours in 2005 and 2008 and not from one show which is okay. The problem was they didn’t mix the album to sound like a full live show. Nope! Each song fades out and then the next song comes in totally ruining the live album effect. If you are going to make a live album, at least give it the feel that it is one consistent show even if it is not. It totally takes me out of the game when you fade the songs in and out.

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Judas Priest – ‘Ram It Down’ (1988) – Album Review (The Complete Albums Collection Series)

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.

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Judas Priest – ‘Turbo’ (1986) – Album Review (The Complete Albums Collection Series)

After the ‘Defenders of Faith’ Tour, the band took it easy for a little while. They didn’t jump right back in to the studio. There was no tour planned in 1985, but did do one live show that year. Of course that was to play at Live Aid on July 13th, 1985. They played in Philadelphia at around 11am in the morning. Rob said that was a good time to play because it meant he could spend the rest of the day just drinking. Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Dave Holland rocked the world that day and then went back to record an album.

By this time they had already started recording their follow-up album. They started recording in June 1985 down in Nassau, Bahamas at the Compass Pointe Studio. It was a beautiful place to record, but it was also a bad time for Rob Halford whose drinking and drugs were getting out of hand. Rob also got hepatitis during the recording of the album and was sick from that for a little while. Then around Christmas 1985, Rob finally checked in to rehab to get clean and he actually succeeded. He made it look easy which of course we know it never really is. Now with Rob clean, they finally finished the album around February 1986 which they finished up at the Record Plant in Los Angeles.

The original concept of the album was to be a double album called ‘Twin Turbos’. The record company did not agree with that concept and ended up taking the more commercial songs and putting together a single album simply called, ‘Turbo’. The band also changed up their sound to match a little more of what the glam rock scene was doing at the time. The band got a little lighter sound, no where near as heavy, and they introduced guitar synthesizers in to the mix. So for some fans, this was sacrilege. The band was abandoning who they were as a heavy metal band to fit mainstream. Right or Wrong, the band still had success with the album as after its release on April 14, 1986, the album quickly went Gold and eventually went Platinum about a year later. The album reached #17 on the US Charts and only #33 on the UK Charts.

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Judas Priest – ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ (1982) – Album Review (The Complete Albums Collection Series)

For me, ‘Point of Entry’ was a little disappointing. The hard, heavy sound of the band was replaced with a more melodic album that was trying to repeat the success of ‘British Steel’, but failed. ‘Screaming for Vengeance” was the band’s answer back that they could still deliver heavy metal music and let me tell you they did just that. This time around, the band went off to Spain to record the album in Ibizia at Ibizia Sound Studios. If you are wondering why not record in England, well, due to tax issues in England, bands would find it better to not live in England all year long so this let them be out of the country for a spell (and probably why Halford had moved to Arizona years earlier). Okay, that was not really necessary information so let’s try and give you something better.

This album is a first for Priest. No, not the their first album silly. This is the first Priest album to feature a drummer who had played on more than two albums. That is right, Dave Holland was the first Judas Priest drummer to make it on three albums!! Wow!! Give yourself a hand boys, because for you, that is impressive. Dave would actually go on to play on four more albums plus a Live album. Congrats Mr. Holland. The drummer curse was now over. The band is still intact with Dave, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill.

During this album, Tom Allom was a task master. The label was putting pressure on the band to deliver and album that the American fans would appreciate. A hard hitting, true heavy metal album. The label felt the band was about to break in America and they wanted the bands to deliver the goods that would do that. And well, we will see if they do…here’s a hint…they do!!

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Judas Priest – ‘Point of Entry’ (1981) – Album Review (The Complete Albums Collection Series)

After the tour supporting the band’s last album, ‘British Steel’, the band went right back in the studio to do the follow-up, ‘Point of Entry’, which would be the band’s eighth studio album. The last album did so well, the band didn’t want to change things up so we basically got the same album as before, except maybe not quite as heavy or as good. The hauled all their equipment to Ibiza Studios in Spain to record this one and not a bad place to be I can imagine, but did it bring any fresh inspiration? I think not. I think a big problem was the band had a real substance abuse problem, especially Rob as he

The band, believe it or not, stayed in tack with the same drummer as last time, David Holland. That alone is a massive achievement for the band. The remaining cast of characters were still Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing and Ian Hill. The main core of the band. They recorded the album from October-November of 1980 and released the album on February 26, 1981. I won’t say the reception was lukewarm, as the album did go gold and produce a few singles. It only went to #39 in the US and #14 in the UK which isn’t a whole lot worse then the prior album, but the prior one did go platinum.

I think a big problem was the band had a real substance abuse problem, especially Rob as he tried to cope with his every growing loneliness being a gay metal rocker. But I think another problem was this resort like atmosphere of the Spanish island, gave the band way too many distractions. They would some time working and some time riding motorcross and partying. Hard to get proper work done when you are focusing on other things. I think these distractions led to a slightly disjointed album.

The album though does kick off with a great, classic Priest tune “Heading Out to the Highway”. It opened with a great dual guitar riff from Downing & Tipton and then great rhythm section from Hill & Holland and then Halford bad ass guy vocals sounding all tough and mean. It is a great driving song as its speedy tempo makes you want to crank it up and push the foot on the pedal a little harder. I remember seeing the song and MTV and cranking the TV as loud as it would go which wasn’t that loud as it was such a crappy TV.

“Don’t Go” comes up next and thumps along and slow yet heavy beat and is quite seductive and sexy. The song then explodes at the chorus which is very catchy. The guitar solo is the highlight as it really screams to be heard. It is almost the climax of this seductive dance.

“Hot Rockin'” brings it back to a more uptempo metal pace. It is a straight up rocker and one of my favorites on the album. It is full of energy and Halford attacks it with gusto and another guitar solo that is just as brutal as Rob’s vocals. By the time the song ends you are exhausted yet dying for more.

Next we get “Turning Circles” that opens with a non-sounding Priest guitar riff. It isn’t as gritty and powerful. The song feels like it is going in circles and unable to find any place to go. The music is repetitive sounding and leaves you wanting more. Rob sounds great vocally, but I found it dull overall.

But don’t fret, as the next song, “Desert Plains”, gets right back on track. It opens with a loud, heavy drum peat from Holland and if full of duel guitar work from Tipton and Downing and thumping bass line from Hill. Halford comes on and gives a serious tone which almost feels a little ominous in presentation. It is another song that feels like you are driving fast down the road weaving in and out of cars 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. A great way to close out the first half of the album.

The second half of the album kicks off with “Solar Angels” and a some great dual guitar work. Plus you get a Tipton solo and then a dual solo at the end. I think the highlight of the song is the musicianship as it seems to be more music and less vocals. There are some wild space sounding effects thrown in to go with the song title and add some flair. It is a decent track and might be the better song on the back half. The album starts to lose me from here.

“You Say Yes” is a song with a pretty awful chorus. The rest isn’t much better, but this song screams filler even if there is some cool bass by Ian Hill, though not cool enough to save the song. It is quite dreary and I am ready to move on to the next track.

Next up is “All The Way” and I’m not sure this is a metal song. It seems so contrived and the band seems to be reaching for a radio hit or commercial friendly sound. It seems like they are trying to write a party song as it is too chipper and is that supposed to be a handclap sound…oh goodness, spare me.

“Troubleshooter” is a little better as it is a little darker and has a great groove to it. The guitar work is sensational with Tipton starting the solo and Downing finishing it up. I do love when they share the solo, that is always worth a listen. I think it helps save the song…a little.

The final track, “On the Run”, actually has a strong opening and Halford’s vocals are soaring. He sounds smooth and the high notes are sensational and what I love from him. Give me this Priest any day of the week. Another hard, driving beat and some great drumming by Holland as well. They saved Side 2 from being a dismal failure with this track. This is more like what I want to hear from the band.

The Bonus Tracks on this one consist of “Thunder Road” which was recorded during the “Ram It Down” sessions from 1988 which makes no sense for it to be the bonus track on an album from 1981. It is a solid, heavy ass rocking song though. Production wise, it doesn’t sound clean and fully finished, but song wise, it is great and better than a lot of songs on this album. I like Hill’s bass as it is the Thunder on this Road (see what I did there!!).

The next bonus song is “Desert Plains” which was recorded live at Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri; 23 May 1986. The song feels like it is sped up a little from the studio track. There is a lot of double bass from Holland how was still with the band in 1986 believe it or not. The studio version is still better, but this shows how the band can tweak a song live and turn it in to something a little different. Now it is faster and heavier and still pretty good.

Track Listing:

  1. Heading Out to the Highway – Keeper
  2. Don’t Go – Keeper
  3. Hot Rockin’ – Keeper
  4. Turning Circles – Delete
  5. Desert Plains – Keeper
  6. Solar Angels – Keeper
  7. You Say Yes – Delete
  8. All The Way – Delete
  9. Troubleshooter – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  10. On The Run – Keeper

Bonus Tracks:

  1. Thunder Road
  2. Desert Plains (Live)

The Track Score is 6.5 out of 10 or 65%.  This is the first album so far I have actually been a little disappointed in.  Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments, but overall it was the first album I didn’t see growth of some kind. It was ‘British Steel’ light or 2.0…but not as good.  They tried to copy the success of ‘British Steel’ to no avail.  They had too many distractions and the band was in a bad place with this one and you can tell from the sound of these songs.  Overall, I will only give it a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars as I still liked more than half the tracks, the rest was just weak.

UP NEXT: ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ (1982)

THE COMPLETE ALBUMS COLLECTION SERIES:

  1. Rocka Rolla (1974)
  2. Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)
  3. Sin After Sin (1977)
  4. Stained Class (1978)
  5. Killing Machine / Hell Bent For Leather (1978)
  6. Unleashed in the East (1979)
  7. British Steel (1980)
  8. Point of Entry (1981)
  9. Screaming for Vengeance (1982)
  10. Defenders of the Faith (1984)
  11. Turbo (1986)
  12. Priest…Live! (1987)
  13. Ram it Down (1988)
  14. Painkiller (1990)
  15. Angel of Retribution (2005)
  16. Nostradamus (2008)
  17. A Touch of Evil: Live (2009)

Judas Priest – ‘British Steel’ (1980) – Album Review (The Complete Albums Collection Series)

Judas Priest had massive success with the live album ‘Unleashed in the East’ and now it was time to hit the studio again. However, this time they would lose their drummer yet again. Les Binks was not paid for his work on ‘Unleashed in the East’ and was slightly pissed and so he left the band forcing Priest to find their 7th drummer all thanks to manager Mike Dolan not paying Binks.

The band found a new drummer by the name of Dave Holland formerly of the band Trapeze. Dave would stay with the band all the way up to 1989 which will be the longest running drummer at that point in time. The band started recording in December 1979 at Startling Studios in London, but they weren’t feeling it. They ended up at Ringo Starr’s house where they finished the album by February 1980. The band was in awe recording at Ringo’s house because prior to Ringo owning the house, it was John Lennon’s house and they couldn’t believe they were in the same house as two former Beatles where a lot of history had been made.

The album saw its release on April 14, 1980 and they would see the album go to #34 in the US and #4 in the UK and the album would reach platinum status selling well over 1 Million copies. The album would go on to have 3 Singles and we would see the band keep to a more accessible sound they started doing with ‘Killing Machine’. Judas Priest was hitting it big and a Metal was becoming more mainstream thanks to albums like this. This was sort of the start of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBH).

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