Turbo is, quite possibly, the album that sparks the most debate among Judas Priest fans. Even the Rob Halford-vs-"Ripper" Owens question is minor compared to the debate this particular album can cause among the hard-core fans. The question, in fact, is not "What the hell were they thinking?!?" The question is, "What the hell happened to this album?"
Allow me to expand on that for a minute. Around this time in the heavy metal scene, it was not uncommon for established bands to experiment with synthesizers a bit and try to freshen up their sound. Iron Maiden did it - and, in my opinion, successfully - with Somewhere In Time. And, indeed, there are times on Turbo when the great experiment seems to be succeeding. If only the bulk of the album didn't contain some of the group's weakest offerings in some time - disappointing especially after coming off the strengths of Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith.
Turbo ends up being is less of a stylistic change for Judas
Priest, but instead marks a time when the group sounded tired with
the whole circus. Unfortunately for us, they take the listeners
along for the ride.
The lead-off tracks, "Turbo Lover" and "Locked In," are probably the best-known from this disc, which is a bit of a shame, as they aren't the strongest efforts among the nine songs. Let's forget - or at least try to forget - the videos that went along with these songs. It almost sounds like "Turbo Lover" wasn't fully developed in the songwriting process, as it sputters along the verses towards a rather uninspired chorus. As for "Locked In," it's a little bit better, but hardly of the same caliber as the material that Judas Priest had been putting out for the past few years.
Ah, here's where things get a little trickier, and it makes one think twice about throwing the whole album away as a bad idea. "Private Property" and "Parental Guidance" both are surprisingly strong tracks, with solid songwriting and performances that dare you to keep from slamming your head against the concrete. It is on these tracks, as well as "Out In The Cold" (though I'd have cut the keyboard intro in half), that one comes to believe that Judas Priest and synthesizers could co-exist without weakening the music. I'll even forgive the band reprising the opening line of "You've Got Another Thing Coming" at the end of one of these tracks.
If only the remainder of Turbo could have been this strong. Tracks like "Rock You All Around The World," "Hot For Love" and "Reckless" just don't pack the kind of muscular punch that one came to expect from Judas Priest, and the combination of lackluster performance and weak songwriting make the headphones go limp in disappointment.
So what happened? I don't claim to have any inside information on Judas Priest, but let's not forget that right after Defenders Of The Faith, Judas Priest was one of the bands singled out by the Parents' Music Resource Coalition - the filthiest four-letter word in the English language - for the content of their music. Maybe - just maybe - Turbo was Judas Priest's way of counter-acting the negative publicity they were facing courtesy of some Washington nitwits. Such a move forced the band to undergo a sudden stylistic change which they struggled with, though the strong tracks prove that they could, at times, rise to that challenge. This is all speculation, I admit, and I'm open to other suggestions. But, for now, I'll treat this as my "lone gunman" theory on Judas Priest.
In the end, Turbo does prove to be one of the weakest efforts Judas Priest came up with, though there were occasional signs of life that cannot be ignored. Despite the success this album had, it was obvious that the salad days for Judas Priest had come to an end.
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