Judas Priest

Columbia Records, 1987

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I've always said that the live album is the most difficult thing for any band to master. The dynamics of capturing a live performance and its energy onto a cassette, vinyl record or CD almost always guarantee that something will be lost in the translation -- after all, you can't see the stage show on a record.

For some reason, heavy metal has always been that much harder to capture. These shows thrive on the stage performances from the musicians as well as the interaction with the crowd. For many live albums in the metal genre, they end up being a case of "you had to be there".

Such is the case with Priest...Live!, the second live effort from British metal legends Judas Priest. Touring behind their mold-smashing album Turbo, an album guaranteed to spark lively debate among metalheads about its significance, Rob Halford and crew went out to live up to their leather-and-steel image they constantly portrayed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Part of the problem is, it doesn't always sound like their heart is in the performance. The album's opener, "Out In The Cold," is probably one of the better tracks off Turbo, but the delivery sounds like the band is going through the motions. The vocal harmonies aren't as sharp as I remember the studio version being (though I admit it's been a long time since I dug Turbo out of the Pierce Archives). In fact, many of the hits that Priest is known for, such as "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" and "Breaking The Law" sound like they're rushing through songs they're sick of playing.

Another difficulty to my ears is that the band almost exclusively concentrates on two or three albums for songs in this live set. The earliest they stretch back to is 1980's British Steel, though they chose to pull most of the material from Turbo, Defenders Of The Faith and Screaming For Vengeance. Admittedly, the band is able to inject some extra life into some of the numbers from Turbo - "Turbo Lover" is much better than the synthesizer-laden version -- but others, like "Rock You All Around The World," really fall flat.

Some of the numbers here do smoke, such as "The Sentinel" and "Metal Gods" -- in fact, the songs that shine here might be the numbers that only the diehard fans would know the moment the opening chords were played. Songs like "Electric Eye" and "Freewheel Burning" are wonderful surprises -- I actually wish that Judas Priest would have thrown a few more hidden nuggets on this one.

Of course, the biggest difficulty with Priest...Live! is converting the overall feel of the live show to the album -- something which is rarely accomplished. I miss seeing the interplay between Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, or Dave Holland pounding on his drumkit, or seeing Halford ride on the stage on his Harley. (There is an accompanying home video release -- which I don't have in the video portion of the Archive.)

The diehard Judas Priest fans, naturally, will see this album as a work of art -- more power to them. However, Priest...Live! is an album that is strictly for the fans.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A


I only rate this so high as a cd because I know the video so well that when I hear this album I can picture what was happening in the video. It would have been slightly better to have some of the older tracks thrown in, but you've got to hand it to them. Any band that can leave 10 years of music out of a live show and still deliver a kick arse performance are doing something right.

© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.