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'Turbo' has its flaws but it should still be appreciated as the distinct, experimental nugget full of party rockers that it is. The real gem of this three-CD edition, however, is the 20-track live show from May 22, 1986 that makes up the latter two discs.

Music Review: Judas Priest – ‘Turbo’ [Remastered 30th Anniversary Edition]

The year 1985 was a rather turbulent time for Judas Priest’s metal god frontman Rob Halford. Between battles with substance abuse and the (suicide) death of his partner at the time, there were harder and heavier situations he had to deal with than the ever-changing music scene in the mid-’80s (hair/glam metal and synth pop in particular were at or near their peak in popularity in the U.S. at the time).

Judas Priest - TurboAfter his month-long stint in rehab between December 1985 and January 1986, Halford and the band put the finishing touches on the slimmed down nine-song full-length known as Turbo, which then got an April 1986 official release. Originally planned as a double album entitled Twin Turbos, it got pared down and several leftover tracks showed up on the 1988 release, Ram It Down. Neither release is considered among Judas Priest’s long list of classics, but the platinum-selling Turbo was the more successful of the two, and controversial.

These days, music fans don’t generally freak out when an artist or band they love changes their sound or style. But back in the day, such shifts were either slow to embrace or seen as a betrayal of some sort (think acoustic folk hero Bob Dylan going electric in the mid-’60s or Metallica cutting their hair, shortening and slowing down their songs and ferocity in the ’90s). By 1986, Judas Priest had nine albums in the can, most of them of the groundbreaking kind. For 10th album Turbo and the ensuing Fuel for Life tour, the group embraced new technology, including guitar synthesizers, and went with a more glam look in place of their iconic leather and studs attire. The record sold well but fans weren’t too sold on their then-new look and the synths. Now, over 30 years on, this record is getting the 30th anniversary treatment, having been remastered by Mandy Parnell and expanded with a two-CD live concert from a Kansas City, Missouri show on May 22, 1986 at Kemper Arena.

Embracing new sounds should never be an issue for a band as long as the music they enhance ranges from very good to killer. The enduring problem with this album is that most of the tunes just play it safe, tempo-wise, and don’t pack the true anthemic punch that made them the maestros of metal (think lead single “Turbo Lover” and the anti-censorship number “Parental Guidance”). There are no cuts in the vein of “Freewheel Burning” or “Exciter” here. That being said, songs like “Reckless” and the fast-riffin’ “Rock You All Around the World” are underrated and easily could’ve been put on Defenders of the Faith.

Yes, the guitar synthesizers on this release sound dated, obviously, but at least on “Private Property” the tremolo effect gives said synths a futuristic feel – for its time. The only issue here is that the main chorus sections of the song contain a metalized AC/DC-type structure. This is true of “Wild Nights…” as well. Furthermore, “Locked In” is one of those pop metal love songs that sounds like it could’ve been recorded by any hair metal band at the time. In other words, the band wasn’t sounding like itself.

That said, there are other standout moments, including the loneliness-battling half-ballad “Out in the Cold.” Then there is the rather incredible interplay of powerhouse guitar duo K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, who truly takeover and highlight “Hot for Love.”

The two live CDs (with a total of 20 tracks of hits and other essential cuts) are the real gem of this edition of Turbo. They capture Judas Priest at the peak of their power as a live unit, with Halford howling to the masses and the rest of the group firing on all cylinders throughout the late May 1986 show.

Turbo has its flaws but it should still be appreciated as the distinct, experimental nugget full of party rockers that it is. This new three-CD edition is available in all major and indie outlets, and in CD, MP3, and vinyl formats now.

Tracklisting:

DISC ONE – TURBO: REMASTERED

  1. “Turbo Lover”
  2. “Locked In”
  3. “Private Property”
  4. “Parental Guidance”
  5. “Rock You All Around the World”
  6. “Out in the Cold”
  7. “Wild Nights, Hot & Crazy Days”
  8. “Hot for Love”
  9. “Reckless”

DISC TWO – LIVE AT THE KEMPER ARENA, KANSAS CITY

  1. “Out in the Cold”
  2. “Locked In”
  3. “Heading Out to the Highway”
  4. “Metal Gods”
  5. “Breaking the Law”
  6. “Love Bites”
  7. “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”
  8. “The Sentinel”
  9. “Private Property”
  10. “Desert Plains”
  11. “Rock You All Around the World”

DISC THREE – LIVE AT THE KEMPER ARENA, KANSAS CITY

  1. “The Hellion”
  2. “Electric Eye”
  3. “Turbo Lover”
  4. “Freewheel Burning”
  5. “Victim of Changes”
  6. “The Green Manalishi (With the Two -Pronged Crown)”
  7. “Living After Midnight”
  8. “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”
  9. “Hell Bent for Leather”

About Charlie Doherty

Senior Music Editor and Culture & Society (Sports) Editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Prior writing/freelancing ventures: copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. Keep up with me on twitter.com/chucko33

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