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British Steel

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  • This was the first Judas Priest album I ever got, and along with Black Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell” (which I also got around the same time, summer ‘81), these are my two “Desert Island Discs”. I’ve owned various permutations of both on vinyl, cassette and CD.

    This remaster is, of course, excellent, but curious in a couple of ways.

    1. Why change the track order? It was fine as-was.

    2. The extra tracks are more of a curiosity than anything else. The live “Grinder” is excellent, but “Red, White and Blue” is from the “Turbo” sessions (in my estimation, Priest’s lowest point) and is a typical mid-80’s lighters-in-the-air chant-along. Clever (if contrived) title, though, since both the British and U.S. flags are red, white and blue.

    However, as to the actual music, this is music that has, and will last, the test of time. At this time the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was happening in the UK, where bands would go to a studio, set up, play live, and put the finished product out as a record (the early Iron Maiden and Saxon efforts were done this way). Priest did this on “British Steel” and the results showed the new upstarts that the elder statesmen had as much energy as they did.

    Some have said that Priest “commercialised” on this album. With the exception of “Living After Midnight”, I disagree. This is as heavy as anything they’ve done, the Tipton/Downing guitars are well upfront, and Rob Halford (with hair!) sounds as angry as ever. Listen closely, bass fans: Ian Hill is actually AUDIBLE doing the intro to “The Rage”!

    Dave Holland (is he still in prison?) made his debut on this album, and while he is the weakest drummer Priest ever had (not a patch on predecessor Les Binks or successor Scott Travis), he does a credible job here, though his drum sound is a bit “boxy”. Still, though, he’d have to have done his drum tracks on syn-drums to let these excellent songs down…but wait, he did that on “Turbo”.

    As stated, this is the first Priest album I ever got, and I would recommend it as the first Priest album to buy (other than one of the many compilations) to a neophyte Priest fan.

    They did other good, sometimes excellent, albums after this, but their steel was never this sharp again.

    Posted on December 1, 2009