Don’t get me wrong…I am a HUGE Judas Priest fan. The 2 stars are really a rating for the record company, who have bastardized this fine library of work from the get-go. The 3 “bonus” tracks on this album were NOT “recorded during the Fuel For Life tour”; Screaming For Vengeance was recorded from Memphis in 1982 and the other two were recorded during the Defenders Of The Faith Tour in 1984 from Long Beach, CA. How do I know? I have (STILL) both of these concerts on cassette tape when they were originally broadcast on radio and I know these recordings by heart. Does the record label think we all are stupid fans who will part with their money just because it says “remastered”? I know I feel stupid because I did…and I am STILL waiting for Sony to fix the Defenders Of The Faith remaster screw-up of reversing the channels, like they promised me they would. I bet Michael Jackson’s back catalog didn’t have these problems.
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Starting a show with a ballad is never a good idea, and pretty much ruins the rest of the gig, as the expectancy level of the audience is demolished. The fans are pumped up to a fever pitch, after waiting for this moment for weeks or months, wanting to just bang their heads. They want to hear “Electric Eye”, “Freewheel Burning”–or even “Turbo Lover” would probably have sufficed–but instead they get “Out in the Cold”. Disappointment!This sets the stage perfectly for the entire show, as what we get is a mish mash with no real consistency and more filler than we’d like. I don’t think any band puts as many new songs in a setlist as Priest did on this tour. “Turbo” was loaded with pseudo-anthems which really lowered the collective I.Q. of the album, and this dumbing down really infects the concert. When some of the songs are as banal as only pop-rock can be, it lowers the intensity of the good songs as well. I say: get rid of “Rock you all around the world”, “Private Property”, and “Parental Guidance”, and replace with some classics like “The Ripper”, “The Sinner”, or “Tyrant”. Save “Out in the Cold” for the middle of the set to calm people down. People don’t want to be mellow at the beginning of a concert!On a good note, Rob’s voice is in better form here than it had been in years. The previous couple of tours saw him really in bad shape, not singing as much as screeching or whining nasally, and his screams were almost as bad as Bruce Dickinson’s are now. See the ‘Live in Memphis’ video for proof of that. But fortunately he cleared up his issues and his voice is good as new here, and would never leave him again.Glenn and K.K. added guitar solos to “Heading out to the Highway” and “Breaking the Law” this time, which were more than welcome. Ian Hill is as sonically absent as ever, and Dave Holland still plays like an amateur (snare and kick all the way), which is probably the reason why a journalist or someone allegedly discovered a “second” drummer hidden beneath the stage at some point during that tour. The band claimed it was to “enhance” the sound. It’s hard to fathom why Dave had a drumkit so big when he never used 95% of the drums. I never understood why Priest settled for Dave’s useless ass after the talent of Les Binks. They must have owed him a very big favor.Back to the disc: Only one of the 3 bonus tracks was recorded on this tour, even though the cd claims they all were, and the impostors show what I mean when I say Rob’s voice was gone. “Screaming for Vengeance” was recorded during that tour, as Rob says “Here’s the title track from our new album…” DUH! “Rock Hard Ride Free” was recorded during the Defenders tour, and in fact was taken from the concert in California which was broadcast on the radio that year (I know because I have a tape of it). That, and the fact that this album is so blatantly loaded with overdubs (studio guitar fills, background vocals), makes it really difficult to believe anything they say anymore, even for a fan as big as myself. Since they became superstars, Priest has had an element of fraud which this album makes impossible to ignore. And can anyone decipher what Rob says before “Turbo Lover”? Sounds like: “It’s time to get a hold of something something may be hard….” HUH?
With the sheer energy of the first live record, I was a bit disappointed with this one. First of all, the sound is somewhat flat, which is unfortunately characteristic of early digital recordings. it was recorded during the Fuel for Life tour in 1986 in support of the relativley disappointing ‘Turbo’ record, and contains some of that record’s worst tracks, including “Rock You All Around the World” and “Parental Guidance”. The result is a mediocre live album.The remaster of the first Priest live record, ‘Unleashed in the East’, is the best of the remasters (in my opinion) because they added four live tracks that were recorded at the same time but never fit on the original single LP. With this remaster, extending the compacted single CD back out to a double CD (as the original was a double LP), Sony could have done the same – adding such 1986 tour tracks as “Locked In”, “Victim of Changes”, “The Green Manalishi”, and “Hell Bent for Leather” (three of which appear on the recently released ‘Electric Eye’ DVD). Unfortunately, we only get only the last cut from the 1986 tour, and two other live tracks from two other tours – “Screaming for Vengeance” from 1982 show and “Rock Hard, Ride Free” from a 1984 show. As with all but one of the other remasters, Sony has missed the opportunity to do it right.
Some say they liked the Fuel for Fire tour others say no. That aside, this double disc is pretty good. The sound is a bit “overgeled” somehow. Apparently it was digitally recorded (one of the first for that era). I don’t know whether that’s bad or not though. Halford’s vocals are very loud and kind of “echoey”. However, the recordings are taken from big arena venues (13,000 and 20,000 in attendance), so I’m not sure that it was a bad way of recording. I think it was rather good (especially from the perspective of Halford’s vocals). “Unleashed in the East” is a much smaller venue recording, so no doubt it will sound better. Whatever is lost in sound quality (which you inevitably will lose at a large venue) is made up with with the sheer vibe/energy. I actually didn’t like Defender’s of the Faith or Turbo that much because they were computer generated sound productions. This one is live and real. I agree with other reviewers that “Unleashed in the East” is their best live CD, but this disc is worthwhile. And unlike other reviewers I love the song “Out in the Cold”. It is actually the best opener they could have had for that era and it is arguably the only standout ballad the band has done. It works well in the context of Halford slowly swaggering up the stairs from behind the stage singing the first few lines out of view and then appearing… Perfect. If you saw the concert you will appreciate what I’m saying. In conclusion then, I would rate the CD like this:
Song Performances: 8/10
Sound Quality: 7/10
One of my favorite live albums from one of my favorite tours by one of my favorite bands, now remastered for pristine sound. I was disappointed that the bonus tracks on this remaster didn’t mimic the track listing for the VHS version of this CD, which included four songs not on the original album – “Desert Plains”, “Locked In”, “Hell Bent For Leather”, and “Green Manalish (With The Two-Pronged Crown)”, all of which were of course performed at the same concert on the same tour. This new remaster does include “Hell Bent”, but foregoes the other three songs in favor of “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Rock Hard, Ride Free”, neither of which came from the 1986 Fuel For Life tour despite what the packaging reads. In fact, prior to “Screaming”, Rob tells the crowd, “Here’s the title track from the new album,” indicating that it is from the tour supporting the “Screaming For Vengeance” album 3 or 4 years earlier. The version of “Hell Bent For Leather” here is also obviously not from the VHS version, since the video was filmed in Dallas, TX and this version ends with Rob saying “Thank you St. Louis!” It could still be from the Fuel For Life tour, not sure.Live versions of “Desert Plains” and “Locked In” are bonus tracks on other remastered Priest albums, and an older live version of “Green Manalishi” has always been available on “Unleashed In The East”, so it’s not like those songs don’t exist at all on CD, but it would’ve been nice to have all four on here so I could have the perfect audio companion to the “priest…live!” VHS tape. There is one way Judas Priest can make this up to me – re-release the video version on DVD!