On Tuesday March 10 the 30th Anniversary Remastered/Expanded Edition of JUDAS PRIEST’S landmark album Defenders of the Faith will be released. I have had it for a little over a week now, but as I sit here in my hotel room in Dallas, TX I am finally getting to enjoy and absorb it all for the first time. As some of you may or may not know this is my favorite PRIEST record of all time, and my second favorite album in the world. So to hear it was getting the Royal Treatment so to speak with not one, not two, but THREE discs, including a complete live concert from May 5, 1984 at California’s Long Beach Arena, well…let’s just say an ambulance very nearly had to be called. So, in a rare and unprecedented move for A&GS we are going to look at this masterpiece once again in what we’ll call this one time Classic Albums: Redux.
Across ten tracks in 1986 (the year I got Defenders) JUDAS PRIEST changed my life. Every single morning before school I hungrily ate up tracks like “Freewheel Burning”, “The Sentinel”, “Love Bites”, and “Heavy Duty/Defenders of the Faith”. And every day as soon as I got off that school bus I fired it up again and again. This remastered version is fucking GOLD!! You can hear every single lick, every fill, every nuance as if you’re right there in the room. Tape hiss? Bitch, please!! This edition is the sonic equivalent of Bo Derek running in slo-mo on the beach in 10, or Kelly LeBrock’s entrance in Weird Science. Get the picture? Yeah, I figured as much. THIS is musical perfection, not just in the recorded work, but in the mix from start to finish.
Well, now that I’m done gushing over that, let’s get into the 21-track concert a bit, whaddaya say? I’m not even sure where to begin. But I will say this: priest…live!, Unleashed in the East, and other various live recordings over the years do not even hold a candle to this show. Talk about being in the room? Oh man, it’s like you’re right there in the front row and the band is singing to you and you alone. A more crystal clear recording I’ve not heard in all my years. The hair on my arms stands up when I hear what I would have to call the best ever versions of “Sinner”, “Desert Plains”, and “Victim of Changes” ever captured in a live setting. The first two actually dwarf their studio counterparts in comparison because of the extra “ooomph!”, and the live “Victim” slays as always. “Love Bites, “Hell Bent For Leather”, “The Hellion/Electric Eye” are all done with such piss and vinegar it’s ridiculous. This is a band that was on top of the world and they came to bring the thunder on this night.
“Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” is another killer version. Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing’s guitars are razor sharp while also being very thick and watery. The Metal God himself, Mr. Rob Halford is in top voice not only here, but also on tracks like “The Sentinel”, which to this day still features THE best lead break trade-off I have ever heard/witnessed in person. “Rock Hard Ride Free”, “Night Comes Down”, and “Freewheel Burning”, new songs at the time, take on a whole new life during this concert, and as I listen I curse not being a Long Beach, CA concertgoer, if only for just one night. Another longtime favorite “The Green Manalishi” absolutely crushes any and all other versions put forth, so sayeth The Maestro!
The energy of this show is JUDAS PRIEST on a mission to level a city till there’s nothing left but ashes. And on this night, JUDAS PRIEST put on a clinic for how to play a Heavy Metal Concert from top to bottom. This concert, packaged with the flawless new mix of Defenders of the Faith is an absolute MUST for any self-respecting metalhead and PRIEST fan out there, young or old. I never dreamed one of my Classic Albums could get better. I was wrong. I hope you guys enjoyed this trip back in time as much as I have. Now I gotta go…the headphones are beckoning… ~dc