TURBO 30 Judas Priest (Columbia Legacy) ****
This is the 30th Anniversary edition of one of Judas Priest’s most controversial records. Released April 14th, 1986, Turbo reached #17 on the Billboard charts and some of the songs remain staples of the band’s live set today. Turbo 30 is a 3 disc set; the album proper, plus a gig recorded in Kansas City on May 22nd of that year, no less than 5 cuts from the then-new album making the set list.
Originally slated to be a double album until the label said “no”- leftover tracks were included on the follow-up Ram It Down in ’88- the record marks the band’s first use of guitar synthesizers, leading to cries of “SELLOUT!” from some hardcore fans. Still, it contained some of the band’s best writing, particularly with songs like Out In The Cold, Rock you All Around The World and, of course, the title track, though photos of the band in colored leathers and unintentionally hilarious perms didn’t help.
Turbo will always have fans and detractors, but the bonus materials make Turbo 30 of interest to any Priest fan. The cover art is an eye-catching darker version of the original, the liner notes include a note from the band about the album, and inside are some photos from the video shoot for the title track- but that’s not why you want Turbo again.
No, the 2-disc concert from Kansas City is what makes Turbo 30 worth having. While it’s true that a live record (Priest…Live!) was issued from the same “Fuel For Life” tour that followed Turbo’s release, the set lists are somewhat different and, though both were recorded and mixed by longtime producer Tom Allom, the Kansas City show is more raw, less processed. I’ve always thought …Live! Was too shiny, and not really an accurate representation of what the band sounded like on stage. No, for that the previous Unleash In The East is far superior.
Re-mastering of the studio record by Mandy Parnell is terrific and the live stuff, mixed by Tom Allom and Jack Rushton is crisper and meaner than the aforementioned live album from back in the day. Following in the tradition of deluxe anniversary releases of Priest classics like Defenders Of The Faith, Screaming For Vengeance and British Steel, Turbo 30 belongs in the collection of any self respecting Priest fan/ heavy metal maniac.
DISC ONE: Out In The Cold, Turbo
DISC TWO: Rock You All Around The World, Heading Out To The Highway
DISC THREE: Turbo Lover, You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
BRIDGE Lee Palmer (On The Fly Music) *****+
His 4th album in as many years and I have them all- this is a guy that likes to keep busy! Originally intended for release last year, Bridge was sidelined by Lee’s quadruple bypass surgery. He recovered quickly and headed straight into the studio to lay down his best record so far.
In 2015, his Like Elway album made #2 on my best of the year list, beaten only by Keith Richards’ Crosseyed Heart. As with his other stuff, Lee took the best session players in Toronto into the studio with him, affectionately known as “The One Take Players”. The band this time out includes Palmer on vocals, Al Cross on drums, Alec Fraser on acoustic and electric bass, Mark Lalama on Hammond organ, piano and accordion, and the amazing Kevin Breit on guitar mandolin and dobro. Together they make a deep, joyful noise, and here in 2017 I can see Bridge being a contender for top spot at year’s end.
On Bridge as well as Lee’s previous 3 discs, the songs are a mix of Americana and blues. “This collection of songs pays tribute to My Town and My Old Man” Lee says. “It also tips a hat to the late JJ Cale’s musical career with Tulsa Sound and Glen Campbell’s fight with Alzheimer’s in That’s No Way To Go. This album forms the musical bridge that allows me to travel between the many genres that have influenced me writing.” Bridge in particular has the sort of casual elegance and excellence that makes JJ Cale’s stuff so irresistible, even more completely than the 3 records that came before this.
At the heart of these songs, as with everything Palmer does, is an emotional honesty that doesn’t bog down in over-sentimentality, and a sense of song craft that makes them impossible not to like. Production by Palmer and Elmer Ferrer is perfection, capturing the mood of songs like the bombastic Our Love Bears Repeating with a sound and vibe that says as much as the lyrics themselves. The sequencing makes this disc a great listen, as Palmer follows up a song like that with a gentle samba called Did It Feel Like This.
Bridge is a collection of songs about life that I think everyone needs to hear.
ESSENTIALS: That’s No Way to Go, Did It Feel Like This, Our Love Bears Repeating
ELLIOT & THE AUDIO KINGS Elliot & The Audio Kings (Busted Flat) ****
This is a new musical venture for singer/ guitarist Mike Elliot, back on the Ontario blues scene after retiring his old band Daddy Longlegs. Raucous, brilliant and wild, Elliot & The Audio Kings’ self titled debut isn’t retro- it’s straight up old school.
This record ain’t pretty, and that’s part of its charm. It reminds me of Stray Cats or vintage Colin James but more cacophonous, not nearly as well mannered. This disc captures all the crash and bang of cheap guitars running hot through pawn shop amps, howling off a concrete floor. The way they attack the blues with such abandon boils it down to the essential ingredients- wood, wire, blood and bones, and a 60 cycle hum.
If you were to walk in off the street and find Elliot & The Audio Kings blasting away on stage, you’d have thought you’d died and gone to heaven. As much as I enjoy the casual elegance of Lee Palmer’s new album, this is the sort of vital noise that gets you up out of your chair to bust a move on the beer-soaked dance floor, and maybe even shout along with the choruses, especially if you’ve had a few cocktails. Bassist Scott Fitzpatrick and drummer Jonny Sauder deftly capture the grooves, and Elliot is a cool guitar player- you can hear the dirt under his fingernails as he plays.
Nothing fancy happening here, just 3 guys grinding away on some old school jump blues, big shuffles and 50’s style rock & roll. You know- the kind of stuff that makes you feel glad to be alive. This disc might not be the prettiest girl and the dance, but it’s the one all the guys want to spend time with.
ESSENTIALS: What They Say About You, What Tomorrow Brings, Jealous Kind
SYNESTHESIA Courage My Love (Warner Music) ***
On the heels of a tour with Marianas Trench comes Courage My Love’s full length debut, after releasing a pair of EP’s in 2014. This trio from Kitchener, Ontario is making a big noise on the world stage, with a U.S. tour starting at the end of March before they head overseas for May and June.
If you’ve read my reviews in the past then you know modern synth driven pop music isn’t quite my thing, but every once in awhile I do check in with this stuff just to see what’s up. Defined as a stylistic blending of the senses where the stimulation of one sense leads to an automatic, involuntary reaction in another, like hearing in color, Synesthesia was titled to reflect the band’s newfound stylistic maturity.
First discovered during a Battle Of The Bands in Stratford, Ontario in 2010, the band’s independently produced video for Bridges amassed 2.9 million views (director Kevin Smith is said to be a fan) which, in turn, led to signing with Warner in 2011, a Juno nomination for “breakthrough of the year” in 2014, and joining the Vans Warped Tour last year.
The rhythms on Synesthesia are insistent, the drum programming propulsive, the melodies buoyant and positive. The lyrics reflect an early twenties sensibility as they concentrate mainly on relationships, and the songs on this album are built for physical impact as much as anything. If a guy my age was sailing down the street blasting this from the car stereo people would be worried and rightly so, but CML aren’t directing themselves at old white guys. My preference is more ‘natural’ music as opposed to manufactured stuff but if you don’t have that hang-up, then by all means enjoy.
ESSENTIALS: Dirt, Animal Heart, Stereo
HONEST WOMAN Thornetta Davis (Sweet Mama Music) *****
Hold the phone, we have a winner! Detroit’s Thornetta Davis has just blown the doors off the joint with a muscular, deep, greasy blues disc for the ages. And it isn’t just the blues either- with generous portions of funk, rock and soul, Honest Woman is a record that makes you move and feel.
With a voice like Sarah Vaughn that has the soulful passion of Etta James, the power of Big Mama Thornton and the ability to touch your soul like Aretha’s best stuff, when you put Honest Woman on, there is nowhere to hide. And, like some of the most powerful blues, you can feel gospel at work here too- it’s in the passion of her vocals and the sheer horsepower of the songs. Thornetta also wrote 12 of these 13 tracks, the lone exception being the spoken word When My Sister Sings The Blues that starts the record with a low frequency drone and some nasty slide underneath.
Honest Woman is the perfect title for this disc- every note she sings, you get the distinct impression that she means it. The second track sets the rest of the album up nicely… when you hear her belt I Gotta Sang The Blues, you take her at her word. Some great harp on that song, by the way, from Fabulous Thunderbird’s Kim Wilson. Throughout the disc you’ll hear jump blues, funky rock and gospel, and slow blues burners- for me those are the sweet spots, with songs like Can We Do It Again and I’d Rather Be Alone reaching deep and giving your heart a good squeeze.
From the sound and vibe to the guts of the songs themselves, there’s nothing about Honest Woman that I don’t like. She’s got The Larry Cray Band behind her on the powerfully funky Set Me Free, and when she uses Koko Taylor’s intro from I’m A Woman to set up her own song I Believe (Everything Gonna Be Alright), everything just feels… right. This isn’t a good album it’s a great one, with the power to lift you to a better place.
ESSENTIALS: I Gotta Sang The Blues, Set Me Free, I’d Rather Be Alone, Get Up And Dance Away Your Blues