Sunday, November 6, 2011

Delivering The Goods

Judas Priest – Single Cuts Box Set, The Chosen Few, Single Cuts

Metallians, no one can dispute that Judas Priest is the living embodiment of HEAVY METAL. They forged the template that legions of bands have followed – a charismatic front man with incredible vocal range; screaming twin lead guitars; thundering bass player; crushing drummer - with all members decked out in studs and leather. Priest has been gracing the grateful Metal world with pure steel all the way back to 1969. The band is as old, if not older, than the genre of Metal itself and has been releasing metal albums since their 1974 debut Rocka Rolla.

One would think that with a 40+ year history, the band would have a plethora of unreleased material including demos, b-sides and bonus tracks, but actually they have very little left over. Judas Priest is renowned for being very efficient in the studio; most tracks get used on the album. In fact, most of the band's unreleased material has its roots in the Turbo recording sessions when the initial plan was to release a double album entitled Twin Turbo. This was scrapped and most of the remaining tracks were re-worked for the follow-up album Ram It Down. The vaults were swept clean for the 2001 remasters, with the remaining unreleased tracks appearing as bonus cuts.

Contrast this situation with Iron Maiden, who have so many b-sides that they actually released a double disc set of b-sides, and even that wasn’t complete! Judas Priest is The Metal Blog Of Metal's favorite band, and most, if not all their rarities are in our vaults. The faithful are in luck because in 2011, the band has churned out 3 new releases -two are mostly worthless and one is a very cool collector’s piece.

When The Metal Blog Of Metal first heard that The Chosen Few was coming out, we assumed it was a collection of cover tunes by Metal luminaries such as Alice Cooper, James Hetfield, Lemmy, Accept and Ozzy. That would have been incredible! Who wouldn’t want to hear David Coverdale doing a version of “The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)?” Unfortunately, The Chosen Few is merely another greatest hits collection with each track chosen by one or more musicians. Yawn. The commentary is very brief and mostly uninteresting. Also, it’s absolutely unacceptable to have that shithead Jonathan Davis of Korn on any release involving the mighty Priest. He is a world-class douchebag who refused to appear on a magazine cover with Bruce Dickinson because he didn’t want to be associated with “old” Metal. He’s not even worthy to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Bruce. So, in short, fuck you Jonathan Davis. The Chosen Few is as non-essential as a release can get.

Up next we have Single Cuts (The Complete Columbia UK A Sides) which is a single disc of exactly what it says – the UK A Sides. It’s really a sampler for the next release, and as a result it’s essentially another greatest hits collection. It does feature some cuts not normally seen on Priest collections such as “Evening Star,” “Take On The World,” and “(Take These) Chains,” but there’s really no reason to buy this disc, as it has nothing on it you haven’t heard before.

Unlike the other two releases, the Single Cuts Box Set is an excellent collection for the Judas Priest afficionado. It consists of 20 CDs which replicate every single that was released on CBS/Columbia in the United Kingdom. Each disc is a CD replica of the original vinyl single. The original A-side labels are reproduced on the CD itself, which are black and engraved with grooves to look like vinyl. Check out the photos above and you’ll see what they look like. All 20 discs are housed in a slip-top box, each one of which is numbered. The Metal Blog Of Metal has number 157, but the set does not mention how many have been produced and the promotional materials only say that the set is “limited.”

The B-sides are included as well and some of them are quite interesting. Of note is the B-side to “(Take These) Chains” which is the “Judas Priest Audio File (Biography).” This is a relic of the pre-internet age as it consists of about 8 minutes of audio clips from all the Priest albums up to that point, with a narrator introducing each track. It’s actually really cool to hear what the label selected as representative of the band’s catalog.

It’s also worth noting that there were no singles released at all for Ram It Down. The Metal Blog Of Metal remembers “Johnny B. Goode” being released as a video, but that was to coincide with the long forgotten movie - Johnny B Good. Compare this to Painkiller, from which three singles were issued, including the “Nightcrawler” single that came with a green rubber worm!

The set also includes a thick booklet with commentary by Geoff Barton, and a ton of photos and detailed liner notes for each single. The Metal Blog Of Metal's set also came with six Judas Priest magnets as a bit of compensation for the release date being pushed back three times. Unfortunately, we are sure most readers will be completely unaware of this box set's release, as there has been virtually zero promotion for it. It’s only available on Priest’s website for $99.


The Bottom Line: If you are a Judas Priest collector, you may want to pick up all three of these releases. Average Metal fans will have little reason to pick up The Chosen Few and Single Cuts. The limited edition Single Cuts Box Set, however, is a nice collector’s piece with slick presentation, and well worth picking up.


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