Judas Priest has been revered as one of the greatest hard rock and heavy metal bands for nearly half a century. Classic cuts like “Breaking the Law,” “Living After Midnight,” You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” and “Painkiller” remain revered as quintessential classics of the genre.
On June 29, 2019, the band will return to Las Vegas. Joining them are fellow classic hard rockers Uriah Heep along for support.
The Band’s Early History.
The earliest incarnation of what would become Judas Priest featured no members who would later appear on the band’s recordings. Although songs co-written by original vocalist Al Atkins did appear on the first two records released by the band. The origin of the band’s name is based off, of all things, a Bob Dylan song entitled “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”.
The band, a few years later, grew to include the likes of vocalist Rob Halford. Fun fact, he was credited as “Bob Halford” on the group’s first record. Guitarist KK Downing, and bassist Ian Hill, also signed to Gull Records.
It was at Gull’s suggestion that the band add a second guitarist to make the band’s sound fuller. At which point Glenn Tipton joined the band. The band recorded and released their debut album, Rocka Rolla, in 1974. Though the production and creative decisions from producer Rodger Bain (himself the producer of Black Sabbath’s 1970 debut) did not meet with the band’s approval. It was followed up with the classic Sad Wings of Destiny in 1976. It spawned a number of classic cuts, including “The Ripper” and “Victim of Changes”. Both songs remain in the band’s live repertoire to this day.
The New Label.
Their second album caught the attention of CBS Records. However, signing with the major label meant breaking contract with Gull. Thereby, the band forfeited the rights to said songs/albums to that label, who would continually reissue them over the years.
Priest’s first record on a major label was 1977’s Sin After Sin. It was produced by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, and featuring session drummer Simon Phillips, later of Toto (Glover and Phillips would reunite in 1980 on The Michael Schenker Group’s self-titled debut). The record and its follow-ups, which featured drummer Les Binks, Stained Class and Killing Machine (re-titled Hell Bent for Leather for its American release), continued to boost the band’s popularity around the world, which culminated in the band’s first live album, Unleashed in the East. This was their first work produced by Tom Allom, who’d remain with the band as a producer for a decade.
Interesting trivia: The American release of Killing Machine/Hell Bent for Leather added one track which wasn’t on the original UK release. A cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi”, which has since become revered as a Priest classic.
The first album to feature the classic lineup of Rob Halford, KK Downing, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, and drummer Dave Holland , RIP, (formerly of classic hard rockers Trapeze, alongside a young Glenn Hughes) was 1980’s British Steel.The classic featured the seminal classics “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight”. This has since come to be known as many a Priest fan’s favorite record.
Many solid follow-ups followed, spawning even more classic hits. In 1983, the band even played the legendary Heavy Metal Day of the Us Festival. The band’s attempts at more commercial sounds with the Turbo record in 1986 and its follow-up, 1988’s Ram it Down, were met with a more mixed reception. Both of the records still spawned their share of Priest hits and fan favorites. Following the latter record, Dave Holland left the band.
Holland’s replacement was Scott Travis, formerly of Racer X (which featured a pre-Mr. Big Paul Gilbert on guitar). This lineup’s sole release at the time was the Painkiller record, released in 1990. It was the hardest and heaviest record the group had released to the time. The album featured the production efforts of Chris Tsangarides (RIP), who’s previous resume highlights included the likes of Tygers of Pan Tang and Thin Lizzy.
The Departure of Rob Halford.
Rob Halford left the band due to creative and musical differences with his bandmates. During this time he’d pursue other musical outlets, including Fight (featuring a pre-Steel Panther Russ “Satchel” Parrish as well as Priest bandmate Scott Travis) and the industrial-flavored Two, who released just one album, 1998’s Voyeurs.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Priest released a pair of albums featuring vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens. The albums were met with a mixed critical reception, prompting the band to reunite with Rob Halford. Owens would go on to front metal band Iced Earth for four years, and now performs with Dio Disciples.
The Return, The Present, and the Future.
Upon reuniting with Halford, the band released the studio album Angel of Retribution. This was hailed as the band’s best in years, showing audiences the band was not yet done.
It was followed up by the even more adventurous and risky concept album Nostradamus, chronicling the life of the persecuted prophet. That album even featured a guest appearance from legendary keyboardist Don Airey (Ozzy Osbourne, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Deep Purple). KK Downing announced his retirement from the group in 2011, and was replaced by Richie Faulkner.
The most recent Judas Priest record is Firepower, released in 2018. Check out our review of the album HERE ! Health issues forced Glenn Tipton to retire from touring, though he has made sporadic appearances. Guitarist Andy Sneap has filled Tipton’s spot for the recent tours. The mighty Judas Priest is as strong as ever. We’re just two weeks away from a Vegas gig with the classic hard rockers, ready to do what they do best all over again!
Judas Priest plays The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Saturday, June 29, 2019, with support act Uriah Heep.
To find out when Judas Priest is hitting your town, check their tour dates HERE !
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos and album art ©Judas Priest