Judas Priest’s Turbo is one of those LPs like AC/DC’s Fly on The Wall which seems to get universally undeserved bad press. I like Turbo and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees with me*.
Priest…Live was a big LP for my friends and I when I was 15, my mate bought a copy and everyone taped it quickly. It was just what we wanted, slick, heavy in places, tuneful, a bit mucky around the edges. Even better my mate Colin had the VHS of the concert, filmed in Dallas (from memory), which is where we all got to see Judas priest in full flight which basically consisted of Rob Halford’s full studded leather boy act and KK Downing / Glenn Tipton occasionally pulling funny faces and pointing their guitars skyward. Best of all was the bit where a well-endowed woman pulled her top down during, I think, ‘Green Manalishi’** – Wow! I remember discussing it with my friends, after rewinding and rewatching it, oh about 30 times or so, and the consensus was that being Rob Halford must be an amazing job – just think of all the hot chicks he must have to fight off every single touring night of his life. I find it absolutely hilarious now that none of us remotely questioned his choice of wardrobe, accessories and/or mannerisms, it was just accepted that as a heavy metal singer he wasn’t gay – with that logic, how could he be? surely it must have amused the hell out of him to turn out every night looking like the caricature of a gay S&M club goer and to be accepted by the hordes of fist-pumping long hairs without question – well, it would amuse the hell out of me in his, heavily studded, boots.
Anyway, I thought then that the best track on the LP by far was ‘Turbo Lover’ and so springing immediately into action I waited 23 years for E-bay to be invented and to remember to buy Turbo. As I may have said before ZZ Top’s Eliminator is one of my favourite ever LPs and I consider Turbo to be its’ spikier cousin. If you excuse the in-joke my point of entry to Priest was the tour for this LP and so I never carried the baggage that a lot of the older fans did about Turbo; I liked the fact that it is such a synthetic sounding LP, again just like Eliminator every single drum beat and bassline sounds synthesised. I think some of the songwriting on the second side is a bit uninspired but the first side is excellent.
Opening track ‘Turbo Lover’ is just absolutely brilliant, by far my favourite Judas Priest track and again I’m willing to fight any dissidents*, come one, come all. It’s sexy, menacing and rather groovy all in one, although I now appreciate that Mr Halford was not envisaging the same scenes writing the song, as 16 year-old I was listening to it! The next four tracks are just all good, commercial sounding rockers, Priest’s habitual lyrical obsession with futuristic war and violence being replaced with more teenage concerns for once – ‘Parental Guidance’ being the real litmus test for how fans felt about this change – either a good stick-it-to-mom-and-dad singalong, or lightweight nonsense which should have been about deadly robots. I like it, it is radio fluff nothing more or less and that will do me sometimes.
The second side does run out of steam with a few nondescript numbers by, umm, numbers like ‘Reckless’ and ‘Hot Nights’ which do make me yearn for ‘Electric Eye’ a bit, but ‘Out in the Cold’ is a winner for me. It’s synthy to the max, slow and stately, gradually building up to a stroll and providing a suitable platform for Rob Halford to flex his vocal muscles, I really like its’ unhurried air and the guitar synths. the band used it as an opening number on the tour for the LP and it would probably have been better served opening Turbo too.
For my money this LP captures a band looking for a great new sound and almost finding it, almost. It’s a good listen and, let’s face it, no sillier than the rest of their back catalogue.
*unless you’re even burlier than me and/or possess arcane martial arts skills, the likes of which the world has yet to see. In which case I’ll just cave in and agree with you, signing a document to that effect if you insist.
**I know, I’m not proud that confronted with a large pair of prime American, umm, turbos as a teenager I mentally made a note of which track was playing. Not proud at all.