REFLECTIONS – 50 HEAVY METAL YEARS OF MUSIC
Released on October 15, 2021 (Sony Music)
You have to hand it to Judas Priest. Knowing likely full well that not all of their fans are going to shell out the nearly $500 to purchase their limited edition box set 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music, the veteran UK heavy metal rockers have released a double album titled Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music, which provides highlights from the box set. It’s a savvy move as I was one of those people that knew that the limited box set was coming out but thought that the price was a little too rich for my wallet despite all of the cool releases on it including five previously unreleased live stereo recordings from 1979, 1982, 1986, 1988 and 1990. Once I figured out that Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music was indeed a highlight package of the box set, it became an easy purchase mainly to check out some of the live recordings.
There is no actual new songs on Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music but rather some new live renditions of certain songs and some deep studio cuts that you wouldn’t normally expect on a compilation album from the mighty Priest. As I was listening to the studio cuts that were chosen to be on Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music, I was suddenly amazed by the depth of the Priest catalog. It became apparent to me that Judas Priest have so many great unheralded tracks in their arsenal. It actually made me want to revisit my Judas Priest CDs but not to hear the usual songs that make their setlist but to appreciate all of the great songs that they have amassed over the years that I tend to forget about. Tracks like “Fever” from 1982’s Screaming For Vengeance and “Eat Me Alive” from 1984’s Defenders of The Faith are actually very strong songs that could have been mainstays in Priest‘s live sets had those albums not produced so many great tracks already.
Although there is no question that Judas Priest really appreciate guitarist Richie Faulkner — just look at the recent heath scare suffered by Faulkner and the fact that his Priest bandmates postponed the rest of their tour until he can come back into the line-up — it is in some ways surprising that there is only one song representing Faulkner on Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music. It is a really good one in “Never The Heroes” from the band’s latest album Firepower and if anything shows that the group can still come up with some great songs close to reaching its 50th year anniversary. Even the live tracks on Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music all date back to when guitarist K.K. Downing was in the band. Of course, the latter was in Judas Priest for all of their studio albums except for Redeemer of Souls and Firepower, and it’s nice that whomever came up with the limited edition box set realized that the most coveted live era tracks would come from 30 or more years ago.
Speaking of Downing and Faulkner, both of their photos figure in the CD booklet accompanying Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music. That cannot be said though for drummer Dave Holland who once again got snubbed over with no photo in the booklet despite playing on most of the songs that figure on Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music. Of course, Holland had a very sad and lamentable ending to his last 20 years or so since in 2004, he was found guilty of attempted rape and several indecent assaults against a 17-year-old male with learning disabilities to whom he had been giving drum lessons. Despite Holland apparently maintaining his innocence, his presence has been steadily erased from Judas Priest‘s history. Nevertheless, it felt odd looking at the Reflections CD booklet and only seeing a photo of Scott Travis as the group’s only photographic nod to its drummers.
Overall, two things have stood out for me when listening to Reflections – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music. First of all, the depth and quality of the Judas Priest song catalog is really impressive. Second of all, listening to the live tracks has made me want to purchase the limited edition box set 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music even more. Alas, the price tag of £345.00 for that limited edition box set is still stopping me at this point but I suspect that I may eventually succumb to the temptation and end up purchasing it in the future.
CD Track List:
01. Let Us Prey / Call For The Priest
02. You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise
04. Eat Me Alive
05. All Guns Blazing
06. Never The Heroes
07. Dissident Aggressor (live from The Metal Masters Tour, 2008)
08. Out In The Cold (live from the Fuel for Life Tour, 1986)
09. Running Wild (live)
10. Victim of Changes (live at the Agora Theatre, Cleveland, 1978)
11. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Clown) (live from Hammersmith, London, 1981)
12. Bloodstone (live at The Omni, Atlanta, 1982)
13. The Ripper (live at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, Irvine, 1991)
14. Beyond The Realms of Death (live at The Mudd Club, New York, 1979)
15. The Hellion / Electric Eye (live at The Summit, Houston, 1986)
16. The Sinner (live at New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, 1988)
Rob Halford – lead vocals
K.K. Downing – guitar (1-5, 7-8, 10-16)
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar (6)
Ian Hill – bass
Scott Travis – drums (5-7, 13)
Dave Holland – drums (2-4, 8, 11-12, 15-16)
Scott Phillips – drums (1)
Les Binks – drums (10)
Audio supervision: Tom Allom
Remastered by Alex Wharton (1-9)
Recorded and edited by Tom Allom (10-13)
Mastered by Alex Wharton (10-14)
Restored and mixed by Tom Allom (14-16)
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, October 2021
Judas Priest – 50 Heavy Metal Years of Music Boxset / CD / 2LP promo video: