Definitive Denver 1980 (Zodiac 265)
Rainbow Music Hall, Denver, CO, USA – June 25, 1980
(70:26) Intro, Hell Bent For Leather, The Ripper, Running Wild, Living After Midnight, Sinner, Beyond The Realms Of Death, You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise, Grinder, Victim Of Changes, Steeler, Genocide, Tyrant, The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)
For me, Judas Priest’s songwriting and evolution as a Heavy Metal band peaked with the release of British Steel in 1980. Sure they would go on to release iconic Metal albums like Screaming For Vengeance, Defenders Of The Faith, and Painkiller, albums that for me was just reaffirming what they had already done. Their mid to late 70’s output would feature the band continuing to refine what modern Metal was and in tern develop a sound that was completely unique to them and at the same time influence pretty much every Metal band from that decade to current day. One could argue that the album that came before, Hell Bent For Leather aka Killing Machine, was the one, for me British Steel trumps it for no other reason that it contains four songs that are among the genre’s best, even the other five tracks are as easily a classic.
The recording from Denver in 1980 has circulated for some time as it was the subject of an FM broadcast, usually the subject bootleggers like to use but for some reason this concert has gone pretty much untouched. There is a gray market release Live In Concert June 25 1980 (The Store for Music B000NJVWUK) which features a broadcast version of the tape in reasonable quality. Some years ago a CD-R title came out in Japan, American Steel (no label) featured a major upgrade. Now the folks at Zodiac thrown their hat into the ring with this new release, Definitive Denver, after several listens, at loud volumes, confirm the title is in no way an exaggeration. The sound is incredible and to my ears sounds like it must be sourced from a pre-FM recording. It is clear and extremely detailed, if anything the bass guitar and drums are a bit in the foreground but no worries, it all comes through in all its glory, a true Metal feast for the ears. It does have some early volume fluctuations as the engineers set the levels.
The recording begins with the Metal clambering as heard on British Steel as a prelude for Metal Gods, but the band take the stage with the blistering Hell Bent For Leather, there are a couple of uneven vocal lines where Rob hits the highs towards the end of the song. Nonetheless the song sets the pace for the concert. The band’s set is choice, they go into a favorite, The Ripper, or if you like Jack The Knife. The twin harmonized guitars of Tipton and Downing are perfectly in sync, the song also hints at the vocal effects Rob would employ. The mix of audience is just right, not too loud but nicely in the mix. Running Wild finds the mix going a touch louder and deepening in the bass, it sounds really good, Ian Hill will drive the pace for the rest of the concert! Rob’s intro to the crowd has him telling the audience this is their first time in Denver and introduces Living After Midnight as being their new single. There is again a bit of rough mixing at the start of the song, Rob’s vocals are briefly buried, sounds as if it has to do with mixing in the backing vocals. Screw it, the songs killer and soon settles down with no reason to stop the air guitar or ‘ead banging. Love Sinner, definitely top five favorites, just has it all, great lyric, all the riff’s, Hendrix influenced psychedelic solo from KK, live versions never disappoint.
There are some things you do not forget, I can still remember the first time I heard Beyond The Realms Of Death live, August 19, 1988 Toledo Sports Arena on the Ram It Down tour. They had the mirrored ball during the quiet passages and the song was so beautiful and heavy it became an instant favorite, this version brings back that memory and joy. They continue with a couple of new songs beginning with You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise followed by a superbly heavy version of Grinder, love Rob’s vocal effects as he sings the chorus, really good. Victim Of Changes is another classic, certainly top five and a set highlight. Iconic twin lead intro, the synergy between the band is at a peak, and the drumming! I’ve always preferred Les Binks over Dave Holland but one listen to this song and it makes me think otherwise, really powerful, so much is the audiences’ response that Rob thanks them afterwards.
Steeler is a chain saw riff fest, nice to have a couple great quality versions of this deep track that was rarely played live. To round off the set, the band go back to their landmark Sad Wings Of Destiny record and for me, the real meat and potatoes portion of the concert. G-G-G-Genocide…a true Metal classic and another top five (getting close to filling the top spots in) I just dig the hell out of this track, a song that the live versions certainly eclipse the studio version. These live versions feature a bit of improvisation from the band in the form of guitar solo and again, Ian frickin Hill just locks in and pounds the heck out of his bass guitar. The song ends brilliantly amid the shots of Halford’s machine gun….and then we are hit with the brutality of Tyrant. Damn this song reeks of Metal swagger and aggression in a five and half minute span, KK and Glenn’s playing is so tight it makes my head swim, great song and spectacular version. The concert ends with Rob again thanking the crowd and they encore with The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown), the band turn a relatively unknown song into a Metal classic “What do you say Denver!”.
The packaging is typical Zodiac, simple inserts with the cover paying homage to the iconic British Steel art, the other inserts have some live shots. You get a picture CD and the numbered sticker as well, nice presentation. The proof for me is in the sound, this title has it all, excellent sound and performance make this a superb title for Priest freaks and fans of the Metal genre. Can’t get enough, pick up Priest’s latest Cd Firepower, a modern classic and clear message that the band is alive and well.
If I may, the first release was ‘Concert Classics’ (Ranch Life CRANCH 3). This was a ‘grey’ release in 1998. Rumour said it was released by an ex-manager, and it was quickly withdrawn from sale. SQ is so similar to this Zodiac release that I can not split them, but Zodiac has better packaging. Myself, I think it is a SB recording, as some of the sudden, loud bars are around vocal effects, such as echo. Whatever, it’s a great recording, and I am keeping all 3 that I have, with ‘Live In Concert June 25 1980’ (The Store for Music B000NJVWUK), being the other.