Friday, September 19, 2014

30 Years On - 1984 Killer Albums (Part 1)

As we head towards the end of 2014, I was hit the other day when I realised that it was 30 years since Iron Maiden's mighty Powerslave was released. I thought to myself that I hadn't listened to it for awhile, and so I pulled it out of its cover, put it on, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Immensely even. As it turned out, I thought about all of the other albums that were released in 1984, and had been a major part of my life during the 1980's growing up. So I went through them all, and discovered some absolute beauties. So, I have decided at work each day to work through three or four albums a day from 1984, giving them all a rotation of two or three times each, to relive past glories and memories. Today was my first day, and the albums I chose for the occasion were the following:

Anthrax - Fistful of Metal

Listening to this album 30 years after its recording and initial release, you have to be subjective when it comes to rating it. It was different era in recording, it was a new era of metal that was beginning to seep through, and it was the first release of a band that became huge and released some of the all-time classic metal albums.
Taking all of that into consideration, and the archaic production values, this is a solid debut with some good songs mixed with some average songs. The core of the band was to survive for many years, but listening to the album I guess it was always a forgone conclusion that vocalist Neil Turbin was expendable. His is a very uneven performance given the material written here. There doesn’t appear to be any consistency in his wailings, it goes up and then even further up. Perhaps that’s his style, but it does drag the material down a little in places.
The good songs are very good. “Deathrider” and “Metal Thrashing Mad” are classic Anthrax songs, and along with “Panic” and “Anthrax” are the best on the album for me. Later updates of these songs with Joey Belladonna and John Bush handling vocals prove the core value of the original songs. The cover of Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” isn’t bad either, but seems a strange choice to go with on your debut album. I’m sure there was a reason behind it somewhere.
It was a good start. Better was to come, but all of the qualities that you love about Anthrax are found here in their earliest form.
Rating: Got my foot pinned to the floor, you can feel the engines roar! 3/5.

Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith

Priest continued their dominance of the 80's with another blazing album here.
Opening with the sensational "Freewheel Burning", the album gets the mood and tempo out front from the very beginning. The music video for this song was one of my earliest introductions to Judas Priest, and it was played for years on ABC's "Rage" as their token Priest song. The band had been on a roll for some years before this, but Defenders kept them moving in the right direction. It is easy to see how Judas Priest became one of the major role models for the burgeoning European metal sound, which burst into prominence in the 90's as power metal. The double time beat on the drums, the blazing dual guitars of Downing and Tipton and the screaming vocals of Rob Halford are without doubt the benchmark for which hundreds of bands followed, and they are in full display here.
Some of Priest's most classic songs are here. The aforementioned "Freewheel Burning". "Jawbreaker". "Rock Hard Ride Free". "Love Bites". "Eat Me Alive". "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll". And the brilliant "The Sentinel". Just an absolutely classic line-up. The last couple of songs are probably a little bit of a let down after all of this, and to be honest I can happily turn this off early. Whenever I hear "Heavy Duty" I just think of Spinal Tap. Which version is the send-up?
Rating: Born to lead, at breakneck speed!  4.5/5.

Armored Saint - March of the Saint

Another 1984 debutant, and in much the same fashion as Fistful of Metal there is some great stuff mixed with some average stuff, and some stuff that with a bit of polish later on could have been better. Some of the songs do get to sound a bit samey, mainly because of John's somewhat monotonal voice, but that can't cover the fact that some of the song arrangements tend to repeat themselves as well.
The good songs are really good. "March of the Saint" is a beauty, a great opening track. I also really enjoy "Can U Deliver", "Mutiny on the World", "Envy" and "Mad House". For the most part the rest of the album is just average fare, but much like Fistful of Metal this is really just the 'setting-up' stage for the band, as further releases really opened up a heavy and faster style that isn't always apparent here. For a debut, though, it is still enjoyable.
Rating: Shout the truth, metal's here to claim the day! 3/5

Deep Purple - Perfect Strangers

The return of the Mark II line-up, and at the time this album was lauded as brilliant, then as time passed it was criticised as boring. Perhaps you had to be there. When I first heard this album I thought it was terrific. Sure, it was no Machine Head or In Rock (or even Burn from Mark III) but it had everything that made Deep Purple great.
The two major singles, "Knocking at Your Back Door" and "Perfect Strangers" are still just as brilliant as they ever were, terrific songs. The rest of the album falls into a nice groove with songs like "Under the Gun", "Nobody's Home", "Mean Streak" and "A Gypsy's Kiss". They may never be regarded as Purple classics, but they are Purple songs that are intricate and integral parts of the album, and help to make it what it is.
The five members are all in great form. I love Ian Paice's drumming on this album and Jon Lord's Hammond is in great touch. Ian Gillan's vocals touch the sky, while Roger Glove and Ritchie Blackmore continue their partnership from the "on-hold" Rainbow with style. Joyous.
Rating: Feel it coming, it's knocking at the door!  4/5

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