Electric Eye (Columbia)
by Brian Varney
As much as I detest folks who like ’80s metal ironically (i.e. those whose enjoyment is limited to “it’s so bad, it’s good” or snickering at the era’s admittedly egregious ideas about fashion), I was pretty excited to revisit Judas Priest‘s videos, just to see if they were as hilariously awful as I remembered. I’m not stodgy enough to deny that this can sometimes be damned entertaining, even the most ardent metal fan will admit that the cheese is part of the fun. And you know what? Though it takes nothing away from the majesty of the band’s finest rock, the videos are every bit as bad as I remember. Historical revisionism being what it is, the press sheet that came with this DVD tries to kinda play this off as the band having a sly laugh at their own image or something, and I suppose that could be. But watching these videos again (and some of them for the first time), they don’t really seem to be in on the joke. Whether it’s Halford jumping into the bank lobby to scream “Breaking the law!” or the Ed Wood-esque desert backdrop of “Heading Out to the Highway,” these videos scream “Low budget!” and “Bad production values!” in a voice at least as loud as Rob’s. Sometimes this works to entertaining effect (the aforementioned “Breaking the Law,” “Hot Rockin'” [set in a weight room!], and “Turbo Lover”), and sometimes it doesn’t, but the soundtrack is killer, so I’d say it’s worth a look. You may or may not laugh, but you’ll definitely rock.
Also included are six rare performances originally recorded for BBC television during the band’s earlier years (1975-1980), and the 19 track Priest… Live!, previously available only as an out-of-print VHS cassette. The spectacle of live metal and the accompanying stage setups being a big part of the thrill, live video footage is usually a good idea. However, because this was recorded during the 1986 tour (for those who aren’t already convulsing on the floor, that’s the Turbo tour), there is an unfortunate amount of material from a not-so-good period of the band’s history, with plenty of the synths they were swathing their material in at that time (though, fortunately, they generally avoid trying to “modernize” the classic material). I don’t wish to sound as if the whole concert is a bust, since there are some genuinely cool parts, like the version of “The Hellion/Electric Eye” which Halford sings while perched in the hand of a giant robot-looking thing, but I can’t help wishing the live show was from the Unleashed in the East tour.
(550 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10022)