Yeah, yeah, I know: How the hell can I give Turbo four stars? Well, if you're one of the many who considers Turbo one of the worst (if not the worst) Judas Priest album, I understand completely. It's cold, it's too synthetic, it's somewhat soulless. I understand. However, I tend to look at the Judas Priest back catalog, the complete gestalt, if you will, as one whole. Looking at this album in context, it is clear that Turbo is a unique beast in Judas Priest's canon, and indeed the whole of heavy metal in general. There's never been an album that sounds like Turbo and it's likely that there never will be again.
Turbo came in the mid-80's and Priest decided to start experimenting with guitar synthesizers. These are not keyboards on this album, but guitars played through a synth. Priest have done it since (Ram It Down, Nostradamus) but never again to this degree. Some of the sounds on this album are really cool. That weird vaccuum cleaner combined with a jet engine sound in the opening of "Turbo Love", for example, is really cool.
The songs are also good, albeit commercial. Priest had been struggling with the commercial tendencies ever since British Steel, but on Turbo it got out of balance in favour of melody. "Turbo Lover" is an example of this. The song relies entirely on melody to exist. The melody is the framework on which you hang the cool sounds and robotic groove. But it works and the song is often brought out into the setlist, still -- the only song from Turbo to make the setlist post-1987.
"Locked In" is a bit more rockin', not a great song, but at least it ups the tempo a bit. The shout-chorus of "Private Property" (an ode to monogamy) is catchy as hell and this could easily have been a single. It sounded great live with the crowd joining in. The big single and most commercial track on the album, "Parental Guidance", was probably my favourite Priest song in '86-87. It's just really catchy. It's not heavy metal, but it's really well-written pop metal. "Rock You All Around The World" closed side one, a fast rocker designed to get the crowd going nuts in concert. Sounds like Scorpions to me.
Side two started off with the long, dramatic slow one, "Out in the Cold". Man, what a great song. A long synth intro sets the stage for one of Halford's most passionate vocals on the album. This is the epic of the album. It would be interesting to revisit it today, with a toned down more metallic production, maybe an acoustic intro. At its core it's just a great song.
A pair of so-so songs follow, "Wild Nights, Hot And Crazy Days" (sounds like Van Hagar) and "Hot For Love" (another fast one that could have been covered by Scorpions). Not great songs, but at least they're rockers. "Wild Nights" is kind of one of those 80's party rockers. Nothing special, but it suited the times.
The final song is a total winner, "Reckless", written for the Top Gun soundtrack but held back for this album. Awesome tune, "Coming at galeforce ten." This is just a perfect rock song for Judas Priest. Not a metal song, a rock song. It's as aggressive as it gets on this album and it has a great solo, too.
There are two bonus tracks on this edition, "All Fired Up" (a lacklustre outtake) and a live version of "Locked In". Since "Locked In" didn't make 1987's Priest Live album, it makes sense to include it here. It was a single/video, released at the exact same time as "Turbo Lover" but always remained in that song's shadow. Good to finally have a live version.
Liner notes and pictures are included. This album also contains the infamous "lead break credits"! While I don't know if Glenn and Ken are interesting enough guitar players to warrant lead break credits for every song, it was a feature I enjoyed at the time and helped me identify the indivudual styles of the two players.
4 stars. A unique album that sounds like no others before or since, thanks to the creative use of synth.