The Priest is no stranger to live album documents and they’ve seen both sides of the quality aspect of those releases. Thirty years ago, they released their first—and still their greatest—live effort, Unleashed In The East. It captured the band on their ascension and it featured a track listing that housed some of the best material from their ’70s output.
By the time of their second live effort, 1987’s Priest…Live, the tape captured the band bloated by success and woefully unaware that their relevance in metal’s increasingly visual arena was screeching to a halt. A pair of Ripper Owens-led Priest live recordings found the band spinning their wheels in front of all but the most devoted of fans.
Adding up all of these offerings, the argument can be made: do we really need another live album from Judas Priest?
The gimmick with A Touch Of Evil: Live is that it features songs never before released on a previous live document. But even that is a tad misleading. A few tracks have been on Ripper-era live albums and a large chunk of Evil seems to have been lifted from Rising In the East, a concert DVD from 2005.
But there’s problem bigger than just fact checking. A Touch Of Evil doesn’t flow together in the truest sense of a live concert. There are gaps in between songs, indicating that the selections have been cobbled together from various sources and from various tours. In regards to this, some of the songs don’t seem to have been selected from the best performances.
“Painkiller” is a good example. Having seen Priest perform this song twice since ’05, I can confirm that Halford’s vocals here are not anywhere near the caliber of what I witnessed. I’m confident that there were other recordings available to demonstrate this, but what’s been chosen for prosperity here is not Halford’s best performance.
“Dissident Aggressor” also suffers a bit from a ragged delivery. But because the original recording is over thirty-years old, it would be unfair to expect Halford’s voice to remain consistent.
That leaves a lot of the burden falling squarely on the rest of the band and throughout A Touch Of Evil, their performances are impressive. Aside from drummer Scott Travis-who’s a few years shy of 50 and delivers furious drum work throughout the record-the core members of Priest are closer to 60 and are still remarkably agile in their execution.
Producer Tom Allom returns to the fold after a twenty-year absence and eloquently documents a band that has more fire in its belly now than he last manned the knobs for Ram It Down.
Taken as a compilation that revisits the band’s more aggressive and lesser-known catalog, A Touch Of Evil is nicely rewarding and it even manages to make the selections from the band’s last two efforts (Angel Of Retribution and Nostradamus) sound appealing.
Taken as a live album, A Touch Of Evil does bring a certain amount of redemption over the Priest’s last three offerings while falling short of the one that started it all. Unleashed In The East may be the record that captures the band at the peak of their live prowess, but Evil is the album that shows you that their prowess can still be channeled with the right material.