Album: “Redeemer of Souls” (Epic)
It takes a lot for a band to make up for a “farewell tour” that ended up not being a farewell after all. But on its new studio album, Judas Priest has redeemed itself nicely.
Simply put, “Redeemer of Souls” is the best album this band has done in over 20 years.
Powerful, fierce, captivating and clever, this could be the hard rock/heavy metal album of the year. It opens with a roar with “Dragonaut” and the melodic but still rocking title track.
But things really get interesting on “Halls of Valhalla.” Priest’s one concession to age is that Rob Halford’s air-raid-siren vocals have given way to midregister singing.
The wails of “Painkiller” or “The Sentinel” are few and far between here, but they do surface in a glorious way on “Valhalla.”
—Wayne Parry, Associated Press
Album: “Now: XXXVI” (Frontiers/Universal)
On “Now: XXXVI,” Chicago co-founders Robert Lamm, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, Lee Loughnane and some newer Chicagoans sound closer to their rough roots than they have since their first albums. The CD’s arrangements may not be quite as raunchy or contagious as “25 or 6 to 4,” but cuts like “Free at Last” come close in punch and gruffness, with a nod to Chicago’s psychedelic start on “Another Trippy Day.” While maintaining its robust brass sound (those trombones!), Chicago hasn’t forgotten the luster of its harmony vocals (“This is the Time” could be disco-era Bee Gees) or the rich romanticism of a good slow song.
The first 10 Chicago albums set the gold standard for blue-eyed, big-band rock-and-soul. “Now” sounds like Chicago wants that feeling back.
—A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer