Record Reviews


Judas Priest

Album: “Firepower”

Grade: A

If you think these heavy metal dinosaurs have had it, you’ve got another thing coming.

“Firepower,” the fast-paced title track from the British steel merchants’ latest album, is the best song Judas Priest has recorded in nearly three decades, kicking off a strong album that stands with any they’ve done before.

Though not a concept album, “Firepower” has a common thread running through much of it, songs from the viewpoint of soldiers or warriors in battle, whether it’s the unnamed foes in the title track, the devil in “Evil Never Dies,” or mortal opponents in “No Surrender.” The album ends with “Sea of Red,” an ode to those who died in battle so that others might live.

The album also features a string of “Blacklist”-type villains, each given a sinister name that could have formed an episode of the James Spader TV show: “Necromancer,” “Flame Thrower” and “Spectre.” Come to think of it, shave off singer Rob Halford’s beard, plop a fedora atop his head and he’d look more than a little like a heavy metal Raymond Reddington.

Though not the vocal siren he used to be, Halford is still scary, intense and convincing in the lower registers.

“Firepower” may also be the last album that founding guitarist Glenn Tipton plays on, having retired last month from touring due to Parkinson’s disease. But he’s holding out the possibility of future contributions, and his solos here with guitar colleague Richie Faulkner are definitely Priest-worthy.

—Wayne Parry, Associated Press

Jimi Hendrix

Album: “Both Sides of the Sky”

Grade: B

“Both Sides of the Sky” is billed as the last in a trilogy gathering assorted Hendrix studio recordings, following 2010’s “Valleys of Neptune” and 2013’s “People, Hell and Angels.”

Nearly the full batch comes from sessions at New York’s Record Plant between January 1968 and February 1970. Ten of the 13 tracks are billed as previously unreleased, though several are alternate or instrumental versions of known Hendrix tracks.

“Power of Soul” was mixed by Eddie Kramer and Hendrix at his own Electric Lady Studios just weeks before his death. Hendrix was known to be a perfectionist and maybe he’d have continued tweaking the complex, upbeat, optimistic song, but it seems to provide the clearest sample of what may have come next.

—Pablo Gorondi, Associated Press

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