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Judas Priest, ‘The Chosen Few’ – Album Review

Judas Priest, The Chosen Few
Sony Legacy

As Judas Priest rampage across North America on their “farewell” world tour, Sony/Legacy releases what is perhaps the ultimate tribute to the legendary metal gods—’The Chosen Few,’ a collection of 17 choice Priest cuts handpicked by peers like Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera’s Vinnie Paul, Slayer’s Kerry King, Korn’s Jonathan Davis and more who have felt the influence of frontman Rob Halford & Co. during their nearly 40-year career.

‘The Chosen Few’ boasts a nice cross-section of songs that span the veteran British band’s underground genre-defining years in the late ’70s; through their commercial boom (and bust) in the ’80s; and right up to their virulent return at the start of a new decade in 1990.

Album opener ‘Diamonds & Rust,’ selected by Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot, offers Priest’s signature 1977 electrified version of a tune that was actually written by folk songstress Joan Baez. It also serves as a reminder that Priest themselves have been playing curator of other artists’ material long before the idea of ‘The Chosen Few’ was ever hatched.

Metallica’s James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich each pick very different songs for the collection. The singer-guitarist chooses a live version of ‘Victim of Changes’ from 1979′s concert album, ‘Unleashed in the East,’ in keeping with the roots of thrash metal’s in-your-face live delivery. The drummer, meanwhile, selects ‘Beyond the Realms of Death,’ a 1978 tune that alternates between mellow verses and raging choruses — a prototype both sonically and thematically for Metallica’s own 1984 power ballad ‘Fade to Black.’

Some of the most unique moments on ‘The Chosen Few’ come when the picks of two artists converge on one song. Priest’s fast tempo take on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)’ from 1979 made it into a trademark song for the band, and here it’s picked by both Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe and Whitesnake’s David Coverdale. (When you have two diametrically opposed singers like that in agreement on one track, you know there’s got to be something special there!)

In the same fashion, ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,’ Priest’s biggest chart hit of their career from 1982, gets the double thumbs up from the Scorpions’ Klaus Meine and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor. If you think the alignment of Meine and Taylor’s tastes seems counter-intuitive at first, just consider the melodic mainstream sensibilities of the latter’s work in Stone Sour.

Somewhat predictably, the rockers with the longest legacies tend to hone in on classics from Priest’s 1980 commercial breakthrough, ‘British Steel.’ Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler both give the nod to the upbeat party rocker ‘Living After Midnight,’ while Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead earmarks ‘Breaking the Law’ in all its teen rebellion glory.

Among the disc’s true head scratchers is Slash’s selection of ‘Screaming for Vengeance,’ the title track from Priest’s 1982 effort. Almost 30 years later, the song still sounds like a proto-thrash projectile set on destroy. Who knew the Guns N’ Roses guitarist had an inner thrasher to get in touch with?!

 

Watch Judas Priest Perform ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”

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