CD reviews: Judas Priest, Ben Folds Five, Bob Tobin

Judas Priest

In 1982, when the British heavy metal band Judas Priest released its eighth studio album, “Screaming for Vengeance,” it was one of the biggest acts in metal.

Thirty years later, the music on that classic metal album still stands up.

Part of the reason lead singer Rob Halford’s voice screaming over the dual lead guitar onslaught of the band still causes the hair on the arms of metal fans to stand up is because Judas Priest did things its way.

The band could have taught a college class on how to look and sound like a metal band.

From the studded leather costumes and stacks of Marshall amplifiers to song titles such as “The Hellion” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” this was no half-baked rock outfit.

I could tell you to pick up the new 30th anniversary edition of “Screaming for Vengeance” because the remastered album sounds incredible, or that the live bonus tracks are a treat to hear.

The real reason for metal maniacs to grab this two-disc set is for the included DVD that features Judas Priest’s afternoon set from the 1983 US Festival in California.

Rocking out in front of a crowd estimated at the time to be about 300,000, Halford and the rest of the band crank through Priest classics such as “Metal Gods,” “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.”

The concert is a truly sweet treat on top of getting to hear one of the most beloved albums in metal history shined up like a new penny.

Key Moment: Halford riding his motorcycle on stage to perform the encore of “Hell Bent for Leather” on the DVD footage of the concert.

Back in the mid-’90s here in Charleston, it was virtually impossible to not know about Ben Folds Five if you were a rock fan.

The Chapel Hill, N.C., trio (yes, there were, and still are, only three members of the band) played Charleston frequently at the Music Farm and even one year at Wavefest, the annual all-day rock concert thrown by the now-defunct radio station 96 Wave.

Consisting of Ben Folds on piano and vocals, Robert Sledge on bass and Darren Jessee on drums, the band released three studio albums of well-received music before calling it quits in 2000.

Happily, the band is back together; they play at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center tonight.

The new studio album, “The Sound of the Life of the Mind,” owes more to the band’s last release, 1999‘s “The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner,” than the band’s earlier material. Many of the songs are more serious and introspective than anything on “Forever and Ever Amen,” but there are points where Folds’ twisted sense of humor shines through.

This is especially evident on tracks such as “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later” and “Draw a Crowd.” The latter selection features what might be one of the funniest Folds lyrics ever: “I only wanted to be Stevie Wonder/I got to settle for this Vanilla Thunder.”

Also good is the title track, co-written by author Nick Hornby (with whom Folds collaborated on a music project a few years back), as well as “Hold That Thought,” which deserves radio airplay.

Overall, “The Sound of the Life of the Mind” is an uneven recording, but the truth is that even at only 50 percent power, Ben Folds Five still runs circles around many of today’s younger bands when it comes to songwriting skills.

Key Tracks: “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later,” “Draw a Crowd,” “Hold That Thought”

As proof that you’re never too old to follow your dream, may I present Bob Tobin.

At the ripe old age of 71, Tobin has released a new collection of songs.

Although you may have seen Tobin playing around town at various venues, for the most part, his singing and songwriting have been more of a hobby than anything else. Now that he’s retired from his day job, Tobin has taken the next step, recording 14 of his original tunes with Bruce Roberts at the local ARP Studios.

Listening to the material on “The Other Side of the Horizon,” one has to marvel at the fact that Tobin waited this long to record his material.

Tobin has a great songwriting style, similar to those of Jimmy Buffett and the late Hoyt Axton. Tobin’s singing voice might remind you a bit of Axton, with a little Burl Ives thrown in.

From the catchy “Listen to Momma” and the Buffett-inspired title track,to later notable tracks such as “Distance” and “Lillie La Rue,” there’s actually a lot to like here if you’re a fan of mellow blues and light rock.

I’m not sure what Tobin did for a living prior to retirement, but it is readily evident from the quality of the songwriting here that he’s doing the right thing by following his dream.

Key Tracks: “Listen to Momma,” “The Other Side of the Horizon,” “Distance”

By Devin Grant

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