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Resequencing Ram it Down

October 15th, 2014

Ram It Down, Judas Priest’s troubled late-eighties attempt at returning to their heavy metal roots, has always been a difficult album for me to listen to. I recently worked out why. Firstly the sequencing, or song order, is all wrong. Secondly, they missed some of the better songs from the recording sessions off the album entirely.

It always struck me as an odd decision to follow the quick, eager pace of the opening title track with “Heavy metal” – possibly the weakest track on the entire album. Indeed this track sounds almost like a Casio keyboard with the ‘fingered’ chord accompaniment on auto-pilot. As a track it starts well with (I assume) Glenn Tipton practising some finger exercise arpeggio scales harking back to the sort of thing Eddie Van Halen was predisposed to in their early days (think the Darth Vader scene in Back to the Future). Even so, Ram It Down the song is so potent despite the corny lyrics that it would be far more sensible to answer it with the equally fast paced Hard as Iron. This is a song left languishing at the end of side one of the original vinyl.

Slightly slowing the pace, but just tiny bit, I’d place the off-cut Thunder Road (an bonus extra on the reissued Point of Entry) third in the running order. This track really is a gem and I can’t work out exactly how this didn’t make the cut when the completely unmemorable Love Zone did.

Now, three songs in I’d be inclined to finally slow the pace. And here’s where I’d put another lost track – Fire Burns below. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to the soundtrack to Terminator 2 as the familiar eerie mechanical drum pattern reverberates through your speakers. The obviously programmed drums are perhaps the contentious part of an otherwise amazing piece of music. But they can be overlooked for the truly soulful and melodic acoustic guitar solo which makes way for some exceptional dual electric guitar harmonies. This song is made available as a bonus track of the Stained class reissue despite being another outtake from the Ram it Down sessions.

Having temporarily slowed down the pace it feels appropriate to get things going again. Come and Get it is a reasonable riff laden rocker. If fairly pedestrian, it does at least have a little edge to it. From here I once again slow down proceedings for the epic Blood Red Skies. Another song let down by the synthetic drums, it was recently revisited in a live setting for the Epitaph tour where it finally had the opportunity to shine. If I were to miss off all the tracks that perhaps shouldn’t make the cut then I’d probably stick Monsters of Rock on the end and call that the album. This would give us:

  1. Ram it down
  2. Hard as iron
  3. Thunder road
  4. Fire burns below
  5. Come and get it
  6. Blood red skies
  7. Monsters of rock

But seven songs is a pretty short album! So a careful bit of sequencing with the remaining tracks gives us a complete playlist that, when listened to in sequence, doesn’t make a bad album at all:

  1. Ram it down
  2. Hard as iron
  3. Thunder road
  4. Fire burns below
  5. Come and get it
  6. Blood red skies
  7. I’m a rocker
  8. Love you to death
  9. Monsters of rock
  10. Johnny B. Goode
  11. Love Zone
  12. Heavy metal

I do think that despite its shortcomings, Heavy Metal makes a reasonable album closer. Love Zone is the poorest track on the entire album and I’m inclined to cut it completely. Johnny B. Goode is actually OK if you forget the heritage whilst I’m a Rocker makes a harmless mid album filler track. So, give it a go – with a little resequencing you may find the reasonable (by no means best) Judas Priest album that could have been. Now, if only they made the Stock, Aitken and Waterman material available..

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