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Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

Greetings music lovers! This week we’re all over the musical map spinning a couple of essential multi-volume box sets from metal gods Judas Priest and jazz legend Dexter Gordon, respectively and a fascinating DVD documentary marking the 30th Anniversary Special Edition of the film Wattstax (1972).

Judas Priest -- Metalogy (Sony Music/Legacy Recordings)

For the past three decades few have consistently re-defined heavy metal as often as Judas Priest. Although their sizeable back catalogue has already made the leap into the digitally remastered domain, this multi-media box marks Judas Priest’s first career-spanning anthology. The 64 tracks are spread over five hours on four CDs, with a bonus DVD including a vintage Screaming For Vengeance-era concert that has remained out-of-print for almost ten years.

With input from the band, Metalogy goes far beyond simply collecting hits and fan favourites as each volume is crammed with deep album cuts covering their career from the debut long player Rocka-Rolla (1974) to their most recent studio offering Demolition (2001). But the undeniable guts and glory are the profusion of previously unissued rarities, hard-to-find sides and concert recordings scattered throughout. Among the highlights are live readings of “Diamonds And Rust,” “Starbreaker,” Hot Rockin’,” “Breaking The Law,” a medley featuring “The Hellion” and “Electric Eye”. Plus, primary performances of Peter Green’s “Green Manalishi,” and “Love Bites,” as well as a demo for “Heart Of A Lion” which has stay vaulted until now.

Supplementing the first pressing of Metalogy is a 95 minute DVD from December 12, 1982 at the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis, TN. Enthusiasts might recall the show when it was initially available as Judas Priest Live.

However this edition is significantly retro-fitted with new Dolby 2.0 stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound mixes, not to mention the significantly improved and otherwise crisp visuals. The entire contents are gathered in what is one of the more eye-catching packages of late. The 7"x7" box is bound in real leather with actual metal studs gilding the edges. The five discs are housed in individual cardboard sleeves complemented by an impressive 64-page book chocked-full of photos, a historical timeline, discography and biographical essay.

Dexter Gordon -- Complete Prestige Recordings (Fantasy Jazz)

Although bop master Dexter Gordon (tenor sax) was primarily maintaining his residence in Europe during the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was also an era that hailed some of his best and most influential long players stateside. As the title of intimates, The Complete Prestige Recordings is an 11-disc anthology covering over seven-dozen selections documented while Gordon was associated with the legendary Prestige imprint. An impressive 17 of the 88 tracks have never been available beforeand includes leftovers from the studio efforts The Resurgence Of Dexter Gordon (1960), The Tower Of Power! (1969), More Power! (1969), The Panther! (1970), The Jumpin’ Blues (1970), Tangerine (1972), Generation (1972) and Ca’Purange (1972), as well as the concert collections L.T.D. (1969), XXL (1969), With Junior Mance At Montreux (1970), The Chase! (1970) and Blues à la Suisse (1973).

Accompanying the sounds is a 44-page booklet offering up a bio from noted jazz critic Ted Panken, plus a Prestige-era discography and plenty of photographic eye candy.

The anthology commences chronologically with “Move,” a one-off entry from a 1950 appearance led by Wardell Gray (tenor sax). After spending nearly a decade (’53-’60) serving various drug-related sentences, he re-emerged with a new sense of purpose. All the more evident was Gordon’s unmistakable amalgamation of Lester Young’s tonality and Charlie Parker’s intense musicality as applied to the tenor sax.

From the April of ’69 sessions that yielded The Tower Of Power! and More Power! are the never-before-released alternates of “Montmarte,” “Lady Bird,” “Stanley The Steamer,” “The Rainbow People,” “Boston Bernie,” “Fried Bananas” and the wholly unissued “Dinner For One Please, James”. The July 1970 date for The Panther! is the source for extra interpretations of “Valse Robin,” “Mrs. Miniver” and “Blues Walk”. While the same late July ’70 concert co-lead with Gene Ammons (tenor sax) and Vi Redd (vocals) boasts a 12+ minute reading of “Lonesome Lover Blues” that has remained vaulted until now. Other performances making their debut are “Evergreenish,” “Rhythm-A-Ning,” “For Sentimental Reasons” and “Star Eyes” circa The Jumpin’ Blues and “Scared To Be Alone” off of Tangerine. The final rarity, a live rendition of “Tivoli,” is from the same July ‘73 cache that supplied songs for Blues à la Suisse.

Wattstax -- The Special Edition (Warner Home Video)

After a successful albeit limited run in theatres, the 30th anniversary “Special Edition” of David L. Wolper’s documentary Wattstax (1972) has made its way to DVD. For this release, the audio and visual content are digitally remastered and the film is fully restored with Isaac Hayes’ performances of the “(Theme From) Shaft” and “Soulsville,” neither of which have been seen since the 1972 premier. Wattstax was an all-day concert event held on August 20, 1972 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as a benefit for the Watts Summer Festival.

The seven hour programme -- which became known as the “Black Woodstock” -- was the first of its kind, presenting an impressive roster of artists from the Memphis-based Stax label to the West Coast audience of over 100,000.

The Staple Singers (“Respect Yourself”), Bar-Kays (“Son Of Shaft”), Albert King (“I’ll Play The Blues For You”), Rufus Thomas (“Funky Chicken”), Kim Weston (“Lift Every Voice”), Luther Ingram (“If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right”) and Isaac Hayes (“(Theme From) Shaft”) are among the R&B heavyweights who participated.

Interspersed within the music is candid and uncensored scenes shot within the Watts community, which at the time included burgeoning actors Ted Lange -- perhaps best known as Isaac ‘the bartender’ Washington on The Love Boat -- as well as Raymond Allen -- who played Woodrow “Woody” Anderson on Sanford And Son. Plus, a then-unknown rising comic by the name of Richard Pryor.

The disc is jam-packed with additional features such as Dolby 2.0 stereo and Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound mix options, the ‘official’ final cut with Isaac Hayes’ “Rolling Down A Mountain,” Albert King’s incendiary “I’ll Play The Blues For You” and cinematic trailers of the original 1973 exhibition and the 2003 theatrical reissue. Additionally, there are two audio/video commentaries -- one giving a fan’s perspective from Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Stax historian Rob Bowman and the other allowing for more behind-the-scenes observations. These include recollections by Wattstax director Mel Stuart, executive producer and Stax Records owner Al Bell, and performer Isaac Hayes.

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