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Judas Priest "New York After Midnight" Album Review

I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

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Judas Priest - "New York After Midnight"

Unicorn (Unofficial Release), 2021

Source: Recorded live at The Palladium in New York City, July 23, 1981

Tracks: 16 / Run Time: Approx. 82 minutes

I have probably bought more live bootleg CDs in the past year than I have in the previous ten. I never used to go out of my way for such things, but after 30+ years of collecting CDs, there are many favorite artists for whom I already own most, if not all, of their legitimately-released catalogs. To add new titles by those bands, I occasionally dive into the sketchy, but always interesting, world of bootleg recordings.

My latest "unofficial" acquisition was New York After Midnight, a vintage live performance by British metal legends Judas Priest taped during the band's Point of Entry tour at the Palladium in New York City on July 23, 1981. I first became familiar with this particular concert via an upload on YouTube, but it's apparently been a fairly popular, commonly traded item among Priest enthusiasts for years. After listening to the YouTube version several times I decided that I definitely wanted a hard copy of this classic performance in my collection and ordered the New York After Midnight CD.

When New York After Midnight arrived in my mailbox I was mostly pleased with the sound quality and packaging of the release, but unfortunately it contains one VERY BIG buyer-beware moment which I will describe in a few paragraphs. Before I get to that, though, let's open up a few beers, crank up the stereo, and let the Way-Bac Machine take us back to a hot summer night in New York City in 1981...

Judas Priest Live in New York, 1981

The Show

New York After Midnight's front cover makes sure to mention that it's a "Broadcast Recording," which is how the European labels that release CDs like these can squeak past international copyright laws; supposedly recordings of radio broadcasts from before a certain date are considered to be in the "public domain" in Europe (though they may not necessarily be elsewhere).

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The show captured on this album was not Priest's first time at the now long-gone Palladium, a mid sized concert hall that once stood on 14th Street in Manhattan. Priest's first-ever show in New York (opening for REO Speedwagon, of all creatures!) in 1977 was at the Palladium, and a bootleg exists of a 1979 Priest gig there as well. At the time this gig was recorded, the band was headlining in support of their Point of Entry album, and were only a year or so away from their major commercial breakthrough with 1982's Screaming for Vengeance and hit single "You've Got Another Thing Comin'."

I first discovered Judas Priest during the Point of Entry era, which is one of the main reasons this collection appealed to me. It's interesting to hear the Priest when they were still young and hungry, and they start the set off in fine style with the slow grinding "Solar Angels." From there, the Priest pile drives into "Headin' Out to the Highway" (the first JP song I ever heard, so it's a sentimental favorite) and their classic cover of Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust."

"Sinner," the epic ballad "Beyond the Realms of Death," and "You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise" are nice vintage treats that don't get aired live much nowadays.

Of course, several of these songs went on to become enduring Priest classics and are set list staples played to this day, like "Hellbent For Leather," "Breaking the Law" (of course!) and "Living After Midnight." By the time the Priest closes the set with a ripping, seven-and-a-half minute rendition of "Tyrant," it certainly sounds like the New York metal faithful were pummeled into submission on this hot July night!

Judas Priest 1981, L-R: Glenn Tipton (gtr), K.K. Downing (gtr), Rob Halford (vox), Dave Holland (drums), Ian Hill (bass)

Judas Priest 1981, L-R: Glenn Tipton (gtr), K.K. Downing (gtr), Rob Halford (vox), Dave Holland (drums), Ian Hill (bass)

Buyer Beware ...

After a few listens to New York After Midnight, I realized that one of my favorite tracks from the concert, "Hot Rockin," wasn't on the CD. I was further confused when I heard the band launch into "Exciter," because that song wasn't in the set I'd been listening to on YouTube. After a bit of research via Google, Discogs and some other music-nerd sites, I was disappointed to learn that New York After Midnight does NOT contain the complete Palladium '81 show - "Hot Rockin'" and "Victim of Changes" are missing from the running order. To confuse the issue even further, in place of those two songs are three tracks ("Exciter," "Genocide," and "The Ripper") lifted directly from a legitimate Priest live album - 1979's classic Unleashed in the East. I have no idea why two songs from the middle of the "real" concert were cut in favor of tracks from a different show, but that's the risk you take with bootlegs, I guess.

I doubt that casual listeners would even notice the difference -- hell, I might not have noticed if I hadn't been listening to the show on YouTube so much, but it's still an annoyance and it obviously prevents me from recommending this CD to others.

Fortunately, thanks to a YouTube-to-MP3 converter and some editing software, I was able to remove the Unleashed in the East tracks and put the missing songs back in their proper place in the set list, so that the digital version of New York After Midnight in my music library now contains the full show, with all the songs in their correct running order.

There are other bootlegs of the '81 Palladium show out there (both vinyl and CD), and though I obviously can't comment on the quality of any of those I can certainly say that due to the inexplicable discrepancy in the set list, fans should only pick up New York After Midnight if you find it cheap, like I did.

© 2022 Keith Abt

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