Sound: When Judas Priest entered a studio in Bahamas in 1986 to record "Turbo", they found themselves in a situation where the brand of classic metal which they had pioneered was slowly giving way to a new, more pop-oriented wave of young metal bands; the likes of Bon Jovi, Ratt, Mtley Cre and others. Ever since the mid-70s, Priest had been on the cutting edge of heavy metal, and this album captures them desperately trying to remain there by gaining inspiration from the pop metal scene. They did not succeed, although they did manage to make "Turbo" quite an interesting listen anyway.
The one thing that makes this album stand out from the rest of Priest's vast catalogue is the guitars: many of the guitar lines are actually synthesized. Iron Maiden also used some guitar synths in 1986, but they focused more on creating texture, while Priest built entire riffs and solos on them. Judas Priest have been criticized for this ever since the album's release, but I think they're pretty cool for the most part and serve to make Priest's discography even more diverse. The production as a whole, while sounding quite dated today, still sounds fantastic for 1986: Everything is crystal clear, the guitars are loud and proud, and the drums sound huge. // 7
Lyrics: Rob Halford had been struggling with various destructive addictions throughout most of the 80s, before finally entering rehab and sobering up (for life, as it would turn out) in 1985. And it seems that sobriety took him to new heights as a singer; for the rest of his career with Priest until his departure in 1993, he was the perfect heavy metal singer both live and in the studio. On "Turbo", his amazing abilities are especially notable on tracks such as "Locked In", "Out In The Cold" and "Reckless".
Halford's lyrics, however, seemed to be growing dumber by the hour. Granted, the 80s were not exactly the decade where Dylan-esque poetry or Halford's own past themes of society, alienation and mythology was all the rage. But I would at least expect the man to rise above the average pop-metal lyricist; he does not, and as a result, the album contains nothing but cock rock and mind-numbing anthems. Several points off for that. // 6
Overall Impression: Overall, this is not one of my favorite Judas Priest albums. It's a bit thick on filler and some of the songs seem forced, or just intended as platforms for the guitarists to try out their new synth axes. Having said that, I still find great pleasure in listening to this album as it contains so many catchy hits. "Turbo Lover" is one of pop metal's greatest moments, the way it builds up until the climactic chorus is just so astoundingly clever. "Out In The Cold" is a bleaker song, another great composition which features a brooding intro and an impressive vocal performance. "Parental Guidance" is a guilty pleasure, and "Reckless" is the definition of heavy metal from this particular era, with jaw-dropping solos from Glenn Tipton. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: Glenn and K.K. Downing are also in top form. Just check out "Hot For Love", featuring one of Mr. Downing's finest solos of all time.
"Turbo", while far from perfect and failing to become a massive commercial success, is still being unfairly dismissed to this day. I think that everyone with even a casual interest in Priest pre-"Painkiller" should give it a chance. Even if you don't like it, it's still a controversial album that is often mentioned in discussions about Priest, dividing fans of the band between the camp that considers it a guilty pleasure and those who see it as an embodiment of all the horrors of late 80s metal.
I will leave you with one last piece of advice: Most of this album is was played on the "Fuel For Life"-tour of '86, and can be found on "Priest... Live!". All of the songs that seem kind of stiff on this album really come to life on that one, check it out as well! // 7