Ram It Down

Judas Priest

Columbia, 1988


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1988, Judas Priest was floundering. They had tried to re-invent their sound on Turbo, an experiment which wasn't a total failure but could hardly be called a success. It's safe to say that Turbo polarized longtime Judas Priest fans -- it's hard to sit on the fence regarding that disc. Judas Priest needed to do something to stave off the bleeding.

Their answer, Ram It Down, was a half-hearted attempt to win back the loyal fans. Unfortunately for Rob Halford and crew, this disc is most notoriously remembered for their limpid cover of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," easily one of the worst cover songs I've ever heard in my life. (Most people don't remember this cover was originally done for the movie my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Johnny Be Good, a box office flop starring Anthony Michael Hall.) Let us speak no more of this musical dog turd.

More often than not on this disc, Judas Priest sounds like they were being dragged back into a form of music they no longer wanted to play. Tracks like "I'm A Rocker," "Monsters Of Rock" and "Love Zone" all sound tired and uninspired. Even the title track falls completely flat -- not a good sign as it leads off this disc. Judas Priest often put one of the strongest tracks on their albums as the leadoff number; if this was their way of saying that "Ram It Down" was a strong track, you just know you're in for a rough ride.

Yet one can't totally write off Ram It Down as being a throwaway disc. As cliched as the title is, "Heavy Metal" does turn out to be a halfway decent effort that dares to suggest the spark of creativity was still alive somewhere in the band. If only there were more worthwhile moments on this disc; the sad fact is, "Heavy Metal" is probably the best track out of the whole lot of 10.

Also, there are occasional moments when the guitar work of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton does seem like there is some emotion behind the playing -- for all of the attention payed to Halford as front man, the guitarists often were the unsung heroes of this group. But without more solid songwriting efforts to back up their playing, it's pretty much all for naught.

If Turbo signalled a stumbling point on the road of Judas Priest's career, Ram It Down was the moment when they fell on their faces. It would be two years before the Priest would re-emerge with Painkiller, but this disc dared to suggest that the ride was winding down for Judas Priest.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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