JUDAS PRIEST VS. OHIO PLAYERS
What could these two albums possibly have in common? Some Midwestern funksters finding their feet and some English guys doing it live (well, sort of). One would guess there is nothing in common, but look closer.
She is a bald-headed black women, barely clothed in black leather and studs. Her legs spread and a whip held high. He is a white man, almost bald, replete with black leather and studs as well. He only holds a mic up high, but by his side hangs handcuffs and a chain. This is when S&M comes to the record shelves. It is a big statement for both acts, even though their music is at opposite ends of the spectrum. Likewise, both of these records possess important firsts for these acts.
‘Pain’ (1971) is the second album by the Ohio Players, but actually the first by the line-up which would continue on recording. After the band recorded their debut for Capitol, they called it quits. A few years later they regrouped to record a single for Westbound records, the home of Funkadelic. The session went well and they were then signed on for a full album’s worth of music. ‘Pain’ could be argued to actually be the true start of the music and imagery of the Ohio Players.
This album established the band’s new direction. They were more polished and playing with a harder and funkier sound. The band also made no bones about what would prove to be the main theme for years to come: women. They sang about them and featured ladies in various states of undress from this album forward. It would forever be synonymous with them and the 70s.
‘Pain’ was stark in featuring a no holds barred image of a bald woman in her S&M gear. She wore a leather studded bikini with knee high boots, full length studded leather cuffs and held a whip…as if the message wasn’t clear enough. The gatefold opens to show her standing over her slave, a man in a leather bikini curled up below her.
Though the single ‘pain” was strong enough to get the band this new album deal, the chart placing did not do so well, barley cracking into the top 200, but it did place decent in the soul charts, at #21.
“Unleashed in the East” (1979) shows Rob Halford aping the pose that graced the Ohio Players album eight years earlier. This is the first live album the Priest put out and would be the first time that Judas Priest appeared on one of their album covers…and the last. There are no other albums throughout their long career with the band pictured on the front.
Like the Ohio Players, this would be the first album to show off the band’s leather/S&M look. For Judas Priest, this made it clear on how they would look for the remainder of their career. From this point on, Rob Halford would glorify the leather and studs look, taking it to glorious new heights.
The album was recorded during the band’s Hell Bent For Leather Tour of Japan. For years it was hotly debated as to how much of the album was indeed, actually live. Rob Halford later confessed that his vocals had been redone in the studio because the original vocal recordings had been ruined. He said that all the music was as it happened, but the vocals were re-recorded in a “live” studio setting.
The original pressing featured 9 songs, though the band would typically play a setlist of 15. Japanese versions of the album had a bonus 7” which added 4 more tracks from the same concerts. The two remaining tracks from the era that were never officially released as live cuts were “White Heat, Red Hot” and “Take On The World”. When the album was re-released in 2001, it was remastered and the tracklist was extended to 13 songs.
At the time of its release, this was the Priest’s biggest selling album to date and would end up being one of only 5 that would go platinum. It reached #10 in the UK and only #70 in the US.