Monday, December 27, 2010

Judas Priest: Diamonds & Rust

One of my Christmas presents this year were sets of new strings for my menagerie of instruments. One of those is my nylon string guitar – it was my $10.00 guitar. It was handmade (cheaply I might add) in Mexico for the tourist market. I bought it around 1989 or 1990 from an ad in the local trading times with words – “Mexican made guitar $10.” They had it strung with steel strings – which I removed and replaced with nylon strings immediately. It was sold under the "Jom" brand. 

I believe the woman who sold it to me said they watched the luthier make the guitar during part of one day. It has its problems, but it frets true and a friend who has borrowed it on a number of occasions for recording purposes swears by its sound. So it must be a decent sounding instrument; however, it is not much to look at. When I told my wife what I paid for it, she commented: “The strings cost more than the guitar – isn’t that like putting lipstick on a pig?” Perhaps.

While replacing the strings and tuning up, one of the songs that came to mind was Joan Baez’s 1975 hit “Diamonds and Rust.” I started playing it immediately. A little later on that evening I began looking for covers of the song and found an excellent version by “Blackmore’s Knight”; however, since I featured them last week – they were out of the question. While pursuing another cover, I recalled that Judas Priest had recorded this tune more than once. Therefore, I turn the stage over to Rob Halford and company.

Rumors have it that the song was written by Baez regarding her early relationship with Bob Dylan; however, Baez has stated on several occasions that the song was really about her activist ex-husband David Harris. The illusions to Dylan, however, are quite strong and some believe that Baez may have used both as an inspiration. Judas Priest doing the song has them coming full-circle as they took their name from the Dylan tune “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” from his “John Wesley Harding” album,

Live Version by Judas Priest

Vocalist Rob Halford shows that he may be the very best vocalist in heavy metal today. Check out his range, dynamics, and his immaculate pitch on this version.

Unplugged Version by Judas Priest

Same arrangement as the above; however, it is fully acoustic. Guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton are both playing Ovation Elite 1778-TX5 models that have spruce tops that are covered in black enamel paint.

These is one of the more expensive Ovation thin line acoustic electrics and comes with an on-board tuner.

Joan Baez’s Original Version

I love the mix of keyboards and the volume pedal effects used on the electric guitar. The single charted at #11 in 1975.

Two Additional Judas Priest versions

Being the completist that I am, here are two earlier recorded versions of Diamonds and Rust. Both are different from each other and the previously featured videos above. The first is the 1977 Studio version from Judas Priest’s album “Sin after Sin” album. This was recorded just two years after Baez’s hit version of the song.

The second is from the Priest’s classic live album from 1979 “Unleashed in the East.” I like this version probably the best due to the delay used on the guitar on the song’s intro and the vocals on the tune’s bridge.

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