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Glenn Tipton Baptizm of Fire and Edge of the World

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, March 7, 2006 @ 12:01 AM

On Rhino Records

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Atlantic Records Meeting Room:

“Yeah, hey Glenn, you’re a legend and all, but…well, if you are going to be successful in 1996, you can’t be playing with these other musicians—they’re dinosaurs!”

“But…we’re talking about Cozy Powell here. We’re talking about John Entwistle..of The Who. Doesn’t that mean anything?”

“Yeah, it means they’re older than hell. I mean, if you want to get a solo album released, we can make it happen, but you’re going to have to shelve most of this material and go with some younger players.”

“That’s it? That’s the only way you’ll do this?”

“That’s it.”

In retrospect, the fact that this conversation even took place with Atlantic Records almost ten years ago isn’t nearly as shocking to me as the fact that a major label was ever enthusiastic about a Tipton solo record to begin with regardless of who else was playing with the guitarist from Priest. That isn’t a knock on Glenn as much as it is a statement of the times—if it wasn’t grunge music or alternative that a band was putting out back then, no one would even acknowledge it. When Baptizm of Fire was first released, the Cozy-Entwistle slant on the music was downplayed in favor of featuring the presence of Billy Sheehan, Robert Trujillo and Shannon Larkin in the fold. The results were more than a bit uneven though as the only song that managed to truly stand out was the cover of the Stones’ “Paint It Black”. Tipton’s voice has often been considered a disappointment by many mostly since anything he does is going to be at least subliminally compared to his work in Priest--no one wants to be compared to Halford vocally. The problem is that Tipton’s voice often doesn’t stand up favorably to the stylings of Richard Marx either. In many respects the prospect of re-releasing Baptizm while introducing Edge of the World seems like a losing proposition from the beginning. That being said, although certainly not spectacular, at least Glenn’s voice is mostly serviceable on these, and it appears as though he was at least prudent enough to write material that catered more to his vocal strengths rather than his substantial weaknesses.

Even though the disc in its entirety isn’t close to the stellar presentation that Priest albums tend to be, there are at least some songs here besides the Stones cover that are worthy of mention. “Baptizm of Fire” is a tremendous instrumental—even if it isn’t exactly “Mr. Scary”, it’s still ok because it manages to be amazing in its own right. The disc opener, “Hard Core” has some pulverizing riffs that manage to take some of what many would consider otherwise mediocre material to another level. “Fuel Me Up”, “Voodoo Brother” and “The Healer” are also all respectable if not spectacular. The two bonus tracks here consist of the over seven and a half minute epic “Himalaya” which includes some keyboards that some would definitely find archaic blended in with some questionable vocal effects, but both seem to work on this number even if one has to feel as though they have been instantly transported back to 1986 when listening to it—in addition, the keyboards aren’t as overbearing here as they tend to be on the other record either. “New Breed” manages to also be a listenable rocker that is notable primarily because Tipton collaborated on with it with both his daughter and son.

As for the record in general, KK Downing hardly ever seems to get the credit he deserves as guitarist for Priest, but….I can’t help listening to this and wondering what his ever present influence might have done for the material. Another interesting variable to consider might concern just how these songs would sound with a different vocalist—I don’t necessarily mean Halford here either—just…like, uh…someone else. Anyone who listens to Baptizm of Fire will probably be Priest fan who for one reason or another really wants to like the record, but even the most staunch Tipton supporter would have to acknowledge that something seems to be missing. As it is, this record isn’t exactly awful or anything like that—its biggest sin just seems to be that it doesn’t measure up to Glenn’s work with his primary band…then again, few solo records do.

Edge of the Word is being released by Rhino on the same day as the Tipton reissue by a collective forever to be known as Tipton, Entwistle and Powell. It is kind of ironic that their presence on these songs which was eschewed nearly a decade ago now proves a major selling point albeit at least partially because Entwistle and Powell are now deceased. On the outside, a rock fan would have to assume that such a collaboration would rock in ways heretofore never experienced by man….but….well, listening to this would have to come as a definite semi-shock for any diligent follower of the three. I say this mostly because it could be just about any professional musician out there playing in this rhythm section—hell, it could be the rhythm section for Dexy’s Midnight Runners for all the difference it makes here. You know how you can pop on Screaming For Vengeance, and it rocks in much the same way it did in 1982? Well…this isn’t like that for a variety of reasons not limited to the questionable material that doesn’t really challenge the musicians making it and a keyboard that dominates the festivities as if this were a Toto concert or a Loverboy record.

Sure enough, “Unknown Soldier” opens the disc, and it instantly invokes images of Europe—that isn’t a positive experience by anyone’s barometer. Thankfully, it’s relatively short and eventually kicks into a strong guitar intro on “Friendly Fire” that unfortunately can’t sustain itself throughout the entire song as it eventually digresses into what might happen if some mad producer threw the sound of Asia and Dokken into a blender. I guess you have to hear it to believe it, but…this hybrid is about as incongruous as George Bush at a Mensa meeting. The solo is great here though…the song might not be too bad either if it were handled differently. Many of the rest of the songs are pretty similar in that they all contain segments of material that would prove promising if extracted from the rest of the detritus that surrounds them here. For example, “Holy Man” has a pretty cool acoustic guitar sort of sounding intro, but as soon as the tune kicks into full gear, the keyboards dominate and visions of hair sprayed mullets and bolo ties abound. Speaking of highly coiffed hair, “Walls Cave In” sounds like it was written by…none other than John Parr. You remember that guy—he was the dude that sang the St. Elmo’s Fire theme. That isn’t the song I’m referring to here though.—no, see, he had a follow up that you might remember—“Naughty, Naughty”. Nx2 might have been one of the most ridiculous songs of all time, but this one by Tipton certainly carries that same screwball vibe. Now, if a listener can experience the schlock that is the first thirty seconds of “Never Say Die” without laughing, then that person is an idiot….or someone with extremely questionable taste. Cornball lyrics such as “You can be immortal. You can carve your name on the edge of time. You can live forever. Never say die” combined with the aforementioned electronic abominations equals music that should have been in a movie starring Michael J. Fox.

Let me be the first to say that I completely love Glenn’s work in Judas Priest and truly believe him to be one of metal’s best guitarists. I’m sure there are a variety of reasons for releasing these records not the least of which concerns the resurgence of a Halford led Judas Priest as well as the unfortunate deaths of John Entwistle and Cozy Powell. The problem here is that even the best recordings from Baptizm of Fire could have only been considered average at best even for that time—now it looks just as dated and sad as something from Frankie Goes to Hollywood. As for the material now marketed as Tipton, Entwistle and Powell, it is hard for me to imagine three legends going into a room to record and having this be the result…it’s just downright overproduced and sad in many respects. Obviously, anyone with a total devotion to Glenn is going to feel the need to pick at least one of these up, and if that’s the case, the remastered Baptizm of Fire is definitely the better of the two…of course, that is a lot like saying you’re the fastest hippopotamus….it may be true, but it is a helluva long way from a ringing endorsement.

Baptizm of Fire** ½

Edge of The World **

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