Digitally remastered re-release of the debut full-length album by the legendary British Hard Rock band.
A sketchy and underfocused debut, "Rocka Rolla" nonetheless begins to delineate the musical territory Judas Priest would explore over the remainder of the decade: frighteningly dark in its effect, tight in its grooves, and capable of expanding to epic song lengths. On the other hand, "Rocka Rolla" is also murkier, less precise and powerful in its riff attack, and more Blues-based; the stylistic debts to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple are obvious at this juncture, although they would become much less apparent on subsequent releases. The compositions alternate between short songs and extended suites; some are decent, but overall they don't establish a real direction and tend to plod aimlessly in many of the longer pieces.
The original core of the band at this time included guitarist K. K. Downing & bassist Ian Hill. Vocalist Rob Halford had been with the band for about a year, replacing original singer Al Atkins. He brought drummer John Hinch (it is the only album to feature him) along with him from a band called Hiroshima. Rounding out there lineup was guitarist Glenn Tipton, who joined the band in May 1974.
The album was produced by Rodger Bain, who is best known for his work on the first three Black Sabbath albums. Like Sabbath's debut, Priest recorded these songs live in the studio, as opposed to laying down completely separate tracks at different times. Rodger Bain is said to have rejected several songs that would later end up on "Sad Wings Of Destiny" because he didn't feel they were commercial enough. One of those songs was "Whiskey Woman", which later evolved into "Victim Of Changes".
Their musical intentions seem fairly unclear overall, often attempting to mesh different ideas into songs that seem a bit crudely pieced together. Their sound is generally Blues-based Hard Rock with unorthodox arrangements (similar to Budgie), but lacking the heaviness of Black Sabbath. The dynamics of these songs keep things somewhat interesting, but the mood overall is a bit of a bummer with all of the somber and downcast tracks like "Winter", "Run Of The Mill" and "Dying To Meet You". Highlights are: an opener "One For The Road", the title track, "Never Satisfied" and "Cheater".
"Rocka Rolla" is an interesting curiosity piece that bears little resemblance to the more focused, progressive and aggressive sound they would begin formulating on their next record. Older fans like myself have already come to terms with this strange chapter and have learned to accept it for the transitional record that it was. Judas Priest was still very much a work in progress here. Mostly a curiosity for hardcore fans, "Rocka Rolla" definitely hints at Judas Priest's potential and originality!!
Remastered re-edition includes bonus track.
Gull Records/Repertoire Records, 1974/1984/2011 (REP 5236). Made in Austria.
1. One For The Road 4:38
2. Rocka Rolla 3:07
3. Winter 1:42
4. Deep Freeze 1:20
5. Winter Retreat 3:28
6. Cheater 2:58
7. Never Satisfied 4:50
8. Run Of The Mill 8:33
9. Dying To Meet You 6:19
10. Caviar And Meths 2:02
11. Diamonds And Rust (Demo Version) 3:13
Total playing time: 42:10