Years before the glory of Sad Wings of Destiny, Judas Priest was just another Birmingham bar band playing their version of the blues. Original singer Al Atkins wrote a lot of the early material with a constantly changing lineup, until quitting the band in the early 70's. "Bob" Halford was brought in along with second guitarist Glen Tipton, and Priest as we know it was born.
However, they still needed to get that early material out of their systems, and that's what Rocka Rolla is. Leftovers from the Atkins era, slow blues jammers meandering along at a leisurely pace, there is precious little heavy metal here. "Run of the Mill" and the "Winter" suite, for example, run the gamut from hippy-dippy flower power love to amature British bar blues. Yet, Jethro Tull these guys were not, and Rocka Rolla is strictly second rate.
There are a couple decent moments that keep this album from being a 1-star loser. The title track is a fun proto-metal number with something that approximates a riff. There is also the outro to "Dying to Meet You", known as the "Hero, Hero" section which actually has some spark. The rest is basically a band trying to find its direction, not sure whether it's a jam band, a blues band, or a rock band, and excelling at none of those sounds.
There's a bonus track here, tacked on but unrelated. This is the version of "Diamonds & Rust" from the Best Of album. Great song and great version, totally out of place here.
A year later drummer John Hinch would be ousted, and you will understand why upon hearing this. How the band made such an about face to Sad Wings of Destiny, one of the greatest metal albums of all time, I do not know. Let's be grateful they did, for if this band failed to turn the ship around, you never would have heard of them.
Also of note, this is the original cover, which is much better than that weird football player bomber guy on some reissues.