Rocka Rolla Import, Extra tracks
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Reissued 1974 album. The Birmingham Metal gods' debut LP, originally released in 1974 by Guil Records, now has the addition of the 'Diamonds And Rust' single as a bonus track to give a total of 11 cuts that show the early years of this internationally successful five piece.
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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.
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The debut begins with "One for the Road," a quintessential Black Sabbath style opener. It has a plodding beat but does pick up the tempo. "Rocka Rolla" is the most recognizable track on this album. A television performance for this song can be found on the DVD Electric Eye. "Rocka Rolla" is "hella killa" from the cool opening guitar riff to the addictive chorus. The next three tracks run together to give the impression of a long, epic piece. "Winter" (1:41) offers a quiet background intro that builds up into a dark, very Black Sabbath sounding track. At the drum solo it switches to "Deep Freeze" (1:20) so that, unless you are watching the CD track counter, you may not even realize the song has changed. It then moves into "Winter Retreat" (3:27) that begins with distorted, experimental guitar sounds with strange, dark sound effects (very Black Sabbath-like) then becomes a very pleasant song for the last minute. It is a laid-back relaxing number that is all too brief.
"Cheater" is a driving, classic rocker with harmonica provided by Halford. The guitar riff sounds like "My Sharona" by the Knack. The lyrics are about a man finding his girl in bed with another man. "Never Satisfied" is a classic, raw, stripped-down rocker. It is one of my favorites. Offering a change of pace is "Run of the Mill," a soft epic number running 8:30. The powerful ending with the beautiful keyboards really enhances this piece. "Dying to Meet You" (6:15) is another slow track but picks up around the 4:00 mark and offers Halford's signature wails and breakneck speed vocals. The album ends with a 2:00 instrumental "Caviar and Meths." This track was the concert finale used in the early years of Priest when Al Atkins was the vocalist. It was cut on this album. The entire piece is available on Atkins' solo project Victim of Changes and it is difficult to tell they are the same track because Atkins' version is a 7:00 rocker with vocals.
As a whole, Rocka Rolla is an excellent debut and this version has the bottlecap cover which is much cooler than the cover they have for the remastered version. It has a lot to offer; something for everyone. Fans of 1980s Judas Priest should give it a try and fans of 1970s classic rock should definitely pick it up.
is stated this originaly was put out by guil records. though it seems to
be a bit picky i mention it because gull records would not sign priest do
to the fact they didnt think they would ever make it. a 2nd try by priest
was also denied and the band already thought of throwing in the towel.they practiced under a pub in birmingham england after it closed &
charged very little to play there. rob,ian,kk and glenn survived on beans
and crackers and slept there overnite until the pub would open. finally a
break thru of sorts. after 2 tries, gull gave them a shot. they recorded
rocka rolla and played on the " top of the pops " on bbc. ( pickup the
making of british steel where u can see them play rocka rolla, deciever,
and take on the world. U HAVE TO SEE THIS !!! although rocka rolla only
sold just over 1000 copies ( i have one ) gull gave them the okay to go
with their 2nd release "sad wings of destiny". when i first listened to it
i was blown away. its a masterpiece to me. albums that you can play all
the way thru without skipping songs is very very rare. although they still
struggled w/ gull they finally got picked up by columbia and the rest is history as all u priest fans know. the rocka rolla album had 2 interesting
things. one was that the cover of the album featured the top of a glass
bottle of pop with rocka rolla on top of the cap design. in the early
1980's, the company of coke or coke a cola told priest they had to remove
that design off the album because it compared to close to the top of a
bottle of coke. there is now a new design on that cover with an evilish
type of flying machine on it. another little trivia is that on rocka rolla
rob halford used bob halford on the back cover and in the credits. on sad
wings of destiney he used robert halford and then he went on to rob halford since then.rocka rolla is a great album and the song dying to meet
u about a soldier in war and the terror only one could imagine if they
were in that position really grabs on to you and holds on and then the
soldier returns to find almost equal terror as he tries to shed those
horrible memories. again , its a great album and i suggest u pick it up
and add it to your collection. watch for priests next release that is a
concept album about the mystery and predictions on nostradomus. to all
priest fans , i know its been 10 yrs but angel of retribution is as if
rob never left. its meavy metal a its best. cd id do out in 2007.
don barajas, author
You can still hear previews of the later Priest sound here, especially on the longer "Winter/Deep Freeze/Winter Retreat/Cheater" suite and "Dying to Meet You," but for the most part Rocka Rolla is a straightforward hard rocking affair. Tipton and Downing focus more on bluesy riffing and almost prog rock solos, and Halford rarely unleashes his higher-octave screams. It's still an excellent album, even if by Judas Priest standards it's like a wayward stepchild. I'm a big fan of the `70s rock sound, particularly what the Brits were doing, and by those standards Rocka Rolla is one of the very best.
If you're coming at this from strictly a metal perspective, or are expecting more of the "Hell Bent for Leather" Judas Priest style, you probably will be disappointed by Rocka Rolla. If you're a fan of `70s era hard rock though, Rocka Rolla is an absolute treasure, not to mention an illuminating look at the earliest days of one of the most influential bands in metal.
Edition Notes: There are a couple of different CD issues of Rocka Rolla out there. The main difference seems to be that one has the original "bottle cap" cover and one has the later, sci-fi looking artwork. Both appear to include the bonus cover of Joan Baez's "Diamonds and Rust," which is a different version than the one included on Sin After Sin.
So all those tracks could be found in "Hero, Hero", true. But now I have a good CD version with their original versions. And "Diamonds and rust" was added as an extra. The original cover is back on it. It's still a great buy.