JUDAS PRIEST — Rocka Rolla

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JUDAS PRIEST - Rocka Rolla cover
3.53 | 88 ratings | 14 reviews
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Album · 1974

Filed under Hard Rock


1. One For The Road (4:38)
2. Rocka Rolla (3:06)
3. Winter (1:41)
4. Deep Freeze (1:20)
5. Winter Retreat (3:27)
6. Cheater (2:57)
7. Never Satisfied (4:50)
8. Run Of The Mill (8:32)
9. Dying To Meet You (6:18)
10. Caviar And Meths (2:02)

Total Time 38:58


- Rob Halford / vocals, harmonica
- K.K. Downing / guitars
- Glenn Tipton / guitar, synthesizer, vocals
- Ian Hill / bass
- John Hinch / drums

About this release

Released by Gull, September 6th, 1974.

Reissued in 1987 with the following bonus tracks:

11. Diamonds And Rust (Joan Baez cover) (1975 recording) (3:12)

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The Crow
Curious debut of the great Judas Priest!

Here they typical sound of the band was not really developed, and they showed their influences which move from Black Sabbath to Deep Purple, among other symphonic rock and prog-rock acts.

The result is an eclectic and diverse collection of songs with some fine tracks (Never Satisfied, Run of the Mill, Rocka Rolla) with some big mistakes (the boring suite Winter, the strange Dying to Meet You), but far of the characteristic sound that would make them big in 1976 with Sad Wings of Destiny.

Best Tracks: Never Satisfied, Run of the Mill, Rocka Rolla.

My rating: ***
Judas Priest's 70's albums are usually cast in bronze as some of the earliest and most high-quality developments of heavy metal that have ever been. Not only did they expound on Black Sabbath's discordant proto-doom by evolving it into a faster, more explosive version of itself, but albums like Sad Wings of Destiny, Stained Class, and Sin After Sin all paved the way for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that would dominate the Western charts for years to come.

It's hard to deny how beloved these albums are. They're practically legendary. All except for one. One that sets itself apart from Priest's 70's repertoire in both its obscurity and its strangeness. Funnily enough, it also happens to be the band's breakout first album.

1974's Rocka Rolla is a musical enigma. This isn't to say the music is impossible to understand, because it's not. For one, the album is much more progressively slanted as prog was in sort of phase two as bands like Rush emerged in the same year in the wake of the late-60's uprising. This can be seen on best on the sprawling eight-and-a-half minute long epic 'Run of the Mill' with the Floyd-esque guitar tuning and spacey vibes permeating the first chunk of the track. At the same time however, much of Rocka Rolla is infinitely more laidback than a tightly-strung album like Sad Wings, both lyrically and musically. The swaggering, bluesy knuckle-duster-knockout 'Rocka Rolla' especially exemplifies this side, wherein a young Rob Halford channels Bon Scott's greasy punk aura to deliver one of the oddest moments in Priest history. It maligns itself with any subsequent song Priest put out, but goddamn does it rock.

Not only in this way does Rocka Rolla set itself apart from other 70's Priest albums, but it also does so with it's sheer off-the-wall musical makeup. This is really where the main criticisms of the album come into play, as with an album such as this many are quick to claim it as underfocused and maldeveloped, and in most cases I would tend to agree. I suppose though that where this branches off is honestly dependent on personal taste. I personally love the elements Priest cobbles together on the album- the softspoken and melodious humdrum of 'Caviar and Meths' (an Al Atkins tune which, due to time constraints, had to be neutered from fourteen to two minutes), the snappy, riff-laden heel-clickers like 'One For the Road' or 'Cheater', etc. This is all without yet mentioning that Rocka Rolla showcases what I believe to be one of Priest's finest moments in their entire career- 'Dying to Meet You'. This particular song is divided into two sections: the first being a low-pitched Rob Halford lamenting over dual guitars shifting from muddy and pounding to austere and subtle with satisfying drum fills by one-timer John Hinch taking up the background. The song then shifts to it's second part, a rollicking rocker similar to the title track, and is also reminiscent of 'The Ripper' from Sad Wings with an early showcase of Halford's high notes, albeit in bluesier fashion.

The talented band's earliest incarnation is mainly what the quality of this album is owed to. The aforementioned John Hinch is a fantastic drummer, with his off-kilter, almost jazz-like playing that makes even the most simple of moments on this album seem intricate. I do agree with the band's decision to dismiss Hinch though. Although I think that Glenn Tipton's words of him being "musically inadequate" might have been a bit harsh, his style was not very well suited to the band's heavier future as opposed to someone like Alan Moore. Rob Halford needs no introduction, but I will say that the lower octaves he hits were scarcely replicated in the band's future endeavors, which I find unfortunate because they are pretty good. I quite enjoy Ian Hill's pounding performance on 'Dying to Meet You' especially on the second part, and of course the dual ripcord guitar duo that is Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing are a force to be reckoned with, even with their more synthesizer-fronted sound before their evolution.

Well, this was a bit of a ramble. But in all honesty I've listened to Rocka Rolla more times than I can count and it's always remained a staple in my favorite records, even if it might not be the heaviest nor the most high-quality Judas Priest record to exist. To say I have a soft spot for it may be a gross understatement- I fucking love it.
Judas Priest - Rocka Rolla

'Rocka Rolla' is the debut studio album by legendary heavy metal band Judas Priest. 'Rocka Rolla' shows quite the different Priest compared to their more well known 80's works and even their other 70's albums to some extent. As with many early heavy metal acts, Judas Priest began with a blues-based form of heavy metal. While they would still have hints of this sound on the following few albums, this debut remains a pretty unique album in their discography.

Many of the songs from this album were actually co-written by Al Atkins, who was Judas Priest's frontman and vocalist preceding Rob Halford. However, once he had a family to take care of, he left the band in May 1973. Al Atkins later made his versions of some early Judas Priest songs on his 'Victim of Changes' solo album, which includes a longer version of 'Caviar and Meths' which was originally a 14-minute long song to be released on 'Rocka Rolla' but sadly shortened down to only the 2-minute long intro as the final song featured on the album. It's a shame, because listening to the longer Al Atkins version, it sounds like it would have been a fantastic epic. The whole history of the album and the early years of Priest are actually quite fascinating, so if that sounds interesting I would highly recommend reading about it. Now that I've finished mentioning some of the history, on to the music.

Most of the songs are blues-y hard rock/heavy metal tunes, with the heavier tracks resembling the likes of Black Sabbath. The opening two tracks, 'One for the Road' and the title track, are examples of the blues-y hard rock sound, the latter in particular being a nice catchy tune. After the 'Winter' suite, one of my favorite songs 'Cheater' comes. There's a nice galloping drum beat, blues-y harmonica, and Halford's vocals are killer. There's also the epic 'Run of the Mill', which has some nice dark diminished chords reminiscent of Sabbath. However, it changes sound quite regularly, with beautiful slow guitar/bass work that reminds me of parts of Eloy epics. There is also some fantastic soloing shortly following, and in typical epic fashion it certainly has a climatic ending with some great screams from Halford.

My favorite on the album has to be 'Dying to Meet You', which opens up with a killer blues-y bassline before getting dark guitar work. Halford's vocals sound pretty different at the beginning, being much more lower-pitched then what he's known for. His low bluesy tone shown here sounds really nice, but he wouldn't really ever sing like this again. However, the song eventually picks up in speed with Halford's classic higher vocals and more great galloping guitar.

Overall, while not my favorite Judas Priest album, it's still an amazing album especially for a debut. It's interesting to listen to this more blues-y form of the Priest, and I think it's essential listening to hear what this legendary band sounded in the beginning. Hope you found this review helpful.

Feel free to comment!
"Rocka Rolla" is the debut full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Judas Priest. The album was released through Gull Records in September 1974. Everyone is aware of the legendary status Judas Priest have on the metal scene today, but back when this album was recorded they were just another young band struggling to make it, looking up to their idols in acts like Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash and Uriah Heep, and trying to create a sound of their own in the process. "Rocka Rolla" is often overlooked or forgotten when people discuss the band´s finest achivements, and it certainly sounds quite different from the leather fisted anthemic heavy metal of the late 70s and early 80s that the band are mostly known for, but it´s still a worthy listen and a great album in it´s own right if you adjust your expectations to how it sounds.

The music on the album is predominatly a hard rocking type of heavy metal. Some tracks like "One for the Road" and the title track are to my ears pure hard rock with only few heavy metal leanings, while other tracks like the "Winter" suite, "Dying To Meet You" and "Run of the Mill" are heavier and more metal oriented in style (although all three also feature mellow sections). The band are clearly a bit immature both when it comes to the musicianship and the songwriting, but still manage to sound tight and write memorable material. The sound production could have been heavier, which some of the material would have benefitted from, but it´s a fairly well sounding production as it is.

"Rocka Rolla" is a good quality debut album, that shows promising signs of future greatness. With it´s hard rocking heavy metal sound it´s also quite unique in the band´s discography and to my ears a great listen. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.
Judas Priest are one of the most legendary heavy metal bands to have ever existed and Rocka Rolla from 1974 is their debut album. They previously released a few demos in the years since their 1969 formation. The band line-up at this point consisted of Rob Halford (vocals), Glenn Tipton (guitars), K. K. Downing (guitars), Ian Hill (bass) and John Hinch (drums). Though the drummer position in the band would remain unstable until the arrival of Dave Holland in 1979 (though he would be replaced by Scott Travis in 1989, Holland was the first drummer to spend significant time in the band) the other members of the band have remained more or less staples of the Judas Priest line-up. Rob Halford had some years away from the band between 1992 – 2003 and K. K. Downing retired in 2011 but you’ll find at least three of these four core members on every Judas Priest album ever released. Just not necessarily the same three.

Known mostly as a traditional metal act, Judas Priest nevertheless have a few albums in their discography that can be considered oddities, being different to any other album they’ve released and Rocka Rolla is one of them. The reason for that is simple; the year is 1974 and Judas Priest are still finding the sound that they would become one of the pioneers of. Rocka Rolla is more of a hard rock release, one that’s still got some roots in the blues and only hints at the heavy metal sound that would have fully developed by the time of its follow-up Sad Wings of Destiny in 1976. I think opener One for the Road is the most metal orientated song. There’s some harmonica use in a couple of places (played by Halford), notably the title track and to be honest I’d also say parts of it are quite progressive influenced, another thing that sets it apart from later work.

Rocka Rolla is a good start for the band but doing a review for it in 2014 as I am, with the album just recently being forty years old, and it feels more important for historical reasons rather than one that can be considered a Judas Priest classic. But with that said I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Rocka Rolla and I would definitely take this one over a few of their later albums such as Turbo, Point of Entry or Demolition and it's essential for any Judas Priest fan looking for a glimpse as to where they came from.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-rocka-rolla-t3778.html
siLLy puPPy
Yes this album sees JUDAS PRIEST very much in their formative years experimenting with different ideas and staying close to their influences and although this is far from the peak of their career, I have always rather enjoyed listening to this album for its quirkiness and reminder that while metal was still in its inchoate stages of development, there were many strange ideas that would be abandoned in favor of faster and heavier riffing which would create the first true heavy metal music.

ROCKA ROLLA which is the debut album by JUDAS PRIEST was released all the way back in 1974 and has a clear bluesy hard rock a la Led Zeppelin influence throughout most of its tracks but there are many surprises as well which is probably why this album doesn't get as much love as the others following. One strangeness occurring here that I have always adored is the psychedelic freakout frenzy that makes up the heavy psych / proto-metal tracks “Winter,” “Deep Freeze” and “Winter Retreat.”

I put this album in the same category as I do the debut albums by Rush and the Scorpions, that being an anomaly in their respective careers that would never be repeated yet are performed extraordinarily well. This album was actually recorded live in the studio and although the production is not the best in the world, its the rawness and melodic deliveries that keep me re-visiting this album from time to time. A mishmash of ideas to be sure but always pleasantly laid out with Rob Halford already hitting some of those high notes.

If you're only into headbanging this is surely not going to thrill you in the least but if you can embrace eclectic musical ideas that have a grain of the JUDAS PRIEST that would be developed in the next couple of years for their more popular “Sad Wings Of Destiny” then you might actually like this quirky album that shows a side of JUDAS PRIEST that really wouldn't be explored again until they dabbled in the progressive side of rock on their much later release “Nostradamus.” Maybe it's the horrible bottle cap cover that scared everyone off. By all means get the remastered version with the cool missile monster on the cover!
I tend to sympathize with the underdog and I do so with this album as well. I actually quite like it. Though not as good as many of Priest's albums, I prefer its seventies proto-metal/progressive hard rock sound to many of their later albums.

I first acquired "Rocka Rolla" in the guise of a double cassette called "Hero Hero", which included the entire album plus most of "Sad Wings of Destiny" and an early version of the cover song "Diamonds and Rust". At the time I favoured heavier tracks such as "Tyrant" and "Victim of Changes" from "Sad Wings" but I still enjoyed certain parts of the "Rocka Rolla" songs. Eventually I bought both albums in full on a two-disk compilation, but when I read reviews about remastering quality I went and bought both disks again, this time individually. Shortly after, a Japanese super high quality pressing was released at a much higher price. I was tempted but held back. Not yet.

The album intrigues me because it is similar to Metallica's "Kill 'em All" in that a new band member had taken over for a founding member (Halford taking over for Atkins and Hammett taking over for Mustaine) and so a lot of the former members' contributions were used both on the debuts and on the sophomores. In particular, I found it interesting when I read Atkins say that in the early seventies he characterized Priest's music as progressive heavy blues-based rock. I would go as far as to say that this album is not only a proto-metal album but a proto-progressive metal album. Consider the three-part "Winter" mini-suite, the extended "Run of the Mill" and the two-part "Dying to Meet You". Not to mention the 14-minute "Caviar and Meths" which was, according to what I have read, shortened to two minutes because the management of Tony Iommi's company who signed the band didn't think the full instrumental (which they had been playing live for a few years already) wasn't good for the album.

The shorter tracks show Priest still emerging from a hard rock type outfit that hadn't immersed their sound in full on metal as they began to do on the next album. "One for the Road," "Rocka Rolla," and "Cheater" are still good taken in the context of where Priest were coming from and not where they were ultimately headed.

The album receives much flack partly for its uncharacteristic style in the Priest catalogue and also for its poor recording quality, something that remastering can only go so far to fix. Rob Halford himself said that "it sounds like it was recorded in a garbage can". The band do not have fond memories of their days with Gull Records where they felt their recordings were not given the love and care they deserved. It was the Gull reps who actually suggested getting a fifth member (prior to Tipton's hiring) and one rep said they should get a pianist or saxophonist! Interestingly, they almost got the pianist as Tipton's musical background included training on classical piano - listen for the piano and synthesizer on the band's first two albums for Tipton's skill with the keys.

So, to reiterate, I actually quite like this album even though the recording quality needed a lot of help. I understand that many fans of Judas Priest will not like this album because it is so different. But in a way, like the first Rush album captures what the band had been doing up until Neil Peart's joining, "Rocka Rolla" gives us an insight to how Judas Priest sounded during the early seventies when they were struggling to get that elusive record deal.
Rocka Rolla is probably an album that you’ve heard a lot about already if you are even a casual fan of Judas Priest. It was the band’s debut studio album, recorded live-in-the-studio in 1974 and released to little acclaim on the small label Gull Records. The band rarely ever played anything off of it live for decades.

The album has been issued dozens of times with slightly different mastering (some fans favour the louder version), different track listings, different artwork and occasionally even under a different name. Sometimes an early version of the Joan Baez cover track ‘Diamonds And Rust’ is included as a bonus track.

As a rule, you probably won’t want to make this your first Judas Priest purchase. A lot of Judas Priest fans don’t like this album and for that reason alone you shouldn’t really try it out until you are fully invested in Judas Priest already or risk missing out on dozens of great records just by being scared off by this.

The music on the album is a mixture of classic blues based rock music and a little touch of progressive rock influence, with some hints of the band’s future definitive Heavy Metal sound but never any full out all-metal tracks.

Songs like the eight-minute ‘Run Of The Mill’ contain an almost Animals era Pink Floyd sound at times and ‘Dying To Meet You’ contains the sort of Progged-Up Blues feel of the first three Jethro Tull albums. If you like this sort of music as I do then you’ll probably find it an interesting addition to the Judas Priest collection that shows the band in a different light than you are used to.

If you hate the sort of music that British Prog Rock bands were putting out in the 1970s, only ever listen to heavy music and find that your favourite Judas Priest album was Painkiller then Rocka Rolla may not be something that you are likely to fall in love with and should either try before you buy or avoid altogether.

Of course, there are a few tracks on the album that are hard enough rock such as ‘Hero Hero,’ ‘Never Satisfied’ and especially ‘Cheater’ all of which are good but ultimately still won’t be enough to win the bigger doubters over. Even these harder moments aren’t completely metal anyway, they are just the closest thing to it on this early album.

Additionally, It has been speculated in the past that Rocka Rolla might have been a better album if the band were allowed enough time and money to record it properly and if the purportedly long and epic track ‘Caviar And Meths’ wasn’t shortened from its intended 14-minute duration to a brief two minutes.

As it stands however, ‘Caviar And Meths’ simply is two minutes and the production job simply is cheap and live, so you have to accept the album on those terms if you are going to like it and there’s not much you could do to change that.

Overall, your opinion of the album will largely depend on whether or not you are able to forgive how different it is from their more famous albums, and how much you like Blues Rock and Prog Rock. It may also depend on the mastering job and track order of the particular copy you get.

If you can already tell that you’ll hate it then feel free to ignore it and pretend that the band’s first album was Sad Wings Of Destiny. If however you think you are going to be generally receptive to it, intrigued by the idea of Rob Halford’s early vocal performances, of hearing KK and Glen’s guitars doing something totally different and of a raw but potentially charming production job, then I’d say go for it. It is worth checking out and isn’t nearly as bad as you may have heard about.
You would, after all, have expected Judas Priest's debut to have hit the scene with an earth-shattering kaboom as opposed to an unenthusiastic thud. The fact is that whilst the essential elements of the band's sound is in place, they're not quite firing on all cylinders yet. Tipton and Downing's twin lead guitar playing is all present and correct, and shows a certain influence from Wishbone Ash (who'd been doing the twin lead for years in a folk-rock/prog-rock sort of style), though of course with more of a metallic edge than usual, though except for on the title track or Run of the Mill they never quite manage the full roar of their usual sound. Likewise, whilst Rob Halford's high-pitched singing voice is already developed, he never lets rip with the sort of shrieks we are used to hearing from him.

Compositionally speaking, the set isn't particularly compelling either, being mostly rooted in the sort of blues-influenced hard rock that was hardly uncommon in 1974, with the occasional nod to fellow Birmingham residents Black Sabbath spicing things up. According to the band, they wanted to include some of the material which would eventually appear on Sad Wings of Destiny on this album, but were pressured into delivering a more commercial album to start off with; I don't know whether that's true, but I can certainly believe it, because there's a lack of enthusiasm evident on this record which is absent from the followup. A piece of metal history, but one that has not aged at all well.
The debut album from the kings of British heavy metal. At this point, they were more of a progressive rock band with more than a hint of the full-fledged thrash metal band that they would soon become. Judas Priest are one of my favorite bands of all time, and this is a decent debut album. If you are a fan of the band you should definitely check it out to see where their trademark sound started. The highlight songs are Rocka Rolla, Never Satisfied, Run of the Mill, and Dying To Meet You. I have rated this album with 3 stars as I feel that it is a good album, but it is not an essential release for the heavy metal fan.

Members reviews

Look at the mischievous, playful sleeve, and listen carefully to their well-matured stoner rock. JUDAS’ debut album “Rocka Rolla” should be positioned as one of pioneers of stoner rock, and it’s quite surprising that this stuff would get to be a historical cornerstone in 70s rock scene ... even for a debut creation of a British promising rock act. In those days this album got lots of 'negative' reviews which should have made the members sad. It's a pity their non-catchy heavy (not of metal) rock could not be approved by every fan of pop / rock, but let me say this hidden novelty must be re-evaluated and appreciated more and more.

Honest to say their composition is not so novel as their following one "Sad Wings Of Destiny" but we can taste such a monotonous heavy / stoner atmosphere only via this album (lacking of enthusiasm cannot be fit for Rob's falsetto voices though). The first shot "One For The Road" is sorta grand compilation of this whole album. Down-tempo, shoegaze, and depressive anarchism against popular rock for children can be fully heard. In "Run Of The Mill" are Rob's high-tone voices with magnificent passion, not under crying guitar sky but under bluesy stoner clouds. During 40 or more minutes is not any major key nor speedy metallic kick like their golden days. However, their musical attitude at that moment was never blurred. This undoubted identity of theirs should have been called as innovative, I'm sure.

This is the debut album by Judas Priest and it is very different from all their subsequent releases. The music here is heavily Blues-based and, in sharp contrast to the next album Sad Wings Of Destiny, Rocka Rolla does not push things significantly beyond Led Zeppelin. Rocka Rolla actually sounds as if it is older than the five albums Black Sabbath had released at this stage. This means that Judas Priest would still have a long way to go musically before the masterpiece Sad Wings Of Destiny, released two years later.

Still, if you consider Rocka Rolla for what it is and solely on its own merits, you find a pretty nice Proto-Metal album with several good heavy Blues rockers that stand up pretty well beside similar releases of other bands from around this time. If I’m correctly informed the band opened for Budgie, Thin Lizzy and Trapeze in their early days and if their early stage act were anything like what is on this first studio album, they must have outshined their headliners by far!

I don’t think that this record was terribly important at its time and as such it is not even essential as a historical document. But it remains a good album that I often find more enjoyable and interesting than most of the band's 80's albums! But their best and most interesting period began first with their next album.

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