Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla (2000, Koch Records)
Original Release: 1974, Gull Records
1. “One for the Road” … 4:35
2. “Rocka Rolla” … 3:03
3. “Winter”/”Deep Freeze”/”Winter Retreat”/”Cheater” … 9:30
4. “Never Satisfied” … 4:50
5. “Run of the Mill” (8:34)
6. “Dying to Meet You” (6:19)
7. “Caviar and Meths” (2:03)
8. “Diamonds and Rust” (3:14)
Rob Halford – Vocals, Harmonica
K.K. Downing – Guitar
Glenn Tipton – Guitar, Synthesizers, Backing Vocals
Ian Hill – Bass
John Hinch – Drums
Producer: Rodger Bain
Very interesting debut album from Judas Priest that is predominantly a blues-based “heavy rock” release (I’ve grown to love that term when talking about ’70s hard rock/metal bands). I’ve read a lot of reviews stating this album is nothing special but I have to disagree. Is it essential Priest? No, I don’t think so but it is still enjoyable ’70s hard rock that at times come across like early Black Sabbath (Rodger Bain produced the first three Sabbath albums after all). Admittedly, it was a bit of a shock listening to this album for the first time because it’s just not what you expect from Priest, it’s just not as fast or heavy as their later stuff, but it has grown on me.
There’s more than enough here to make this worth a listen. “Rocka Rolla” is a great, fun, loose hard rock track, something I can’t imagine Judas Priest doing ever again. “Run of the Mill” is an epic progressive song, just an amazing performance by Rob, and “Dying to Meet You” is an enjoyable doomy track before picking up at the end.
“Rocka Rolla”, “Winter”, “Never Satisfied” and “Caviar and Meths” were all written or co-written by original singer At Atkins before he left the group. This version of “Caviar and Meths” is very much shortened from the original version the band had worked on.
My version of this album features the alternate cover that debuted on the mid-80s pressings of this album. The story goes that Coca-Cola and Priest were none too please with the original bottle cap cover and so reissues of this album got the much more heavy metal-looking cover above. I’ve always liked the original cover, even if it feels out of place for a band such as Judas Priest, and would have preferred to have found that version. Oh well. Priest apparently isn’t happy with the production either, that which I can agree with. Some of the songs have a bit of a hiss to them but it’s not too distracting.
Also, on original pressings of this album, I believe “Winter”, “Deep Freeze”, “Winter Retreat” and “Cheater” all had their own tracks. Not sure why they were thrown together on the same track for this edition. As a bonus track for this reissue, the band’s original recording of Joan Baez’s “Diamonds and Rust” (taken from the Sad Wings of Destiny sessions) included.
For people wanting a Priest recommendation, I wouldn’t name this album first but it’s definitely worth picking up if you’re a hardcore Priest fan and I probably like much more than most people do. It’s different but you can still hear the sound that would fully develop on later albums.
Highlights: “Rocka Rolla”, “Winter”/”Deep Freeze”/”Winter Retreat”/”Cheater”, “Never Satisfied”, “Run of the Mill”, “Diamonds and Rust”