Raise the glasses my Metal friends because today is a monumental occasion for sure as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of an album called “Rocka Rolla” which is the very release by the mighty Judas Priest. Now I will admit that I did NOT purchase this when it came out since I was not actually in the consumer age group at the time and I wouldn’t actually hear this specific work on LP until 1980 or 1981 so my reflections about it come from that particular time. I also don’t really get into the hard core production aesthetics of the release since so much of that is documented with finesse on the albums official Wikipedia entry. These are aimed at my own impressions on the work when I first got to absorb it and now back to the task at hand. The album “Rocka Rolla” is a very interesting one in Judas Priests history because not only is it their first but it’s also not quite a Metal album. Yes there are moments that surely “rock” across its contents, but overall the album is very steeped in Hard Rock, Blues and even bears some Psycehedelic elements. I was the kid on my block that got the others around him to listen to Judas Priest and with that influence created a certain fanaticism in one of them as he became the absolute diehard who sought out all of their past works. I began my own Priest journey with “Hell Bent For Leather” and “Stained Class” and from there I went backward. Now back to the debut.
According to research many of the tunes on the album were written by Al Atkins (their original singer) with the rest being penned by Halford. The lineup at the time of the release would be Rob, Glen Tipton, Ian Hill, K.K. Downing and John Hinch. It’s the only recording to feature Hinch on the drums as he was removed from the lineup after its release. Historically speaking it didn’t sell very well and the original bottle cap cover was replaced with some kind of monster cover. Personally speaking I liked the bottle cap cover a lot more. Now let’s look over the tracks on the original album and recall any and all of our favorites from the debut together. I will admit that despite this NOT being my favorite debut release out of the crop of others I have had in my life (even though it’s a Priest album), I did have a few numbers that I liked a lot and can still listen to at this point in time. Let’s review.
1. One For The Road
2. Rocka Rolla
4. Deep Freeze
5. Winter Retreat
7. Never Satisfied
8. Run Of The Mill
9. Dying To Meet You/Hero Hero
10. Caviar and Meths (Instrumental)
Thinking over some of the more notable tracks and the ones that have stuck with me over the many years since first hearing it I’d have to say that I think that the opening “One For The Road” is the at the top. In this one Halford shows just how fluidly his voice soars to the heavens and while it’s a simpler track I love the title number “Rocka Rolla” as well. It’s catchy and has a fun riff IMHO. “Never Satisfied” is a good one too and received some love on the bands live DVD/Blu-ray which I had to admit was a bit of a surprise. The lengthy “Dying To Meet You/Hero Hero” travels down numerous musical style paths and shows the band as not fearing experimentation with their sound way back in the beginning. As I’ve already noted, this is more of a Hard Rock with a heavy dose of Blues to it album and you have to accept this the bands humble beginnings. Priest was not yet the thundering Heavy Metal band we would eventually come to know and love but the fires were beginning to build for this path thanks to “Rocka Rolla”. Congratulations on your arrival with this one Judas Priest, the best was truly to come from you. Did you readers own this one at some point or when it was first released? Let’s discuss it in the comments.
The album “Rocka Rolla” seemed to be re-released on Koch Records back in 2000 but since that time has never been released as a single CD outside of being merged with most of “Sad Wings Of Destiny” on the “Hero Hero” album which is listed below. It was however included in the “Complete Albums Collection” that was released a couple of years ago by Legacy Recordings. It’s a pricier choice but if you want those albums as their own piece, the boxed set is the best option for you. Links to both are below.