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Judas Priest - "Rocka Rolla, 1974 (re-release)"
Snapper Music 1998

Aaaaaaa!!!! It was 1969 in Birmingham when Judas Priest were born. Band was formed by K.K. Downing (guitar) and Ian Hill (bass guitar). They were chosen ones. Still unaware of that, they only struggled to survive. Also early line up featured drummer John Ellis and singer Alan Atkins. Well, Judas Priest were destined to have constant problems in line up with drummers. Ellis was replaced in 1971 by Alan Moore, but in the same year he leaves the band which was completed by Chris Campbell. But only for a short period. Campbell remained till 1973, when John Hinch joined the band just on time to record debut album. Atkins leaves the band prior to recording took it's place and was replace by Rob Halford, Rob sang prior to teaming up with Judas Priest in band called Hiroshima and was working as a light technician in theater. Last man to stand under band's flag was Glenn Tipton, who arrived from Flying Hat Band. This line up was drafted by small record company called Gull Record. Judas Priest immediately made a contract and released under the same label their debut called "Rocka Rolla".

"Rocka Rolla" has a little to do with what we understand under name classic Judas Priest. Album was merely penned under strong rock'n roll and blues influences and as a record does not represent some kind of ground breaking musical effort. If Priest later wouldn't became a great chunk in rock history, "Rocka Rolla" surely wouldn't be re-released on a compact disc. It doesn't leave some special impact on a listener. Everything sounds to much cliché. Generally speaking album is good, but nothing special.

Album opens with One For The Road with impressive riff, but showing in refrain that everybody in the band still weren't on a same page. It seems as Rob just can't find proper vocal lines in chorus, so this song can't fully convince. Never Satisfied deals with same problem. Well title track, is something quite different. I love this verse "rocka roller woman for a rocka roller man". Band warns for the first time very serious that we are dealing with two guitars in the band. Band offered also a trilogy with songs Winter (that is short intro, based on slow rumbling rhythm drive much in vein of early Sabbath), Deep Freeze, while Winter Retreat contains some psychedelic moments. Trilogy shows experimental side of the band. Cheater winds up things, it is driven by nicely figured hard rock riff and Rob's vocal is surely pivotal in that song, where Rob also plays harmonica.. Run Of The Mill offers again more medieval venture, with nice moody waving inside. Main softer theme in pre-chorus turns into harder "Sabbath" riff placed inside chorus. This song brings some shivering atmosphere thanks to Rob's great screaming towards song's end. Dying To Meet You also carries double faced atmosphere. First part sounds almost flower power, while Priest start their engines to roar in second part where song gets some extra cool hard rockin' wings. Early raw sounding version of Joan Baez cover Diamonds And Rust, which is included as a bonus track on this release, surprisingly catches most attributes of the band, that were teleported on their next studio effort.

There was still a lot left to improve in production. Division of the instruments in the overall sound is not crisp as it could be. This reflects especially in work of both guitars and back vocal lines. It was obvious that both K.K. and Glenn were with their ideas already light years in front of available studio production facilities.

"Rocka Rolla" reflects strong enthusiasm and band's will to push on further. K.K. and Glenn exactly knew what they wanted, right from the start. This twin guitar relationship was very important for early Judas Priest struggling and surviving. With Ian's strong confidence, these three guys were early nucleus of strong faith that was very important for first uncertain steps of this young band.

Author:   Ale¹

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