"Here is the deal with Rocka Rolla; it was mastered wrong. The recording is low, there is a lot of hiss and it sounds like your listening to the album as if your best friend taped it by holding his boombox up to the speakers of his grandmothers recordplayer. Roger Bain, the producer of Rocka Rolla, remixed and remasterd this album and it subsiquently appeared as HERO HERO. Gull records repackaged it with a bunch of Sad Wings Tracks and one oddball track (Diamonds and Rust)not the Sin after Sin version but possibly a Sad Wings out-take. The result is ROCkA ROLLA the way its supposed to sound: HEAVY! Yes folks you heard it right, Hero Hero lets it be known that the guys in the band were not on lithium when recording this album. The difference is night and day. Every ROCKA ROLLA song on HERO HERO is not only 1000 times better but also actually listenable! If your a long time Priest fan and you didnt know this, your in for a BIG treat. Buy Hero Hero and listen to the REAL ROCKA ROLLA!"
"Where do we go from here? There must be something near."
Grant B. Humphries III | Laughlin, Nevada | 05/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm going to review the 12 Judas Priest CDs from 1974-1990 except the two live CDs first. I am a huge Priest fan. I first got into Judas Priest 20 years ago and have stayed loyal to them ever since. This may limit my objectivity since these reviews will really be comparing the different CDs to one another not to other bands. There is no bad Judas Priest CD, only less consistent ones. Judas Priest is a band that have repeatedly experimented stylistically. Some of these experiments were more successful than others. There are CDs that are much heavier than others. I will try and bring all these factors into my reviews as well as attempting to summarize the general consensus among hardcore Priest fans about each individual release.
Judas Priest are possibly the most important act in metal history and they are certainly metal's most unwavering proponents. They helped invent heavy metal music, helped refine and perfect it, helped popularize it and have remained "defenders of the faith" during metal's darkest hours, while other "metal" acts ran for the hills. They are a legendary band whose role in popular music can not be overstated. If a metal band was not heavily influenced by Judas Priest directly, then they were heavily influenced by another band that was. Their reach is inescapable.
Judas Priest are led by Rob Halford, one of metal's most recognizable icons and possibly the greatest vocalist the genre has ever known. Halford's unearthly delivery and range are as responsible as anything else for Judas Priest's signature sound.
Judas Priest were not the first band to employ the services of two lead guitarists but they were certainly the first to fully implement them. Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing are both phenomenal lead soloists but it's their riffs and songwriting that have made Judas Priest one of the greatest guitar bands of all time. Both are criminally underrated in the guitar world but Downing is even underrated among Priest fans.
Bassist Ian Hill rounds out the band. A founding member along with Downing, Hill is responsible for keeping the rhythm section humming along through Priest's many drummer changes. Hill is not a flashy player but is certainly competent and on the rare occasions the band's songwriting allows him to shine, he never disappoints.
If this is the worst CD Judas Priest ever recorded with the first Halford/Tipton/Downing/Hill (and it may be) then that's quite a compliment because this is a stellar debut.
Clearly, Judas Priest were still experimenting with their sound and trying to find their direction with this release. That being said, you can already hear the genesis of a fantastic songwriting collaboration which would make magic for the next three decades and counting. Tipton and Downing were already experimenting with integrating two guitars and their accompanying parts into a song.
"Rocka Rolla" is probably their least heavy CD. It is also like many other Judas Priest CDs in that it has it's own fairly unique sound in their catalogue. Overall, you will often find yourself asking whether this is truly a metal CD at all. In my opinion, this is the only Judas Priest CD that is true of. Some of the best tracks off their second CD, "Sad Wings of Destiny" were reportedly left off this CD and that, combined with the mediocre production quality, makes you wonder how truly great this could have been.
Track listing -
"One For The Road" - This slower-paced blues rocker starts off the album on a poor note. It certainly isn't a bad song. It's just a little uninspired and it probably is the worst song offered here. It almost certainly was a poor choice to lead off the album.
"Rocka Rolla" - Right off the bat, track 2 on their debut album, this is probably one of Judas Priest's all-time great songs. This is a fine, early example of a Judas Priest trademark, where each guitar and the bass are all playing their own riff. The magical combination of the galloping rhythm section, the sinister guitar lines and Halford's vocals really crystallizes here. There is perfectly placed harmonica at the close of the bridge section at the end of the guitar solo. This is a fantastic song, perhaps only slightly hampered by lukewarm lyrics.
"Winter - Deep Freeze - Winter Retreat" - I consider these three songs to actually be one continuous song and I consider "Cheater" to be seperate altogether. If nothing else, these songs are connected thematically while not being bound by musical motif. "Winter" starts things off well, immediately suggesting the chill of Autumn's demise with a grinding guitar sound effect and echoing, ethereal vocals by Halford. Pretty good. Fairly heavy. This part comprises the bulk of the trilogy, both being longest in duration and carrying the most emotional impact. "Deep Freeze" is Downing (not Tipton as another reviewer suggested) playing some tremolo lines through distorted sound effects. Downing himself has said he doesn't like this but I do. It does what it's supposed to, suggesting a chill so cold that words can't describe. It effectively makes the transition from "Winter" to "Winter Retreat". Even if you don't like it, it doesn't last too long. Admittedly, a LOT of people seem to dislike it. "Winter Retreat" is a very light, short song. Halford's voice is literally beautiful here and the lyrics suggest the time for optimism has arrived. Which of course is why it makes no real sense (possible irony?) to connect this with...
"Cheater" - Great blues-metal riff opens this song about revenge against a woman who has done our narrator wrong (and the guy she did it with too...). Perhaps the dark lyrical tone of this song would suggest to the observant the heavy musical days to come. A fantastic song overall with more strangely perfect harmonica work by Halford and highlighted by a fantastic guitar solo. I can't be sure but I believe the solo is Downing. Glenn would go on to play too many of the solos later in the band's career and this solo would appear to be evidence of that. Tipton seems to be a technically superior player and certainly tends to play faster solos, highlighted by a lot of pentatonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and finger tapping. Downing often plays a more soulful solo and he tends to use way more tremolo than Tipton. Of course, they're at their best when they trade off and play off of one another, highlighting each other's strengths.
"Never Satisfied" - Pretty good song featuring more phenomenal vocals by Halford, especially the final wail. Unfortunately, it's a weak spot, both because of the fairly lame lyrics and because the main riff, already used too repetitively, sounds too similar to the bridge. Al Atkins removal from the band seems to have benefitted Judas Priest in two ways. Halford sings circles around him and his removal as a lyricist had to have helped that area as well.
"Run of the Mill" - Clocking in at 8:33, one of Judas Priest's longest songs. One of their least metal. Also, definitely one of the most interesting lyrically of their entire career. The song deals with a person who has failed to reach their potential and has become a failure. This is a great song with some very soulful guitar work. Superlatives escape me to describe Halford's devastatingly poignant vocals. Listen closely to hear a great bass line hiding under all that guitar.
"Dying To Meet You" - Schizophrenic song that starts off with a rare bass intro from Ian Hill and a slower pace overall. The song tells the story of a soldier preparing for battle and then entering combat. Halford's vocal range is put to the test here as he sings the first part of the song about as low and deep as you'll ever hear him. About midway through the songs picks up speed, the guitars take center stage and Halford's vocal delivery gets much higher pitched. Lyrically, this is the part of the song where the fighting starts. The tone of the song seems a little derisive of the soldier himself, perhaps topically reflecting many people's attitudes about the Vietnam conflict, which of course was winding down at the time. Personally, I disagree with this view but Judas Priest are almost entirely an apolitical band for better or for worse so I can forgive these very trivial differences of opinion.
"Caviar And Meths" - A two minute instrumental closes the CD out. I think it's fantastic. Wordlessly sad. It's a tragedy that this was originally an eight minute long song with lyrics. I'd love to hear the full version but it's probably lost forever.
I don't consider "Diamonds And Rust", Priest's cover of the Joan Baez masterpiece a song from this CD. I consider it a part of "Sin After Sin", their third CD and will talk about it there. I believe the two versions of the song to be the same version with each being produced differently.
Amazon users consider this 10th out of 12 of Judas Priest's 1974-1990 CDs. I consider it dead last. That being said, it's still a great album. It's just not a great introduction to the band as a whole and a lot of fans of the heavier side of Priest may not like this album. Curious listeners should get "Screaming For Vengeance". It's not Priest's best but it's their best selling and possibly their most generally accessible and most indicative of what Priest generally sound like."
More or less a Demo recording but with some great tunes
Joseph Jorgensen | Watertown, MA United States | 04/21/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The first Judas Priest album somewhat unfortunely only hints at what was almost certainly a great early 70's live Hard Rock Band. Its not hard to imagine these songs at a high volumn in a small Engalnd Club just ripping the place apart. However, for those less imageinative and dedicated then myself the recording may come across as muddy and definetely not as "priest Like" as what people who are familiar with their other albums would expect. The ironic part is that "Classic Rock" floks who wrote Priest off as another mindless Metal Screaming Band in the 80's may be surprised at how Blues Based the first album really is. Here is a song by song:One For The Road - Awesome Opeing track..."Where would we be without music" Heavy without being too metallic. This song is trully cool.Rocka Rolla - The title track which to me sounds written for clubs. For those who love to cry "sell-outs" you must remember that bands only get signed by having an audience. If your playing to casual pub goers and want to get work, you need songs that have a danceable/listenable riff. Therefore, the song was probably decent live, but sounds a little cheesy in parts on disk.Winter - Awesome Black Sabbathish early metal track. This tune isdefinely heavy and hints at a later direction the band would explore. Another song that must have ripped the rook off live.Deep Freeze - What the hell is this? Its not really a song as much it is noise, which I guess was KK's early attempt at a "Psychedellic" solo. Suppossed to bridge the song before and after it, but really sounds like nothing and should have been left of or re-recorded. I almost certainly believe the band would love to have this one back.Winter Retreat - The mellow conclusion to the 3 part epic has decent vocals and feel, but sounds more like an idea then a fcully developed song.Cheater - A great hard-rock riff and lyircs about finding your woman screwin some dude and shooting them both. Kind of like Priest meets Leonard Skynard. Not a bad song, but the band is not as good at "Southern Rock" as it is at hard-rock/MetalNever Satisfied - This song rips and may be one of the strongest ever written by the band. I would love to hear an updated version of this song. Heavy but not metallic. Great vocals/cool lyrics/awesome riff.Run of the Mill - This song is cool an unexpected. A very mellow guitar opening with some cool clean guitar blues sounding mellow soloing. The main riff slowly builds and sets in and the vocals are cool and mellow. A song about being an old and not changing to improve your life. then a cool heavy riff after the verse. Good tune.Dying to Meet you - Another song that starts mellow and is epic in its scope. A anti-war song, which every early 70's band had to explore. Its a good song though and to me helps build a direction the band would take later, but with a heavier approach. However, why does Rob sing like he has a stuffed up nose on the slow parts. Trying to hit lows instead of highs again. I bet that They would have re-recorded the vocals on a higher budgetCaviar and Meths - Hard to say what this was as apparently it was only a two minute instrumental version of a 10 minute song with lyrics. I guess it was put on to fill up space on the record. Another mistake the band probably got talked into by the producer.Diamonds and Rust - A weaker version of the cover the band put on the Sin After Sin release. Sounds ok, but its not recorded as well as the SAS version.Overall this album stands up surprinsly well considering it has a demo feel and is essentially a representaion of what was probably an awesome live show that got the Band attention and a record contract. It has some mistakes and the drums sound flat in parts, but as a 70's low budget - Blues/Metal Rock record it has enough good moments to sound enjoyable 27 year later. What else can you say!Pickledjoe"
Not as focused, but still a great listen
Senseofrage | Phoenix AZ | 03/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you went out and bought this album along with Sad Wings of Destiny and Sin After Sin, it would probably be your least favourite among the three. Certainly, its not as tight as the later works in the seventies. Yet it still stands in contrast to their slick, polished 80's metal sound that, while suberbly done, may be a little TOO polished sometimes. Rocka Rolla reminds me of the Scorpions first album, Lonesome Crow. Its a long convoluted journey through endless jams and improvisation that MUST be taken as a whole to be appreciated. Buy this album and forget for a moment that the name "Judas Priest" is across the front (with all the assumptions and pretentions that may bring to mind) and give a listen IN ITS ENTIRETY with an open mind. You will be pleasantly surprised."