Judas Priest - Rocka Rolla
Some Judas Priest fans disregard this album. Clearly the sound is much different than anything else in the catalog. An overly simplified way of looking at it might be that Black Sabbath was channeling blues rock and Cream on their debut and Judas Priest was channeling that first Sabbath album here. The truth is, both bands started out in the same part of the world at the same time, so they had a lot of the same influences. Overall, there is a lot of good music here, and a few great moments. It’s got some of that classic Priest sound, it’s just that sometimes you have to search for it.
Perhaps the biggest issue here is the production. Overall the whole production feels a bit lifeless and Rob Halford’s vocals are often too far down in the mix. Beyond that (and the previously mentioned quite different sound) this release is quite solid. From the bluesy sounds of the opening “One for the Road” to the rather progressive rock-like instrumental “Caviar and Meths” that closes the set, it’s a somewhat uneven, but always interesting and entertaining ride. It would have been a stronger release with better production allowing the songs to more properly shine, but overall, this is certainly worthy of inclusion in the Priest catalog.
Perhaps the most blatant sound differences here in comparison to the classic era of Priest include some harmonica playing in places. Blues rock bands of the time were doing that a lot and Judas Priest were part of the movement. On the other hand, things like “Dying to Meet You” are as close to classic Priest as the album gets, and they will seem quite familiar to long time fans of the band. This album is an important release in the history and evolution of Judas Priest and also solid hard rock (if perhaps not the metal with which Priest would later be associated).
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