Piano crooner Billy Joel commenced his musical career in a proto-metal duo Atilla, going back to 1970, no guitar, all organ, who would’ve thought?
Written by: Dangerzone
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Bill Joel – vocals, bass, organ * John Small – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Wonder Woman * 02 California Flash * 03 Revenge Is Sweet * 04 Amplifier Fire: Part I Godzilla, Part II March Of The Huns * 05 Rollin’ Home * 06 Tear This Castle Down * 07 Holy Moses * 08 Brain Invasion
Before Billy Joel’s ascent into solo stardom came this infamous album known as Atilla, represented his first appearance on vinyl. This album has been described by some journalist snob types as one of the worst rock albums ever made, but honestly I wouldn’t go that far. It’s simply due to Joel’s involvement, which gives it the notoriety.
Attila was simply Joel and drummer John Small, both of whom had been part of a band called The Hassles, before leaving and forming their own outfit. Now just how they managed a deal with Epic is anyone’s guess, but the result was a raucous, heavy metal inspired affair without guitars, the emphasis on the organ work.
I recall having a copy of ‘Atilla’ in the 90’s and listening to it often, even then being aware of its dubious reputation. The album cover of Attila dressed in armor surrounded by slabs of hanging meat is the icing on the cake. I assume Attila were chasing the same crown as acts like Uriah Heep, Blue Cheer or Vanilla Fudge, with that distorted, heavy organ sound.
‘Wonder Woman’ is undeniably catchy and showcases a youthful Joel’s distinctive vocals. It’s a shame there was no guitar here, it would have given these songs more punch. ‘California Flash’ has a psychedelic tone, par for the course back then, but the organ riffs are brutal on occasion and pre-date Edgar Winter‘s overplayed ‘Frankenstein’.
There’s certainly a touch of prog to ‘Revenge Is Sweet’ and ‘Amplifier Fire: Godzilla/March Of The Huns’, the latter an attempt at an instrumental epic. ‘Rollin’ Home’ takes more of a boogie direction, the drums pounding away furiously. It tends to sound like they were making it up as they went along however, generally a mess. The Uriah Heep comparison is valid again for ‘Tear This Castle Down’ and its medieval war ravings. Joel pushes the organ to overload on ‘Brain Invasion’ showcasing his talents in a way nobody would ever hear again.
Atilla’s only album was a unanimous flop, not helped by Joel allegedly stealing Small’s girlfriend, causing the duo to implode. As far as curiosities go, it’s worth a listen. When you consider the staggering amount of horrendous rock acts on the scene back then, you can’t tell me Attila was one of the worst of them all.