Atomic Rooster

Atomic Rooster Atomic Rooster - Atomic Ro-o-oster (Sanctuary) 1970

1.   Friday 13th (3:35)
2.   And So To Bed (4:13)
3.   Winter (6:57)
4.   Decline And Fall (5:49)
5.   Banstead (3:29)
6.   S.L.Y. (4:46)
7.   Broken Wings (5:51)
8.   Before Tomorrow (5:54)
9.   Friday 13th [U.S. version] (3:31)
10. Before Tomorrow[U.S. version] (5:51)
11. S.L.Y. [U.S. version] (4:58)
12. Friday 13th [BBC Radio Session] (4:29)
13. Seven Lonely Streets [BBC Radio Session] (6:16)

Formed in 1969 from the ashes of the defunct Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Atomic Rooster was formed with Vincent Crane (organ/vocals), Nick Graham (vocals/bass), and Carl Palmer (drums). (C'mon you remember Crazy World of Arthur Brown. They had the big 60's hit, "Fire". I am the god of hellfire...)This line-up recorded the band's infamous debut in 1970, but lasted barely long enough to record it. Shortly after the albums release in the UK, Nick Graham, the original vocalist and bassist, left the band and new guitarist and vocalist John Du Cann joined. With a projected release in the US, the band returned to the studio and Du Cann overdubbed vocal and/or guitar parts on three of the album's tracks. Unfortunately the US release never came to be. The 2004 Castle/Sanctuary re-issue includes the U.S. versions and a couple of excellent numbers from a BBC Radio broadcast.

Though their songwriting and sound come mostly from Crane, the band were heavily influenced by the power trio format of Cream and Hendrix. Atomic Rooster were considered heavy for their time. However, heavy is a relative term and in comparison to what people think of as 'heavy' decades later, Atomic Rooster are quite tame. It's those droning, edgy Hammond organ sounds laid on top of a thumping rhythm section. The album opens with one of the band's harder number, "Friday 13th". However, the album is rather diverse, from the bluesy horn arrangement on the opening of "Broken Wings" to the folk-inspired "Winter" to the progressive "Decline and Fall", which includes a Carl Palmer drum solo. Parts of "Winter" sound very much like early Jethro Tull, due to the folksy nature of the songs and, of course, the flute. The song is also rather morose with the lyrics 'what is the point of going on' repeating.

The bonus track on this disc are almost as spectacular as the album tracks. The American version of "Friday 13th" and "Before Tomorrow" pair down the organs slightly  and pumps up the guitars. The mix is quite heavy, sounding much like early Deep Purple or Uriah Heep.  "S.L.Y." features a short guitar solo break in place of the bass solo that was on the original recording. The BBC mixes are even edgier with heavy guitars interplaying with Crane's organ. While I would be hard pressed to call this heavy metal, Atomic Rooster were certainly proto-metal.

Atomic Rooster Atomic Rooster - Death Walks Behind You (Sanctuary/Castle) 1970

1.   Death Walks Behind You (7:24)
2.   VUG [instrumental] (5:03)
3.   Tomorrow Night (4:02)
4.   7 Streets (6:47)
5.   Sleeping For Years (5:30)
6.   I Can't Take No More (3:36)
7.   Nobody Else (5:04)
8.   Gershatzer [instrumental] (8:01)
9.   Play the Game [b-side] (4:45)
10 The Devil's Answer [1970 demo]  (4:02)
11 Tomorrow Night [BBC Radio Session] (5:31)
13 Death Walks Behind You [BBC Radio Session] (6:10)
14 The Devil's Answer [Alt. Version] (3:29)

Atomic Rooster's sophomore relase saw band leader Vincent Crane loosing every other member of his group, including the talented Carl Palmer who departed to form Emerson Lake and Palmer. Vincent Crane had previous recorded Jon Cann and also added drummer Ric Parnell. Parnell would not last long and was  quickly replaced by Paul Hammond prior to recording. This new line-up created something new and fresh. Whereas the debut was heavy on the organs and sounded like a product of the 1960's, "Death Walks Behind You" is more guitar-oriented, heavier, darker and more progressive than Atomic Rooster's debut album. It is both dark and beautiful at the same time and is at it's core is the beginnings of heavy metal. That's not to say that the Hammond isn't still prominent, but compared to the debut, there is balance between the guitars and organs, like early Uriah Heep and Deep Purple.

The album opens with the title track which has a very dark opening. The pianos and the chromatic verses are straight out of a horror movie. This leads way into the fantastic title track which is a blues-based number with some prog moments. "Tomorrow Night" was the single for the album and performed well on the UK charts. At four minutes, the single is the shortest song on the album and is also quite catchy. The album features two instrumental, the eight minute long "Gershatser" and the  shorter "VUG". Only in the excess of the 70's would a band record an instrumental this long. Being a fan of this style 1970's 'jam session' style music, I found these two songs to be extremely enjoyable. "Sleeping for Years" starts in similar style to Purple's "Speed King" with a mish-mash of guitar noises. Fans of early Uriah Heep and Deep Purple will find much to like about "Death Walks Behind You". Though these bands are not 100% clones of one another, there are some similarities in sound; vintage Hammond organs mixed with distorted guitar tones and a big influence of the blues. Atomic Rooster are a bit more earthy and perhaps slightly more experimental.

The remastered, expanded edition of the CD comes with five bonus cuts, including three songs recorded live on the BBC. There is also a 16-page booklet with tons of photos and plenty of reading material.

Related collections:
Emerson, Lake & Palmer

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