Saturday, May 17, 2014

Atomic Rooster - Assortment (1973)

(U.K 1969-75, 1980-83)
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Atomic Rooster was an English progressive rock band, originally composed of former members of the The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Throughout their history, keyboardist Vincent Crane was the only constant member, and wrote the majority of their material. Their history is defined by two periods: the early mid-1970s and the early 1980s. The band went through radical style changes, however they are best-known for the hard, progressive rock sound of their hit singles, "Tomorrow Night" (UK No. 11) and "The Devil's Answer" (UK No. 4), both in 1971.
'Assortment' by Atomic Rooster is that rare item, a well-planned compilation album, and is Atomic Rooster's first collection. Atomic Rooster were formed in mid-1969 by keyboard-player Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer, both from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, famous for the hit single, Fire, and Nick Graham on bass. Although named after the charismatic frontman, Crane was the main songwriter and musician with The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, so his own band was a natural development. Atomic Rooster were one of the first heavy, keyboard-led, progressive rock bands, along with The Nice and King Crimson, so it is no coincidence that Carl Palmer would depart soon after to join Keith Emerson and Greg Lake from those bands to form ELP.
Early Atomic Rooster featuring Carl Palmer

Charisma wisely used the two hit singles to open each side of the vinyl or cassette, therefore "Devil's Answer" begins the album. The track started life as a non-album single, with John Du Cann on lead vocals and guitar, but was later added to the third album, 'In Hearing Of' (1971), as a bonus track. Atomic Rooster usually gave their songs an imaginative intro and "Devil's Answer" has a gradual build-up of their distinctive dual organ and guitar. As befits an intended single, "Devil's Answer" is catchy, with Vincent Crane's characteristically heavy keyboards and Du Cann's spiky guitar, but with added brass for extra punch. "Sleeping for Years" has a spooky lingering guitar intro, before another catchy insistent riff and organ work. Du Cann's guitar swirls in-and-out, as does his voice, along with his memorable, 'Oh-ho's.' Du Crann's subject matter is typically unsettling for the band, when he tells us, 'Wasted Away, sleeping off the years/ Been around, stuck around far too long.' 'Sleeping for Years' is from Rooster's second and best album, 'Death Walks Behind You' (1970), with the classic lineup of Du Cann, Crane and Paul Hammond on drums from Princes Risborough's local heroes, Farm.

Having built our expectations of another gradual build-up, "Friday the 13th" bursts straight in, with the whole band on fire, but it was not always this way. 'Atomic Rooster' (1970), the first album, was recorded with the original lineup of Nick Graham on lead vocals and bass guitar, Vincent Crane on keyboards and Carl Palmer on drums. On completion, Nick Graham (a talented multi-instrumentalist) departed for the similar-sounding Skin Alley and John Du Cann was recruited from Andromeda as lead singer and guitarist. Crane, like Ray Manzarek of The Doors, took over the bass lines, by playing them on the Hammond, with a combination of his left hand and pedals. They were then overdubbed. "Friday the 13th" was also overdubbed with DuCann's voice and guitar, for the US release, adding energy and improving it markedly (despite Nick Graham being a fine musician). This is the version on Assortment. Crane has cleverly blended a jaunty melody with a lyric about despair, sung by Du Cann with a call and response, 'No One Will Save You, they won't try/ Someone please, please help me/ Everyone's lonely when they die.' Despite the title, the hook of  "Save me" is infectious and the solos are excellent as always.

Another track on the first album to be overdubbed, this time only with guitar, is the next track on Assortment, "S.L.Y." (the third and final over-dub, again with just guitar, was on the "Before Tomorrow" track, which is not included on this compilation). S.L.Y. is also another song with a repeated phrase, 'I want you', that does not match the title. Nick Graham sounds remarkably like Atomic Rooster's fourth singer, Chris Farlowe, which may explain why the latter fitted so well. Farlowe's soulful voice is not included on Assortment, but I strongly recommend his album with Atomic Rooster, 'Nice 'n' Greasy', because they maintain the quality and he gives some of his best performances. "S.L.Y." is typical of the standout tracks on the first album, as it points to Atomic Rooster's future work. It ends on a guitar that sounds like an atomic rooster . . .

"S.L.Y." is followed on the compilation by "Death Walks Behind You", which has an intro that sounds like an Atomic Rooster! More great work from those people at Charisma! "Death Walks Behind You" is the fondly remembered title track from Atomic Rooster's most critically and commercially successful album. It is a relatively long piece that builds slowly to the main riff, with bursts of wah-wah, followed by alternating piano and bass notes. The lyrics reach the pinnacle of Crane And Du Cann's darkness, 'Start to scream, shout for help/ There is no one by your side/ To forget what is done/ Seems so hard to carry on.' "Death Behinds You" fades on an eery chiming guitar and the ubiquitous, 'Oh-ho's.'

Chronologically, Atomic Rooster's first hit single, "Tomorrow Night", opens the second side of the vinyl and cassette. John Du Cann's voice follows the repetitive guitar, accompanied by Carl Palmer's successor Paul Hammond on chopping cowbell and percussion. Like "Devil's Answer", it is catchy and maintains the menace and flawless solos. It ends on vocal effects and that atomic rooster again! Breaking the Ice, from 'In Hearing Of', has Du Cann concentrating on guitar, to be replaced by Pete French, from Leaf Hound, on lead vocals. With the addition of French, another excellent singer, the feel is bluesier and less bleak. However, Assortment's balance is redressed by "I Can't Take No More", a driving track from 'Death Walks Behind You'. Pete French's voice is at its most distinctive raspiness on "The Price", with more call and response and an economical Keith Emerson-style solo from Crane.

An untouched "Decline and Fall", from the debut album, is primarily a vehicle for the 19-year-od Carl Palmer's drum skills. It is mostly instrumental, with rolling tom toms and a famous solo, which later reappeared on ELP's Tank. As previously stated, Palmer departed Atomic Rooster soon after the first album for an even greater showcase with ELP. Nick Graham's vocal passage at the end of "Decline and Fall" is better than it is often given credit and, with the benefit of hindsight, should have been afforded more space.


After the recording of 'In Hearing Of', in 1971, John Du Cann and Paul Hammond left the band to form Bullet and Hard Stuff with bassist Johnny Gustafson from Quatermass. Vincent Crane recruited Chris Farlowe to continue with a more soulful and funky, but equally high quality, version of Atomic Rooster. In 1980, Crane and Du Cann reconvened with drummer Preston Heyman to record 'Atomic Rooster' (1980) for EMI, a punk rock-inspired album, which was full of creative promise. Hammond, despite suffering serious leg injuries in a car accident in Belgium, even rejoined for the tour and the classic lineup was re-established. However, after a lifetime of mental illness, Crane became ill and Atomic Rooster disbanded. Hammond died from an accidental drug overdose in 1992, sadly putting an end to dreams of new material. Those who knew him in the early days said he was a talented musician and a decent person, unspoiled by the commercial success he enjoyed with Atomic Rooster. Crane intended to try again with Du Cann in 1997, but tragically committed suicide, with an overdose of painkillers, in February 1989. A musical genius and one of progressive rock's true innovators was gone. Du Cann's solo work was often surprisingly upbeat, but he died following a heart attack in September 2011.


Assortment stands as a monumental achievement by one of the first and best progressive rock bands. Without synthesizers, computers, sequencers and samplers, they created a body of heavy, but melodic and imaginative work their successors can only dream of emulating. All credit to Charisma, then, for taking the time to compile a collection which not only reflects Atomic Rooster's best work, but is also an example of their finest output. It is not often one can say this about a compilation. [review by BigEars at www.musicbanter.com]
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Is this my long lost cover?
This post consists of MP3 rip (320kps) taken from my prized vinyl copy. Alas, the album's cover was misplaced and never found many years ago (one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of my life) so I have sourced the artwork from the internet for this post.  As mentioned in BigEar's review, this album is a wonderful collection of Atomic Rooster's best work from 1969 to 1973 and a must for any serious record collector. I of course have acquired all of their albums on CD over the years but listening to their hits on vinyl just doesn't get better, so I have avoided using CD rips in this post on purpose.  Expect the occasional crackle & pop.
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Track Listing
01 Devil's Answer (3:29)
02 Sleeping For Years (5:26)
03 Friday The 13th (3:29)
04 I Can't Take No More (3:35)
05 Death Walks Behind You (7:31)
06 Tomorrow Night (3:19)
07 Break The Ice (4:25)
08 S.L.Y (3:40)
09 The Price (5:39)
10 Decline And Fall (5:42)

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Band Members:
Vincent Crane: Hammond organ, piano, backing vocals
John Du Cann: Lead vocals, guitars
Nick Graham: Bass guitar, vocals
Carl Palmer: Drums, percussion
Paul Hammond: Drums, percussion
Pete French: Lead vocals
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Atomic Rooster Link (125Mb)  New Link 30/05/2014
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12 comments:

  1. I usually come back here once a week and just wanted to say 'thank you' for this share and the other shares! It is interesting to follow your blog as it gives me a fine opportunity to check out vintage rock from the other side of the world (I am located in Oslo, Norway).Thank you!

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  2. Hi Steiner
    Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to introduce yourself. I hope you enjoy the offerings that are on the table here - of course most are homemade or connected with the land of Oz. Feel free to make any requests that you might have. All the best

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  3. Contains no data. Edit this Share to add data!

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  4. Hi, When I go to the Rapidshare site it says No data available. Is there a problem with the link or do I need to register with rapidshare? thanks for all your work. Peter

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  5. Please try again - new link added

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  6. That's fine now!
    Thank you AussieRock!

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  7. Thank you for fixing it, I thought it was because I fired up my old fossil fuel coal powered chicken windows 98 computer with FBI enigma code cracking stuff on it, another dream shattered.
    Thanks old AussieCrock ;)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Peter - you made me laugh !

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  8. Should have provided feedback before this. RoV is a great site I visit regularly for old favourites.

    New link opens to RapidShare but there are no files to download. Do we need to sign in ?

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  9. That's it - I've had enough of Rapidshare. Every damn link I create seems to go AWOL.
    New link posted using alternative host.

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  10. THANKYOU, great selection on this comp

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