'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.'
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]
|Is this my long lost cover?|
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)
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
Atomic Rooster Link (125Mb) New Link 30/05/2014