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Atomic Rooster - Atomic Roooster CD (album) cover

ATOMIC ROOOSTER

Atomic Rooster

 

Heavy Prog

3.59 | 140 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Breaking up after only one album was the best thing to happen to this Proto-Prog outfit. Honestly, would anyone outside of a small cult of loyal fans even remember the band today if their young virtuoso drummer hadn't left in 1970 to join a certain Keith Emerson and Greg Lake? Let's face it: the success of ELP probably benefited this album in retrospect more than the music it actually contained.

All right, so that might not be entirely fair. It's true that the album today has all the indelible earmarks of a late '60s period piece. But a lot of it holds together surprisingly well, especially the lyrics, which reveal more cynicism than was fashionable at the tail end of the Flower Power era. "No one in the world will want you / need you / love you / miss you" repeats the acerbic chorus of "Friday the 13th". (It was on a Friday the 13th, in 1969, that Vincent Crane and Carl Palmer abandoned THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN to form their own band: hence the bitterness of the lyrics?)

And then there's the distinctly unromantic accusation in "And So to Bed": "You don't want me / you don't need me / all you want is sex with fame." How about another example: "What is the point of going on?" asks a world-weary Nick Graham in "Winter", an atypically beautiful ballad enriched by a homeopathic dose of horns and strings, with some attractive quasi-TULL flute thrown in as well.

Elsewhere the album revolves around Vincent Crane's hard-rocking Hammond organ and the soulful shriek of Nick Graham's vocals, although the obvious star of the trio was the astonishing 19-year old percussionist Carl Palmer. The kid was even allowed an energetic drum solo (always a risky proposition in a studio recording, divorced from the synergy of a live concert environment) during the song "Decline and Fall", which easily outclasses his similar turn a few short months later on ELP's debut album.

It's hard to believe music this quaint (at least when heard today) was once considered really "heavy". And while the trio certainly put a lot of sweat and muscle into their performances it must have been clear to Palmer even before his untimely defection that the limited musical range of the group probably wouldn't challenge him too much. Compare, for example, the sometimes overwrought jamming on the climactic track "Before Tomorrow" to what Emerson and Lake were at the same time accomplishing with THE NICE and KING CRIMSON.

Crane would later regroup (more than once) and continue making (reportedly) better albums, but the band's volatile line-up never allowed it a chance to gain any commercial momentum, and today their debut remains little more than a fascinating museum artifact for students of early Prog in general, and ELP completists in particular.

(Consumer's postscript: the 2004 Castle Records re-issue includes over 25 minutes of bonus material, mostly alternate takes of various album songs. The US versions, three of which are included here, kick the butts of their British counterparts.)

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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