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Atomic Rooster - Atomic Roooster CD (album) cover


Atomic Rooster


Heavy Prog

3.60 | 230 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Going with the Fowl...

A cohesive and competent collection of 1970s style rock - almost definitive, you might say. The only sticking issue really is the tuning or lack thereof, particularly of the bass, which is nearly a quarter of a tone flat throughout, and makes this a somewhat uncomfortable listen for anyone with either perfect pitch, or at least, a reasonable sense of pitch.

Friday the 13th kicks the album off with an energetic start, a driving riff, topped compellingly with Hammond drives this piece through a couple of dramatic stops and starts to a satisfying ending - but it's a bit wallpapery really, not a memorable song - and that's really what makes this a second division album.

The performances show energy and dramatic attention to detail - each player performing his part of the song producing a foot-tapping whole. This is particularly showcased in And So To Bed, where some of the Jimmy Smith-alike Hammond is quite grin-inducing without being utterly cheesey.

Nick Graham puts in a suitably hard-edged vocal performance, Crane providing atmospheric backing vox, and Carl Palmer's drumming has a thunderous roar that keeps the piece only just under control as he puts in the unconventional beats.

The brass intro to Broken Wings carries a melancholy that Graham finds the perfect blues counterpart to, and here we get the feeling of a progressive piece for the first time, verging into early Camel territory - although, sadly, without Latimer. Fortunately, Crane's Smith-inspired Hammond is well up to the task of providing instrumental interest, as is swoops, snarls and glides, feeling the mood of the piece with perfection in this piece of progressive blues. For the first time, the music comes out of the background to take centre stage - albeit a little tentatively under the spotlight.

We are treated to more of Palmer's aggressive battery of the kit in the elaborate intro to Before Tomorrow - and indeed, throughout the rest of the song, where he really manages to shine under Crane's Hammond attack. Sadly, the guitarist is not credited, so we don't know who's to blame - but my guess is that it's Nigel Tufnell. The amphetamine-ridden blufferama that squeaks and spews all over the magnificent drumming and keyboard work is truly awful at the best of times, and laughable at worst, turning what could have been a very interesting piece indeed into a comedy number.

Next up is a plodding number called Banstead, with an impassioned performance which is rather wasted on such a banal and forgettable song. The instrumental break, as one might expect, does manage to make up for it, Palmer making it, Crane decorating it with simple blobs of sound. Trouble is, I was really hoping for something a bit more Emerson like. This is Crane's fault, as he hints at The Nice (I'm reminded of their outrageous interpretation of America by the rhythmic motifs).

The guitar appears to be back for S.L.Y., in which Graham manages a passable imitation of Chris Farlowe (the latter who was to join the Roosters in person later in their carreer). Again, the song itself is nothing remarkable, but the Northern Soul/Hard Rock fusion retains its compelling vibe. When the guitarist shuts up and plays rhythm, the additional texture is very welcome - and the instrumental break down from 2:13-2:53 is a dark and intense trip similar to some of the more spacey early Floyd. Sadly, the song returns, and the guitar with it, to make a real hash of the ending.

A flute appears to introduce the next piece, which deviates from the 70s hard rock vibe for the first time, bringing a pastoral mood to the proceedings, and a real progressive feel. The overall texture is changed completely, with Crane on piano duties, and Palmer creating percussive ambience of great sensitivity. This rather masterful piece is crowned by somewhat defeatist lyrics, and proceeds through the instrumental break to show Jethro Tull influences - but overall, producing an original magic of its own. As the piece progresses, different instruments are introduced, giving a continual ebb and flow to the sonic textures, painting a wide canvas from an almost dazzling array of aural colours.

This is the piece to own this album for, with its gripping feeling of spontaneity, and a band at work, each member playing their own unique part in the overall ensemble to create music that's greater than the sum of the parts. It's no co-incidence that this is also the longest piece on the album - it needs to be at least 7 minutes in order to express the ideas fully.

Put this one on repeat before forming an opinion ;o)

Decline and Fall returns us to the 1970s hard rock sound, with nudges and winks to The Nice and Saucerful-era Floyd, but with Palmer's continuing and somewhat overbearing onslaught making me yearn for the end a bit.

Play The Game doesn't really add anything to the album - it's just another song in a similar vein. Collectors and fans might lap it up, but for the authentic album experience, you're better off listening to this piece another time. There's more of that guitarist on here - another reason to stay well away.

In short, an enjoyable 1970s hard rock album, with flavours of other genres, moments of progressive interest, and one essential Prog Rock number in Winter. This album is worth buying for that track alone, in my humble opinion.

I give it 3 stars because generally, the material is not strong enough to sit in a proper Prog Rock collection - but if you're big on this style of rock, then go on, give it a 4.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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