At best, Atomic Rooster ranked among the also-rans of the
late ‘60s and early ‘70s, a trio whose main claims to fame – tenuous though
they may be – lay in the fact that (A) they were the backing band behind the
one-off hit “Fire,” credited to the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and that (B)
they provided drummer Carl Palmer with brief employment prior to going on to
more lucrative endeavors as part of Emerson Lake and Palmer. Originally aspiring to the progressive
posture of bands like the Nice and ELP, they opted instead to settle for more
bite and bombast, eventually finding their heavy metal niche alongside Black
Sabbath, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep.
Like those outfits, Atomic Rooster notched up the volume with
apocalyptic intents and a continuous wail that emphasized melodrama over
melody. Knowing a hit when they had one,
their music stoked the embers of “Fire,” with Vincent Crane’s overwrought organ
chords and John Du Cann’s frantic fretwork both probing further depths of
This two disc anthology offered by the well-meaning folks at
Angel Air won’t dissuade disbelievers that Atomic Rooster deserve any more than
a footnote in the annals of classic British Rock, despite having seven albums
and approximately a dozen years to cull from.
In fact, it might be argued that this collection is one disc and half a
decade too many. Ozzie Osborne’s goth rock pretensions notwithstanding, what
might have once sounded provocative now only seems pretentious, given that this
style hasn’t aged well or even been in vogue since that era when FM radio was
prone to playing entire album sides and glassy-eyed listeners ignited incense
to mask illicit activities.
Still, those with vague memories of the band’s earliest
epochs might find some nostalgia fueled by listening once again to dubious gems
like “Death Walks Behind You,” “Tomorrow Night” and “Devil’s Answer,” even as
reprised on disc two in newer incarnations.
So what if this is a non-essential sampling of innocuous
indulgence. Moreover, who would begrudge
Atomic Rooster an opportunity to crow one final time?
“Death Walks Behind You,” “Devil’s Answer,” “Tomorrow Night” LEE ZIMMERMAN