Atomic Rooster - Devil's Answer (1995)

The liner notes for this collection of Atomic Rooster tracks namecheck Vivian Stanshell (Bonzo Dog Band) and Bob Calvert (Hawkwind), although not for musical similarity but rather because Vincent Crane, the driving force behind the band also spent time in and out of sanitoria for a variety of mental health issues. Musically, Atomic Rooster has little in common with either the Bonzos or Hawkwind, but, as these tracks show, it has a lot to recommend it.

Crane and another founding Rooster, Carl Palmer (later of Emerson, Lake and Palmer) were both in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, where Crane's work can be heard on the hit "Fire", before forming Atomic Rooster. Crane was an organ maestro and did much of the songwriting, as well as handling vocal chores. With a drummer and a guitar player (and sometimes a vocalist) to round out the lineup, they produced some dense, jazzy but very heavy music. The sound bears similarities to other organ driven heavy bands of the time, notably Uriah Heep.

The tracks on this collection were recorded between 1970 and 1981 for various BBC radio programs, so they differ from the album tracks, but are not "live" tracks in the conventional sense. And some of them are very good indeed. The hit single, "Devil's Answer" is still a powerful rocker, and the dark lyrical sensibility of "Save Me" and "Seven Lonely Streets" are haunting, packing a visceral blast of nihilism into a heavy bass groove (played by Crane's left hand) and soaring interweaving guitar and organ solos.

Fans of the seventies organ jam sound will certainly enjoy this CD, as will fans of early heavy rock - Atomic Rooster would not look out of place sitting on a shelf next to Blue Cheer, Budgie or perhaps even Vanilla Fudge.

Overall Grade: B

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