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"Lock the door, switch the light, you'll be so afraid tonight"

Class D

Main Category: Prog Rock
Also applicable: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Jazz Rock
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years




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I know it's hard to believe, but once upon a time the band that goes by the clumsy-but-cool name of Atomic Rooster were really BIG. Well, not as BIG as the BIGGIES of the time (the time: early Seventies), but definitely bigger than they are today, MUCH bigger considering that today they're hardly known to anybody at all. Nowadays, when we say something like "Carl Palmer joined ELP after leaving Atomic Rooster", it might not mean anything; back then, it was a typical indication of the fact that ELP were going to be a real supergroup. However, they were really only big in the UK, and even then, only for about a year and a half. Verdict: this brief stint of popularity was well-deserved, the disappearance from the musical horizons was well-deserved as well, yet this does not warrant our forgetting the band at all. Death Walks Behind You sure belongs in the collection of any self-respecting hard-rock/art-rock fan.

Anyway, Atomic Rooster were formed around 1969 from the ashes of the Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, when Brown's trusty organ player Vincent Crane and definitely non-trusty newcoming drummer Carl Palmer decided to continue working together and formed the band. The original aim, I guess, was to preserve some of Arthur Brown's spirit; for instance, the newly-formed band did not have a permanent guitar player, just like Crazy World - except that while Arthu Brown was really able to carry on without guitars, Atomic Rooster found it necessary to incorporate guitar parts after all and had to invite John Du Cann to fill in the missing links. John became a permanent member at about the same time Palmer left the band for ELP, and essentially it is the Du Cann/Crane pairing that defined the classic Atomic Rooster sound.

What was that sound? Take a potload of jazzy organ riffs and smooth fluent soloing. Throw in a whole heavy slab of energetic guitar riffage and technically perfect speedy/loud/angry solos. Mix with a bunch of dark paranoid imagery in the lyrics, somewhat Black Sabbath-ish in nature but also somewhat more poetic and more intelligent. Add exaggerated, not always adequate vocal deliveries, and there you go. Atomic Rooster are, in fact, an incredibly influential band: they single-handedly (I don't count lame pedestrians such as Uriah Heep, of course) invented the "hard-art" subgenre, merging Crane's obvious jazzy influences with Du Cann's obvious metallic style of playing. Granted, we're not talking Black Sabbath heaviness here, but nobody really was talking Black Sabbath heaviness in the early Seventies. The Sabs were left to themselves. In the meantime, I dare say that Atomic Rooster opened the route for many a successful "power metal" band in the future, as well as to more immediate predecessors, like Rush, for instance.

Unfortunately, Atomic Rooster's initial load was sufficient for but two albums, the first one of which moreover suffers from a bit too much of that overblown 70s corniness. The second one, though, should be considered a true classic of the genre. After that, Crane and Du Cann's songwriting kinda lost steam - for some reason, in 1971 they abruptly switched accents and almost entirely abandoned the heaviness. And you know how awful it is when a formerly heavy band becomes a not so heavy band? And I'm not talking Metallica here? In short, with the change of image Atomic Rooster also changed their status as an innovative band, and from 1971 on their next three years just weren't so hot. Addition of a freshly Colosseum-free Chris Farlowe just didn't relieve the tension too much, instead, the band pushed deeper into the technically demanding, but creatively not too rewarding direction of jazz-fusion and funk - funk especially. Du Cann quit over the change of direction, and the band came to an untimely end just five years after its creation.

Since then, Crane occasionally got the band together for "revival" albums and - I suppose - even touring, but that's all more like one big fat footnote to the band's general career. In any case, the overall rating of two seems well-deserved here anyway, despite all the flaws, inconsistencies and brevities; for one thing, nothing less than a two can satisfy the glory of the band's peak, and plus, they really were an integral part of the hard/art-movement of the times. MUCH more than just an obscure polygon for Carl Palmer. Check 'em out!

Line-up: Vincent Crane - vocals, organ; Nick Graham - bass, vocals; Carl Palmer - drums. Graham and Palmer quit by the end of 1970; Palmer replaced by Paul Hammond, John Du Cann added on guitar (bass duties handled by Crane on the keyboards). Peter French added on vocals, 1971; quit in 1972, by that time the band totally collapsed, and an entirely new Atomic Rooster formed by Crane, with addition of Ric Parnell on drums, Steve Bolton on guitar, and Chris Farlowe on vocals. Bolton quit, 1973, replaced by Johnny Mandala. What a heck of a mess, eh?



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

Weird quasi-prog mix of hard rock, soul, psychedelia and... and... and Carl Palmer.


Track listing: 1) Friday The Thirteenth; 2) And So To Bed; 3) Broken Wings; 4) Before Tomorrow; 5) Banstead; 6) S. L. Y.; 7) Winter; 8) Decline And Fall; [BONUS TRACK:] 9) Play The Game.

This is a pretty cheesy album, and in my terms, not particularly "adequate". It must certainly have been a serious influence on Uriah Heep when the band were establishing their style - hard rock that places an emphasis not on masterful crunchy riffs and "shocking" attitude, but rather on its artsiness and pretentiousness. Fortunately, Atomic Rooster at this stage, arguably the more interesting stage of their career before the coming of Chris Farlowe steered them into the boring second-rate funk routine, had a lot speaking for them. Unlike Uriah Heep, the playing was far more astute and versatile, for one; the rhythm section of Nick Graham on bass and (drumroll, drumroll, drumroll!) Carl Palmer on percussion just cooks it up, swinging their smooth jazzy/bluesy/rocky chops as good as, say, the contemporary version of King Crimson. In the meantime, Vincent Crane, the organist, is nowhere near as flashy as Emerson or Jon Lord, but he manages at least not to make his keyboard playing boring, and his vocals are pretty funny too.

The best thing, I guess, is that Atomic Rooster never takes itself that seriously. Whether they're singing on Satanic thematics or on other universalist matters, the melodies, vocals and general atmosphere are all taken with a potload of salt... and some fish 'n' chips, too. Uriah Heep replaced them with dried meat and took all those topics so seriously you'd think the world's four-thousand year old civilization had never elaborated behind the 'life is a battle between good and evil' point. Oh, and did I mention there's no regular guitar player on the album? Apparently, John Du Canne's guitar parts were overdubbed as some kind of 'guestwork' after all the basic organ/bass/drum/vocal parts had been recorded; pretty funny considering there actually is quite a bit of guitar on here. Nice hard-rockin' lines that aren't particularly innovative but still add a lot of punch to the songs.

The songs themselves, by the way, are more or less divided between three types: a) funky-jazzy instrumentals with a lot of prominent organ and an occasional drum solo (you wouldn't want to miss on that); b) driving riff-based 'humorous' hard-rockers; c) gospely vocal-based screechy ballads. For those who managed to miss on that year's Black Sabbath and Deep Purple albums, the album won't be particularly innovative, but, like I already said, it does offer a somewhat unique blend of hard and art influences that was only spoiled later on by other bands. I guess.

The best tune could be defined as the album's opener and the most natural choice for a single, the aptly 'n' defiantly titled 'Friday The Thirteenth', which is... normal. I mean, you shouldn't associate it with Sabbath's grotesque evilries, because this one's softer and nowhere near as cartoonish; on the bad side, it's also a lot less impressive and memorable. Just a good riff, nice organ/guitar interplay, energetic vocals that know what they're doing even if they're singing about Satan, and... that's about it. And the same goes for the rest of the album.

But there's 'something for the girl with everything' as the Sparks would say, every track has a delightful little moment/hook or two to redeem it. 'And So To Bed' features the hilarious refrain 'You don't want me, you don't need me, all you want is sex with fame!' 'S. L. Y.' is so dang intentionally corny, it's like a Grand Funk Railroad intentionally parodying themselves. From a personal impression side, I'd say the song could be taken as a sneezy parody on the typical American hard rock style of the time: loud 'n' grumbly, yet totally inoffensive, guitar riffs, cock-rock lyrics sung in a rock equivalent of a wannabe Pavarotti tone, and an atmosphere that screams 'stupid' from every corner so loudly that only a really stupid person would take the song for a true stupidity showcase. Then again, maybe I'm wrong and Atomic Rooster really did suck the obligatory cocks. It's so hard to tell with an early Seventies band.

Anyway, don't forget the slower numbers - 'Broken Wings' is a really convicing 'power ballad' with a nice use of a brass section instead of a generic guitar workout, and the contrast between the 'soft' and 'screamy' vocal lines on 'Banstead' is also interesting, although I swear heaps of people would write the song off for presenting a thoroughly cheesy 'faux-soul' delivery. They'd all be wrong, of course, because you couldn't really think of a "genuine-soul" correspondence to the actual number. The only song, actually, that leaves me totally cold, is 'Winter', the gentlest of the selections, with soothing flute, piano, chimes, and falsetto cooing wrapping it up like a little baby. But no hooks. Nope.

Finally, the instrumentals just kinda sit there. 'Before Tomorrow' has John Du Cann inserting quite a few mad up-to-date solos, so it's nice for headbanging, and 'Decline And Fall' is your treasured addition to the collection of Carl Palmer's drum solos, but that's not the kind of instrumentals I'd include on my "Top 10 Rock Tracks Unspoiled By Dinky Vocalists" anyway. Plus, the CD re-issue adds up a Palmer-less bonus track, Du Cann's 'Play The Game', featuring a Space Quest III style riff and a ferocious guitar jam towards the end. More cool than not.

Of course, the coolest thing about the album gotsta be its cover, right? Whoever thought that in order to paint a couple of tits on the album you'd have to be that inventive, even sacrificing your band name and all? Blind Faith were definitely less twisted about it.



Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12

The Great Lost Heavy Metal Album Of All Time? Well, it comes close to deserving that title.


Track listing: 1) Death Walks Behind You; 2) Vug; 3) Tomorrow Night; 4) 7 Streets; 5) Sleeping For Years; 6) I Can't Take No More; 7) Nobody Else; 8) Gershatzer; [BONUS TRACK:] 9) Devil's Answer.

Well, it's not as heavy as Black Sabbath, I'll give you that. But it IS pretty heavy and pretty gloomy. It's also the best Atomic Rooster album, most consistent and most idiosyncratic before Chris Farlowe came and turned the band into a heavy, but generic funky outfit. Here, though, the band is again a trio, with John Du Cann excepted as a full-time member and finally rising to Crane's challenge in all his might. In fact, this just might be the most obvious example of a heavy rock album which is based on a direct and full-force competition between the organist and the guitarist - Deep Purple immediately spring to mind, but even that band wasn't so obstinate about overshadowing each other all the time. Here, it's just one mind-blowing guitar riff after another desperately trying to push out the organ, and one warp-speed organ solo after another desperately trying to overcome the guitar. All that in an atmosphere of peace and contention, tho', and without any possible traces of too much show-off-ness.

So anyway, you can think of Death Walks Behind You as a sort of 'Black Sabbath for the intellectuals': subtler (the heaviness is not so acutely perceived because ultimately Du Cann's guitar tone is lighter than Iommi's), with less cliched lyrics, less straightforward instrumentation, a far more professional rhythm section (well, rhythm player, because there's no bassist this time, and all the bass parts are played by Crane on his organ, who thus follows the Ray Manzarek pattern), and less emphasis on overtly 'evil' vocal intonations.

And the songs? They rule. Riff-based, solid, fat heavy monsters that are unfortunately a bit saddled down with monotonousness. Which is probably why it's a low 12 for me as opposed to something like Deep Purple's In Rock. The only 'half-ballad' of the album, 'Nobody Else', is nice-sounding, but not too memorable, because Crane isn't particularly good at vocal hooks and when I want a crooner sitting at a piano, I'd better take Elton John. Everything else is the same heavy sludgy R-O-C-K; fortunately, at least Du Cann varies his guitar intonations from time to time and some of the songs are taken at different tempos.

The one acknowledged classic here is the title track. You like slow atmospheric 'art-metal' played at maximum loudness and slowly beating you into the ground with every following tact? The song's for you, and if the opening chorus riff doesn't do the trick, you may be sure that the gradual alternation of that riff with the speedy descending guitar lines of the verses will. The song doesn't even seem overlong to me at its eight minutes: it's one of the earliest and best British examples of Goth rock, doom-metal, whatever, done in an extremely artistically satisfactory way or whatever you'd like me to say. It might be just a tad slow for some, though. You speed it up a bit, then.

Likewise, a song like 'Tomorrow Night' is also essentially saved by Du Cann's riffage, and it's also maddeningly slow. I swear, a bit more speed and the thing's an MC5 classic worth of Back In The USA! Sometimes I actually think that the old rough equation of slow = metal, fast = punk actually works. Maybe the best part about the song, though, is its fadeout, when Du Cann plays a series of weird echoey 'scraping' licks, some of which he probably learned from Ritchie Blackmore, but others remind me of trhe sounds that would later be copped by Brian May, then Dave Gilmour, then the Edge, then just about anybody. I tell you, there ain't nothing more delightful than tracing something back to its roots!

Another absolute highlight, with some of the most aggressive guitar playing of the year 1970, is 'Sleeping For Years' - pay attention to the opening guitar barrage, which actually anticipates the frantic high-speed guitar posturing of the New Wave of British Metal a decade later. Only where bands like Judas Priest would make those finger-flashing guitar barrages the culmination of the song, Du Cann is probably well aware of how cheesy this stuff would have sounded at the center of the sound, and instead assigns it the function of 'atmospheric introduction', playing a far more restrained middle-song solo instead. It still rules. As does 'I Can't Take No More' with its galloping rhythm that sounds tremendously familiar to me but I can't remember where from (that's what happens when you had a bit too much to listen to!), and the two instrumentals, particularly 'Vug' with one of the most fantastic speedy organ solos I've ever heard, maybe only beaten out by some Emerson and Jon Lord stuff on occasion. The second instrumental has a drum solo, so it can't be perfect, but I guess when you're dealing with that time period, the drum solo is a necessary evil you just have to learn to live with.

Anyway, the obligatory recommendation is that every respectable metal fan should track down this sucker. Dark, dreary and highly professional, this is the way you combine your artsy inclinations (there's still a lot of jazz elements here, in particular) with a penchant for heaviness, not the Uriah Heep style crap when a bunch of stoned talentless amateurs decide they have enough guts to serve the High Purpose of Art when all they know is to pound out 'energetic' Jon Lord imitations over a two-chord riff. Heh, heh, gotta vent out some frustration.



Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9

Where's the heaviness? Why all the second-rate instrumentals?

Best song: BLACK SNAKE

Track listing: 1) Breakthrough; 2) Break The Ice; 3) Decision/Indecision; 4) A Spoonful Of Bromide; 5) Black Snake; 6) Head In The Sky; 7) The Rock; 8) The Price.

Would you believe me if I told you Atomic Rooster are making me very depressed right now? So depressed I find it hard to connect little English words?

Well, if you would, you'd be pretty dumb. Atomic Rooster are never going to make me depressed, either in the good sense (their music ain't depressing!) or in the band sense (their music isn't worth getting depressed over!). But that doesn't mean I enjoy their third album anyway. I'd much rather have a nice steaming Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow here before me or Made In Japan veal cutlets, or at the very least a Led Zeppelin I-II-III-IV assorti. Unfortunately, I have to sit and review this painfully mediocre record instead. And I was stupid enough to impale myself on this curse of my own free will. Where else can you find such assholes but in Moscow, Russia, the homeland of furry hats and vodka-addled bears?

Forget it. Let's get serious. There's a big difference between Death Walks Behind Atomic Rooster and this album, where death seems to have taken a big shit over them and then gone its own way. This difference is in heaviness. There's next to no heaviness whatsoever on this record. Okay, so there's one really heavy rocker, kind of an outtake from the previous sessions, I'd believe, which is 'Head In The Sky' - shouldn't be confused with the far superior 'Hole In The Sky' by Black Sabbath, by the way - and after a few listens it becomes quite enjoyable, with a typical bluesy Du Cann riff and typical apocalyptic lyrics from the band. Of course, the riff itself is pretty trashy and poorly produced, but hey, it's a heavy riff, so it's good for Atomic Rooster.

No other songs are heavy. They're bluesy, or they're jazzy, and at times they introduce the funk element which would so heavily dominate their next two records, but they're not heavy at all, and that means that Atomic Rooster have effectively made the transition from one of Britain's most interesting cutting-edge bands into a pretty generic outfit - yes, there's still much to laud regarding technique, melodic skill, vocals, arrangements, etc., but the pioneering effect is gone, and now I find myself trapped face to face with an album I have no need for. LORD HELP ME!

Well, I mean, there are some good songs on here, too. I think that if you wanna funk and dance to the chuggin' rhythms of 'Break The Ice', it wouldn't be a really impossible task, but don't try to bring along your air guitar or air organ (er, "imaginatory keyboard instrument", I mean, not your nose or anything) because they play all that stuff so correctly it hurts. The greatest advantage of classic funk is that it doesn't play the notes perfectly - that it leaves enough space for some toying with the rhythm and variations on the main theme, while Mr Du Cann just pushes along like a robot. That's boring. That's why Keith Richards and Pete Townshend can certainly be said to have learned their lesson from old black dudes and all those art-school trained guys definitely have not learned it. If you haven't learned it, why engage in the deal at all? Answer: because otherwise, who would have exploited the excellent riff pattern of 'Break The Ice'? Heh.

Apart from that, one definite chef-d'oeuvre on here is 'Black Snake'. While it's repetitive as well, it's one of Crane's most thrilling compositions - a quiet, enthralling ballad with a spooky atmosphere, sung in a sweet luring voice, you know the kind of voice that you use to tell a dark mystical tale to kids just to go "BOO!" in the most unpredictable climactic spot. Well, they never actually go "BOO!" on here, but the effect is booish anyway. Good song. I don't really like any of the others. Oh, maybe just one. 'The Rock' is a solid jazzy instrumental operating on super-short heavy guitar riffs and minimalistic outbursts of the brass section, plus a red-hot guitar solo. Oh, and, by the way, this sentence doesn't contradict my anti-heaviness verdict on the album, because while the riffs are distorted, the song itself isn't heavy at all - it's dominated by meek organ soloing. Blah. I have to take a nap.

You see, it's a mess. I can't give this anything less than a 9, if only because it's obvious the guys were trying. Had I the authority to proclaim "THESE ORGAN RIFFS HAVE BEEN STOLEN" or "THIS GUITAR PART IS PAINFULLY GENERIC", I would gladly do so, but I don't have that authority or else the people from Kerrang! magazine will beat me up. No, no, actually it's because they are not generic or stolen, it's just that I personally don't feel any hooks in these songs. If you happen to come along and notice any hooks in 'Breakthrough' or 'The Price', please tell me, woncha? The only other cool thing I can say is the title of track number four, 'A Spoonful Of Bromide Helps The Pulse Rate Go Down'. You'd think they could have connected this title with something really impressive, though, not a weak emotionally dead keyboard jam. Where's the ominous strength of the preceding album? Where's the Satanism? The omens of the Apocalypse? Where's innovation? Why do some people call this the best Atomic Rooster album ever? Why do I ask so many questions when I should have been answering them instead? Huh? That's how mediocre albums piss me off, see. Go download 'Black Snake' off Audiogalaxy or whatever server you need before the Internet falls into the hands of Osama bin Laden. Tell 'em "George sent me" and they'll give you a free copy of Jennifer Lopez' latest single as a bonus.



Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Funky, but catchy, and a few tracks still capture the eerie mood.


Track listing: 1) Time Take My Life; 2) Stand By Me; 3) Little Bit Of Inner Air; 4) Don't Know What Went Wrong; 5) Never To Lose; 6) Breathless; 7) Space Cowboy; 8) People You Can't Trust; 9) All In Satan's Name; 10) Close Your Eyes; [BONUS TRACKS:] 11) Goodbye Planet Earth; 12) Satan's Wheel.

Mr Crane just wouldn't give it up. In but two years, he already led Atomic Rooster through two different incarnations; now, after In Hearing Of plummeted down the charts and personal tension caused the total breakup of the band, he was still decided to lead the band through the third incarnation. Really, in theory this simply looks ridiculous. Why use the name for a band when it's essentially a one-man show? The Vincent Crane Experience? Even worse, if it's not a one-man show, how can you call two entirely different bands 'Atomic Rooster'? In any case, this third incarnation was obviously doomed from the very beginning - just a hastily formed project that could only be guaranteed a stable existence backed with financial success, and since none of these two albums made any real impact on the charts, the band began to fall apart almost as soon as it had been created.

The most notorious addition, of course, was Chris Farlowe, a guy whose motivation is still somewhat obscure to me - either he was modest and artistically bold enough to dare join such unstable units as Colosseum (where he spent two years before it crashed) and Rooster (where he... spent two years before it crashed), or he was arrogant and self-confident enough to think that he could pull out even the least successful band through the power of his chords. You could, of course, also argue that judging by the experience of these two bands, having Chris Farlowe around was sort of a bad omen. See how many pretexts for imaginative speculation I have given you, provided you ever saw Chris Farlowe's ugly mug or heard his ugly ugly voice. Joking, of course - Chris has got a good set of chords, he just uses his powerful approach in a somewhat... overblown way. Granted, he's nowhere near Dave Coverdale, but still, he's managed to butcher half of the good melodies on Colosseum's Daughter Of Time with it, and he comes close to butchering some of the melodies here as well, but thankfully they don't mix his voice high enough to overshadow the guitars and organs.

Which is a good thing, because amazingly, in fact, to my almost totally jaw-dropping bone-crunching stupefaction, Made In England is a good album. Ten reasonably short songs, most of them danceable funky tracks, most of them with catchy vocal melodies and often based on interesting riffs. Of course, there's nothing even closely resembling the heaviness of old, but did I really need to say that? No, I did not. Ah well. Seeing as how I really hate Chris Farlowe (well, it's not like he's murdered my pet hamster, but if I had a pet hamster, I bet you ten to one he would have murdered it, the rogue), I'll just choose the easy boring way of going track by track and try to point you out what it is exactly about this period in Atomic Rooster's existence that attracts my attention, and maybe this will help you draw conclusions on Atomic Rooster, Chris Farlowe, myself, music in general, your financial situation, NASDAQ and Afghanistan bombings.

So here we go! Oh wait, before we proceed, note that all the songs are bouncy and demand some knee-jerking and head-bobbing unless otherwise noted. 'Time Take My Life' is distinguished by the strange complex time-signature-changing chorus (depending on your tolerance for Farlowe's voice, you'll be tempted to chant 'time take my life, time take my life, time take my li-i-i-i-fe' with him or you'll be tempted to vomit, but definitely one of these). 'Stand By Me' is definitely the band working in the Sly & The Family Stone vibe (not just because of the title), with some real hot funky guitar and a pretty catchy chorus as well - as much as I hate Chris Farlowe for dissecting my pet hamster, I admire the way he carries the vocal melody in the chorus, gradually rising the voice to a goofy falsetto 'stand by me-e-e-e-e', and then brings it crashing down with 'I will set you free!'. 'Little Bit Of Inner Air' is one of the few slow grooves on the album, pretty demonic in mood and recalling the earlier Rooster. And the song's credited to the drummer, too! Kudos to the drummer for writing lyrics like 'Voodoo power in the air/Mushroom's sticky sweet flower just sitting there/I gave some to my love and she lost all her hair/I aint got nothing to give now 'cept a little bit of inner air'. 'Don't Know What Went Wrong' is totally unremarkable, not even a catchy chorus this time. Bolton's 'Never To Lose' closes the side on a faux-soulful note, not too much going on in the vocal department either, but I love the moment when the stupid boring vocal melody goes away - swooosh! - and is replaced by the twin guitar solo attack. Works well in headphones.

'Breathless' is a piano-dominated fast jazzy instrumental which is a total gas to hear. 'Space Cowboy' is a fast psychedelic rocker for God's sake! Steve Bolton truly rules! Where did that guy come from? Oh wait, I suppose it's a Hawkwind parody actually. But no, I hear shades of country rock and Broadway mixed in with a space-rock atmosphere. One song that defies categorization. 'People You Can't Trust' is totally adequate because the dangerous, paranoid nature of the music fully matches its title. 'All In Satan's Name' has a retroish title (well, the band's "Satanic" days were more or less over), but not much in the musical department. And 'Close Your Eyes' is once again an attempt to do something soulful, mildly catchy.

Well, what did ya think? There are also two bonus tracks, but I'm tired and I wanna go home and I hate Chris Farlowe who fuckin' annihilated my colony of pet hamsters. Before I do, though, I'll be nice and draw some conclusions for you: there's not a lot of innovation on this album, but there are some hooks and some nice melodies and at least I can't accuse them of not knowing how to do funk. The rhythms really tie you in!



Year Of Release: 1973
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 8

Wrong move! Wrong way! Backwards! Retreat to hooks, you funky wankers!

Best song: VOODOO IN YOU

Track listing: 1) All Across The Country; 2) Save Me; 3) Voodoo In You; 4) Moods; 5) Take One Take; 6) Can't Find A Reason; 7) Ear In The Snow; 8) Whatcha Gonna Do.

What a pathetic way to finish off a career. There ain't a single song on this album I would like to have salvaged. Logics help me! This is a collection of lengthy funk numbers. Funk numbers can only have a reason to exist if they work as (a) a groove, which means even without obvious hooks you gotta get a solid sweaty chunky rhythm going, or (b) a catchy little song, with a rhythmic enchantment over it or without one. Funk for the sake of funk, or, better, for the sake of letting us know that you can funk, just doesn't work all that well.

Meaning? I can't make head or tails of this material. These songs definitely aren't catchy - the big difference between this and Made In England material. I count exactly one moderately catchy chorus on this album, which is the one used on 'Save Me', and that's mainly because Farlowe really goes 'SAVE ME! SAVE ME!' so loud it's impossible to notice, although I'd personally just bash him on the head with a mallet for it, the scum; who gave him the right to massacre pet hamsters all over the world anyway? Elsewhere, the hooks are blander than withered cabbage, and I've seen some withered cabbage, me.

And what about the grooves? Any groove potential? No. I may be prejudiced, but it's kinda bad when an art-rock band gets into groove mood, because art-rock just doesn't get along with grooves. Take a song like 'Take One Take', for instance. It's got everything a decent funk number normally requires. A jumping bassline, a paranoid keyboard rhythm, wah-wah guitar happily quacking in the background, and a jerky drum pattern, all performed as immaculately as possible. And, of course, the vocals. And does it work? No. It's boring. It's too professional, too clean, too neat. It doesn't sound human, and if it doesn't sound human, then gimme some real hooks instead of working up a sweat over this endlessly repeating groove. I appreciate the talents of the musicians very much, but my emotional response to this performance is NULL. And it's not because I'm a James Brown snob or anything like that (!!!). Black or white, authentic or not, you gotta bring soul and feeling into what you're doing, and these guys are just exercising the form. Fine, so you don't want feeling, give me a unique or at least vaguely entertaining form; no such thing either. Whatever got them into funk in the first place?

All too bad, because Made In England really had some good funk songs. This one just sucks. So they don't JUST do funk, no. They occasionally dilute it with abominable crap like 'Can't Find A Reason', a sappy orchestrated ballad (probably a throwback to the hamster-murderer's past career when he used to do all these orchestrated covers of 'Out Of Time', remember?) that makes 'Winter' sound like a masterpiece in comparison. There are also some blues-rock jams like the lengthy, absolutely, totally interminable 'Ear In The Snow' - okay, Mr Crane, I already know you're a good organ player, so why did you have to overdub two of Johnny Mandela's speedy guitar solos just in order to shove them deep in the background so they're virtually unheard over your six minutes of wanking? And the album closer, 'What You Gonna Do', is Chris Farlowe's only contribution to the album, but I tell you what, I haven't written a single song in my life and I could pen a better song in half an hour because all I'd need to do would be select a random blues tune and come up with a set of different lyrics. No problem, Sir!

So anyway, there are only two songs on here that do anything for me. 'Save Me' I already mentioned. It's just so grossly overdone I can't but take some kind of liking to it, and Chris Farlowe's 'uh!' at the beginning sounds so authentically James Brownish it's irresistible. Okay, so I joked about that, but the album really makes good use of... of the brass section. The best song, though, is the only piece of 'scary demonic' material that's still present here, aptly called 'Voodoo In You' (by the way, it's a cover version, although I'm not sure of the author). It's also the heaviest piece on the album, though still it ain't heavy enough.

And that's it. The rest of the album is boring as hell and really makes me wonder how a band as inventive and progressive (in the first and most obvious sense of the word) could sink so low. Funnily enough, I've seen several people refer to this as the band's finest hour - believe me, calling Nice'n'Greasy the band's finest hour is akin to calling, eh, December's Children the shining moment of glory for the Rolling Stones. No wonder the album didn't sell at all: no prog-rock fan or hard-rock fan needed this, and if they wanted to make a dent in the funk market with this, this kind of arrogant ignorance is simply admirable. A minor note of regret - I thought that previous guitar guy, Steve Bolton, really could have some songwriting talent, as opposed to Vince Crane at this point, who probably thought he was so funky he could just leave the care for hooks to the hamster-murderer.

PS. Just in case somebody wondered, Chris Farlowe never really killed any hamsters - well, none that I really know of. I couldn't really swear that he never did. To know that, I'd have to be his mother or something, and then I'd have to kill myself.


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