ATOMIC ROOSTER: MADE IN ENGLAND (1972)
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) Introduction; 7) Breathless; 8) Space Cowboy; 9) People You Can't Trust; 10) All In Satan's Name; 12) Close Your Eyes.
Once again, recorded with a totally new lineup: Steve Bolton on guitar, Ric Parnell on drums, and veteran soulster Chris Farlowe, once famous for singing blue-eyed cover versions of Rolling Stones songs ('Out Of Time', etc.), and now fresh out of the jazz-rock team Colosseum, on vocals. And, although Crane is still responsible for most of the songwriting, this no longer has anything to do with the Atomic Rooster of old. This is «Post-Atomic» Rooster: more tits, less balls.
Made in England the record might be, but the title is clearly ironic: most of the album shows an extremely strong influence from the soul and funk genres. This may not be so surprising, considering that, of all the «prog» bands of the early 1970s, Atomic Rooster were among the most deeply rooted in blues-rock, and the distance from bluesy riffs to funky syncopation is nowhere near as long as it is from Bach or Bartok to the same. But white British people engaging in groove-based funk still take on much more responsibility than white British people churning out blues patterns — and with Rooster's backlog and general pedigree, prejudices against their switching direction just like that are fully justified. Crane is an excellent musician, but plenty of excellent musicians have fallen flat on their backs tackling rhythm-based music forms, and Made In England, unfortunately, is no exception.
The album's one redeeming point is that many of the songs are relatively well written. If the grooves are not all that «hot», they are at least memorable, as on the non-hit single 'Stand By Me', be it through the catchy chorus melody or through some other directly undetectable trick. The provocative title of 'All In Satan's Name' is never justified by the proper eeriness of the melody, but the Allman Brothers-like riff that sets the stage around two minutes into the song is good. And 'People You Can't Trust', per se, is a fairly respectable attempt to create something in the style of Funkadelic — except that the song should have rather been donated to Funkadelic themselves.
The few tracks that still remind us of the former Rooster include the instrumental 'Breathless', a concentrated and powerful piano romp, whose new-school wah-wah guitars still cannot conceal the fact that the track serves as an excuse to demonstrate Crane's technique; and the lyrical ballad 'Never To Lose' (but not the album-closing ballad 'Close Your Eyes', a tepid gospel-soul excursion whose temperature only slightly hovers above zero degrees). The «evil child» of the record is 'Space Cowboy', a strange track that does seem to want to combine elements of hoedown stylistics with sci-fi effects — it is up to the listener to decide if the effect is comparable to an orgasmatron or a necronomicon.
Personal assessment: I have never liked Chris Farlowe as a solo artist or a member of Colosseum, and I certainly am not prone to liking him here. Big, bulgy, brawny singers should either be drunk all the time (like Noddy Holder), or impersonate psychos and street bullies (like Brian Johnson); «opera star» style is abysmal in the context of a rock-oriented record, particularly when that style leaves no place for subtlety or, come to think of it, range — all of these songs convey a «pompous ass» spirit, no matter how humble and down-to-earth Farlowe might be in real life.
In any case, the real problem of Made In England is not the actual quality of the songs — there have been much more bland and boring records released in the UK that year — but the sad realisation that it put a premature stop to any serious aspirations that Atomic Rooster could have at the time, and seriously hints at Crane's instability: only a true madman could have chased away John Du Cann and replace him with a second-rate guitarist (I actually saw a video of Steve Bolton supporting the Who on their 1989 reunion tour, where he was filling in for Townshend on the electric guitar parts — the word «hack» was the only one that came to mind) and a has-been opera-pop star. At least the album conjures pity rather than hatred — given the circumstances, that in itself is a major achievement.
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