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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Atomic Rooster: Nice 'N' Greasy


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

The second and last Farlowe-containing album from Atomic Rooster continues in the direction of Made In England — so assuredly and predictably that it is even less interesting. By now, the band has completely transformed into a roots-rock act, evenly spreading its creativity between ba­sic blues-rock, «blue-eyed funk», and soul balladry. Crane's piano instrumental 'Moods' is a sole minor glimpse of what used to be, but even here the melody is R'n'B-ish rather than classically in­fluenced, and, frankly, the instrumental's emotional effect is nothing to write home about.

Not that Atomic Rooster were ever about «academicity», though. They were about «Evil as a Side Effect of Mental Instability» — with Vince Crane's personal problems serving as the driving wheel for everything that made this band stand out. By the time Nice 'N' Greasy came along, ei­ther he got temporarily better at controlling these problems, or the other band members were so successful at side-sweeping them, that Nice 'N' Greasy comes out as a perfectly normal — and a perfectly boring — record. One needn't go further than the limp, unnecessary, funkified rewrite of 'Friday The 13th', re-titled 'Save Me', saddled with a «celebratory» Sly & The Family Stone-like brass section, and completely bereft of its devilish attitude. For this kind of music, one needs to go to George Clinton anyway.

The only track that still establishes a weak link to the past is the seven-minute «epic» 'Voodoo In You', which, curiously, is the album's only non-original number (a cover version of an older, lit­tle-known R&B composition by Jackie Avery). It is deep, somber, driven by brutal mid-tempo riffage rather than chicken-scratch, and, although new guitarist Johnny Mandala's lengthy solo is little more than a set of professionally played, uninventive Clapton-isms, in this context I would rather listen to a so-so Cream imitation than all the fruitless attempts to place Funk on the payroll of Vince Crane's personal demons. (Note that «Johnny Mandala» is actually the first stage name of John Goodsall, who would later become much better known for his fusion work in Brand X; in 1973, though, he must still have been learning, because there is nothing particularly outstanding about the guitar sound on Nice 'N' Greasy).

The UK and US versions of the album were once again different: the UK version ended with 'Sa­tan's Wheel', and also contained Mandala's only contribution to the band ('Goodbye Planet Earth'). Both were rather mediocre R&B, and for that or for some other reason were replaced on the US version with 'Moods' and... the equally mediocre fast-paced blues number 'What You Gonna Do', whose only point, I guess, is that Farlowe wanted to try out a B. B. King impersonation. It's pas­sable, as is everything else on here, but is never going to make history.

On the whole, Nice 'N' Greasy is so painfully «unnecessary» that it must have been obvious to everyone: the band had stuck its nose into a dead end. Falling apart was the only reasonable thing to do. Of course, we'd always expect of Vince Crane to do only unreasonable things, but there was this little matter of his far more sane friends — and, after the record label dropped them for losing all signs of vitality, Farlowe and Co. simply took off and left. Can't blame them, either — after such a thumbs down reaction, who'd want to stay?

Check "Nice 'n' Greasy" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Nice 'N' Greasy" (MP3) on Amazon

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