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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Atomic Rooster: Rarities

ATOMIC ROOSTER: RARITIES (1970-1981; 2000)

1) Moonrise (last recording from 1981); 2) Atomic Alert (US radio ad 1971); 3) Death Walks Behind You (studio live from 1981); 4) V.U.G. (with Carl Palmer 1970); 5) Broken Windows (outtake from 1980); 6) Alien Alert (US radio ad 1971); 7) Throw Your Life Away (different mix from 1980); 8) Devil's Alert (US radio ad 1971); 9) Devil's Answer (original demo with Carl Palmer from 1970); 10) Do You Know Who's Looking For You? (original demo from 1980); 11) Don't Lose Your Mind (original demo from 1980); 12) He Did It Again (original demo from 1980); 13) Backward/Forward Revealed (Death Walks Fans Only 1971); 14) End Of The Day (original demo from 1981); 15) Lost In Space (original demo from 1981); 16) Hold It Through The Night (outtake from 1981); 17) No Change By Me (outtake from 1981); 18) Play It Again (original demo from 1981); 19) I Can't Take No More (live from Marqueee 1980).

Over the past twenty years, there has been a veritable swarm of various best-of, worst-of, lost-of, flossed-and-drossed-of Atomic Rooster compilations on the market. Some were released without official authorisation on the part of any of the surviving members, but eventually quite a few were overseen by John Du Cann personally — to the extent that, I believe, pretty much every recording these guys ever left in the studio vaults or in the sidewalks of concert halls has, at some point or other, been officially released. Reviewing them would, however, be way too much honor for a band whose A-grade material fits well onto one (okay, maybe two) CDs.

Additionally, most of these compilations (a) bear the evil blame of mixing original LP tracks with outtakes, demos, and live recordings, (b) go forever out of print upon initial release, and (c) much of their content is now available as bonus tracks appended to the seven main LPs. Very important bonus tracks at that — such as the band's last hit single 'Devil's Answer', etc. — but, altogether, the band now hardly needs a separate Past Masters-type entry in their catalog.

So we will limit ourselves to some notes on a single one of these packages — Rarities, officially released in 2000. The title is honest, because there is no overlap with regular studio albums, and practically no overlap with the bonus tracks on new re-issues (except for 'Throw Your Life Away' and 'Broken Windows', which seem to be the exact same recordings as the bonus tracks to Ato­mic Rooster, but possibly with different mixes). And the contents clearly show that only an obsessed completist need spend his time hunting for extra Atomic Rooster material.

Well, almost. There is one fairly appetizing chunk of material here: de­mos (actually, full-sound­ing demos, with guitars, keyboards, and drums all in place) of four new compositions that Crane and Du Cann recorded in 1981, presumably for the planned sequel to 1980's Atomic Rooster — a sequel that, unfortunately, never came to pass, even if the songs show they had every single chance of releasing a worthy follow-up. These are four crunchy rockers, a bit simplistic for those who prefer their Rooster with a truly «Atomic» breath, perhaps, but catchy and energetic enough for the average hard rock fan.

Everything else is just alternative versions of well-known tracks, but sometimes with additional surprises: an early demo of 'V.U.G.', for instance, with Carl Palmer still on drums; a 1981 live-in-the-studio recording of 'Death Walks Behind You', losing some of its original eeriness but effec­tively «metallized» by Du Cann; and a very long live version of 'I Can't Take No More' that turns into a hot organ/guitar battle between the two main players midway through — and shows that the reunion Rooster live shows were quite a serious business right to the very end.

The sequencing is fairly messy, defying chronology, but it gives the band a good excuse to book­mark portions of the album with funny old radio ads — "It's coming, it's coming! From out of the nuclear holocaust of our times, Atomic Rooster is coming!" — and stress the fact that, whenever Crane and Du Cann came together, be it in 1970 or 1980, the results were uniformly impressive (and I agree). For that matter, the Chris Farlowe era and the Headline News coda are completely ignored — unsurprisingly so, since the track selection was overseen by Du Cann himself, and it is understandable that he had no interest in those Rooster periods that he had nothing to do with. Not that there's anything wrong with that — the Farlowe period can just dissipate into oblivion as long as I am concerned.

Aside from Rarities, there may be some archive live albums of Rooster's worth getting; at least several have been released of the band's appearances on the BBC, both with Du Cann and with Farlowe — although, once again, many of these live recordings have also been scattered around the bonus tracks on current original LP releases. Live At The Marquee, from which 'I Can't Take No More' has been sampled for Rarities, is also available separately in its entirety, but, apparent­ly, the sound quality on most of the tracks is considered to be fairly poor, so beware. One doesn't really want to not experience the full strength of Atomic Rooster's nuclear blast, or does one?

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