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Atomic Rooster: Sleeping For Years, The Studio Recordings 1970-1974 (4 CD)

For much of their initial six year existence, Atomic Rooster were seemingly always on the brink. Whether that be on the brink of breakthrough, on the brink of break up, or on the brink of breaking new ground. From 1970 to 1973 the band would release five studio albums, each one of them with an ever varying sound and each with a different cast of musicians. Arriving in a beautiful clam shell box and with lengthy liner notes from, as ever, Malcolm Dome, this four disc box set not only delivers all five albums, but fills in any studio recording gaps with singles, b'sides, alternate takes and a few demos. It's a hell of a ride.

Formed when keyboard player Vincent Crane's mental health issues forced him and the band he was in, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, off the road, he and Brown's drummer, Carl Palmer, teamed up with singer and bassist Nick Graham, who would also provide flute and some (very) occasional guitar. The resultant self titled album spanned the breadth of the new rock sound and burgeoning prog scene, landing in that classic place Deep Purple and Uriah Heep both resided. The difference often being that instead of scything guitar work or expansive organ solos, Atomic Rooster and its basically guitar-less approach would be more likely to lead with a flute inspired piece, or stabs of brass, as the likes of "Winter" and "Broken Wings" ably demonstrate. On the album's release Graham promptly departed, Crane bringing in guitarist and vocalist John Du Cann, who overdubbed three tracks with his six-string for the US release of the album and subsequently altered them quite significantly. The mood between the two versions of the likes of "Friday The 13th" or "S.L.Y." completely different from each other. While a 1970 early demo of future single "Devil's Answer" proved equally exhilarating – as would the remarkably similarly sounding single, "Tomorrow Night".

The band's revolving door would continue to spin at pace as Palmer was enticed away by the prospect of working with E & L – Emerson and Lake – in what would become ELP, the Rooster welcoming drummer Paul Hammond onboard for album number two, Death Walks Behind You, also released in 1970. Boasting a much more bullish attack, for many this is the band at their best, an updated version of "Tomorrow Night" punching its way up to number 11 in the singles chart, although the post-album single "Devil's Answer" would fire on up to number 4; bristling with brass it's still the Rooster track you're most likely to hear on rock radio today. With everything from "Vug" and "Death Walks Behind You" to "I Can't Take No More" and "Nobody Else" all being thoroughly invigorating, it was no surprise that the album managed to clamber up to number 12 in the charts and become the band's most successful long player.

The inner band tensions continued no matter who made the line-up, Crane beginning to feel threatened as Du Cann began to have a stronger, more forceful hand in the songwriting. Possibly in response, singer Pete French was drafted in to change tack once more. Often credited as the fathers of heavy metal, Atomic Rooster showed those colours a little more on subsequent album, In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster. Nonetheless, Du Cann's contributions were reduced compared to what had come before and he decided it was time to move on, Hammond coming to the same conclusion not long after. "Break The Ice" illustrated the power of the now unravelling band, while "The Rock" and "The Price" showed the album's diversity and potency. Taken from the US version, a French fronted "Devil's Answer" gave the classic track a new twist, but he too would be gone by the time 1972's Made In England landed. A completely different version of the band featuring Chris Farlowe on vocals, Steve Bolton on guitar. Rich Parnell on drums and Bill Smith on bass, all gathering round the ever-present keyboard man.

That wasn't all that was different, the band's progressive outlook and hard hitting rock base left by the wayside as a funky, soulful rock vibe came into play. Long term fans decried the move but hindsight shows "Never To Lose", "Space Cowboy" and "All In Satan's Name" to be much better than they're given credit for. Nice n' Greasy would take the soulful sound further and do so with some conviction, Crane, Farlowe and Parnell now joined by John Goodsall (under the name Johnny Mandala) on guitar, after Bolton and Smith also headed for the exit, for what is to be honest, the least exciting offering in this set. The German release version added "What You Gonna Do?" and "Moods" to the album and they do show a slightly different side to what this line-up was capable of. Rounding out this fourth disc is the final release Atomic Rooster put out before they split; the band's only 1974 release being the single "Tell Your Story (Sing Your Song)" and its flip side "O.D.".

The Atomic Rooster story therefore appeared to come to a close in 1974 when Crane disbanded the outfit, although a two album return featuring, initially at least, Du Cann on guitar - he was replaced after the first album by Bernie Tormι – extended the story. Although neither of those releases are included here.

Encompassing the band's full studio recordings from 1970 through 1974, this really is an excellent collection. Yes, it has my pet hate - an album split across two discs - but with all of the non-album material included in the correct chronological order, it's an easily forgiven irritation. As is the occasional unevenness of the sound levels as we travel from album to single via demos, bonus cuts and b'sides.

Sadly the demons that indirectly caused the formation of Atomic Rooster all those years ago would haunt Vincent Crane throughout his years, the hugely underrated talent taking his own life in 1989 after a successful period with Dexy's Midnight Runners. His widow would give her blessing to a recent reappearance of Atomic Rooster with French and Bolton at the helm - the pair also contributing to the liner notes here alongside Chris Farlowe and Nick Graham. Their mission being to celebrate the great and too often forgotten music Atomic Rooster created, something Sleeping For Years, The Studio Recordings 1970-1974 does in rather excellent fashion.


Track Listing
DISC ONE
1. FRIDAY 13TH
2. AND SO TO BED
3. WINTER
4. DECLINE AND FALL
5. BANSTEAD
6. S.L.Y.
7. BROKEN WINGS
8. BEFORE TOMORROW
TAKEN FROM THE ALBUM "ATOMIC ROOSTER" – RELEASED IN 1970
9. FRIDAY 13TH (US VERSION)
10. S.L.Y. (US VERSION)
11. BEFORE TOMORROW (US VERSION)
12. VUG (1970 DEMO WITH CARL PALMER)
13. DEVILS' ANSWER (1970 DEMO VERSION)
14. TOMORROW NIGHT (SINGLE VERSION)
A-SIDE OF SINGLE – RELEASED IN 1971


DISC TWO
1. DEATH WALKS BEHIND YOU
2. VUG
3. TOMORROW NIGHT
4. SEVEN STREETS
5. SLEEPING FOR YEARS
6. I CAN'T TAKE NO MORE
7. NOBODY ELSE
8. GERSCHATZER
TAKEN FROM THE ALBUM "DEATH WALKS BEHIND YOU" – RELEASED IN 1970
9. PLAY THE GAME
B-SIDE OF SINGLE – RELEASED IN 1971
10. DEVILS' ANSWER (SINGLE VERSION)
A-SIDE OF SINGLE – RELEASED IN 1971
11. BREAKTHROUGH
12. BREAK THE ICE
13. DECISION / INDECISION
14. A SPOONFUL OF BROMIDE HELPS THE PULSE RATE GO DOWN
TAKEN FROM THE ALBUM "IN HEARING OF ATOMIC ROOSTER" – RELEASED IN 1971

DISC THREE
1. BLACK SNAKE
2. HEAD IN THE SKY
3. THE ROCK
4. THE PRICE
TAKEN FROM THE ALBUM "IN HEARING OF ATOMIC ROOSTER" – RELEASED IN 1971
5. DEVIL'S ANSWER (PETE FRENCH VOCAL VERSION)
TAKEN FROM THE US VERSION OF "IN HEARING OF ATOMIC ROOSTER" – RELEASED IN 1971
6. TIME TAKE MY LIFE
7. STAND BY ME
8. LITTLE BIT OF INNER AIR
9. DON'T KNOW WHAT WENT WRONG
10. NEVER TO LOSE
11. INTRODUCTION / BREATHLESS
12. SPACE COWBOY
13. PEOPLE YOU CAN'T TRUST
14. ALL IN SATAN'S NAME
15. CLOSE YOUR EYES TAKEN FROM THE ALBUM "MADE IN ENGLAND" – RELEASED IN 1972


DISC FOUR
1. ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY
2. SAVE ME
3. VOODOO IN YOU
4. GOODBYE PLANET EARTH
5. TAKE ONE TOKE
6. CAN'T FIND A REASON
7. EAR IN THE SNOW
8. SATAN'S WHEEL
TAKEN FROM THE ALBUM "NICE N' GREASY" – RELEASED IN 1973
9. WHAT YOU GONNA DO?
10. MOODS
TAKEN FROM THE US & GERMAN VERSIONS OF "NICE N' GREASY" – RELEASED IN 1973
11. TELL YOUR STORY (SING YOUR SONG)
12. O.D.
A & B-SIDES OF SINGLE – RELEASED IN 1974

Added: December 9th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Sleeping For Years at Cherry Red
Hits: 527
Language: english

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