Friday Full-Length: Atomic Rooster, Death Walks Behind You

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Atomic Rooster, Death Walks Behind You (1970)

In the annals of undervalued heavy rock, there are few who hold such a place as the UK’s Atomic Rooster. Founded by organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer, both of whom had previously been members of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the band made their semi-self-titled debut, Atomic Roooster (discussed here), early in 1970, and followed it with Death Walks Behind You later that same year. Those two, together with 1971’s In Hearing of Atomic Rooster (discussed here), form a trifecta of early heavy rock and proto-prog righteousness that, even as it produces landmark swing like that in the opening title-track of Death Walks Behind You, underscores a decent portion of why their commercial reach never extended farther than it did. Like a lot of bands from their era — and this era, for that matter — they couldn’t keep a consistent lineup. Palmer and Crane founded the band with Nick Graham on bass, guitar, vocals and flute, but by their second album, John Du Cann took over on guitar, bass and vocals and Paul Hammond took the drum spot from Palmer, who joined the supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Hammond, Crane and Du Cann would also return for In Hearing of Atomic Rooster, but with Peter French, formerly of Leaf Hound, as the band’s frontman. That lineup was also short-lived, as French would join Cactus for 1972’s ‘Ot ‘n’ Sweaty.

Meanwhile, Atomic Rooster would once again shake up the entire lineup around Crane by the time their fourth album, Made in England, surfaced, so a fair amount of turbulence was the standard. This, coupled with Crane‘s well-documented struggles with issues of mental health, depression and hospitalization, meant that Atomic Rooster lacked the stability — such as it was — that a band like Black Sabbath had through their pivotal first six LPs. That, however, takes nothing away from the quality of Death Walks Behind You itself, which is a document of a special if brief power trio as formidable as anything the heavy ’70s produced. Whether it’s in the swaggering vibe of “Tomorrow Night” or the krautrock-inspired experimentation of closer “Gershatzer,” Atomic Rooster‘s sophomore outing may be part of a legacy of tumult, but that does nothing to diminish the smooth vibes as the organ leads the way into “7 Streets,” the guitar swapping channels en route to a rolling side A finish, or the shuffling “Sleeping for Years” at the start of side B. It may on some levels be defined by the hook of its leadoff cut, but Death Walks Behind You offers a rare glimpse at the transition from heavy blues rock to what would continue to take shape as prog, and for that and for the quality of its songcraft and performance, it well earns its place among the best offerings of the early ’70s.

Crane released two albums with Atomic Rooster in the early ’80s — working with Du Cann, David Gilmour and others in the process — and eventually took his own life on Valentine’s Day 1989. Death Walks Behind You and Atomic Rooster‘s other early works have been reissued numerous times and are available alongside other live outings from various incarnations of the band and compilations, bootlegs and so on.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

One of those afternoons where the Neurosis can’t seem to get loud enough. Plenty of those. I must’ve slept poorly, but I can’t remember, as I can’t think of anything else that would so darken my mood enough for Through Silver in Blood when it was a pretty good week. Added Snail to the All-Dayer and got a great response off that, and my books are back in from the press and will be on sale soon through War Crime Recordings. I also just got off the phone with Andrea Vidal of Holy Grove for a really cool interview that will be up in the next couple weeks. I’m headed down to Jersey to see family this weekend. These are all positives. And me, in the middle of it, grump grump grump.

That’s how things feel to me a lot. Whatever. Get me out of the office, get me a day or two of not-work, maybe even a couple hours without staring at my laptop, and I’ll be good as new. I’m just done with the week.

It was busy. Man, was it busy. Even down to the Scissorfight interview and Blackwitch Pudding tracks premiered today, there was just a ton going on. And keeping up with news — I’ve got stories slated into next Tuesday as it is. Look out next week too for a Merlin review, Samavayo track premiere, full-album stream from Deadsmoke, maybe the Brant Bjork interview posted if there’s time, a new track from Queen Elephantine and I don’t even know what else. It’s all in the notes. There’s a lot of it.

Like I said, the weekend is travel to NJ and back. It’s also the deadline for the Roadburn ‘zine that I edit, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, so I expect there will be plenty by Sunday to keep me occupied between that and getting ready for the week to come. It never really stops these days. Also next week, need to start preparing for the Quarterly Review, which will start March 28. I just want to keep going, keep writing, keep my head down, keep working.

Maybe I’ll quit my job and go on a three-month book tour. That’d show ’em. And by ’em, I mean me which is ’em backwards.

Have a great and safe weekend. Forum and radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Buried Treasure at the “Not Just” Rock Expo

Posted in Buried Treasure on December 3rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

“What the hell are you going to do with those?” asked The Patient Mrs. when I got back to the car and showed her the two Black Sabbath 8-track tapes I’d bought at the annual “Not Just” Rock Expo outside of Philadelphia this past Friday afternoon. It was a fair question. My answer was somewhat less reasoned: “Set up an altar and worship them as gods, who fucking cares?”

My point, expressed with my usual eloquence, was that it wasn’t about listening to Heaven and Hell and Sabbath‘s 1970 self-titled debut — which I can do at this point on any number of physical media — but just about enjoying owning the albums on this format. And hell, if I wind up with an 8-track player someday, at least I’ll know what to put on first. Whether that came through or not, I was greeted with the usual rolled eyes and a, “Time to go.” Fair enough. We were already running late.

This was the 27th “Not Just” Rock Expo — it’s actually put together by the same dude who does the Second Saturday Record Show in Wayne, NJ, that I’ve enjoyed many times in the past — and it just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Held in Oaks, PA, which is northwest of Philly, this past Friday and Saturday, normally, it’d be well out of my geographic range at this point for a day trip, but The Patient Mrs. and I (also the little dog Dio) spent Thanksgiving in Maryland. Friday found us heading back north to see family in New Jersey, so the “Not Just” Rock Expo was more or less on the way, and that’s just how I sold The Patient Mrs. on the idea of making a stop.

The GPS took us what felt like halfway across PA, but we got there eventually and found the hangar-sized room where the expo was happening. Three long, two-sided rows of vendors were set up, and there was a good crowd there. I recognized a few faces from shows and such, and while it might not have been just rock, there certainly was enough of it. It seemed like almost every table, save perhaps that run by King Fowley of Deceased, had one or another kind of Beatles memorabilia on offer, but there were plenty of other ways to spend money as well. More money than I had, but I did alright. The first place I looked had Death‘s Individual Thought Patterns on tape for like two bucks, so I made that happen, and an original Alternative Tentacles pressing of NeurosisSouls at Zero that I’ve very much enjoyed revisiting despite a skip or two in “The Web,” as well as Death in 3s by Meatplow, which I picked up essentially because I recognized the name and thought it would be fun. So far that’s worked out.

Across the aisle was a vendor who had an entire section devoted solely to Repertoire Records reissues. Fuck me. But for the ones I already owned, I probably could’ve shelled out $300 on that stuff alone and walked out of the “Not Just” Rock Expo with a smile on my face. I didn’t. Money’s tight, and sooner or later I’d have to buy gas to get back up to Massachusetts, so I nabbed the digipak version of Atomic Rooster‘s In Hearing Of and left it at that. By then, The Patient Mrs. had adjourned to the car, but I made my way through at what was apparently a leisurely place — when it was over, I seemed to have lost an extra hour in there somewhere — finding other odds and ends along the way like a Nuclear Blast edition of the first Count Raven CD, a full-jewel-case promo (imagine such a thing!) for Russian Circles‘ debut, Enter, and a cheap tape copy of Band of Gypsys that made the rest of the ride to Jersey a little easier to take, despite traffic.

Toward the end of the last row, a guy who had some other decent stuff as well was selling a copy of the 2007 split between Sons of Otis and Queen Elephantine for $20. I wanted it. I was decently enough past my spending limit, however, so I offered the $13 in my hand, he said no, and I put the disc back. The one that got away. More the fool I, since I can’t seem to find the CD version online anywhere. That’ll show me not to recklessly shell out dollars.

It was a downer note to end on, but overall, I can’t really complain. I hadn’t even known the “Not Just” Rock Expo existed until reading a post about it Thanksgiving night on Thee Facebooks, so considering that and the tri-format haul, I’d say I did alright. They’ve already got the space booked for the 28th installment of the “Not Just” Rock Expo (their website is here), and if you happen to be in the area, it seems like a good way to make yourself late to wherever you might be headed next.

Queen Elephantine, “The Battle of Massacoit/The Weapon of the King of Gods”

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Friday Full-Length: Atomic Rooster, In Hearing Of

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 11th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Atomic Rooster, In Hearing Of (1971)

Growers of Mushroom-era Pete French fronting Atomic Rooster? It’s a combination that’s about as heavy ’70s unfuckwithable as they come, and though some of the vibes on Atomic Rooster‘s self-titled suit me better at times, French‘s swagger is unmistakable. After this, as though to complete a triumvirate of righteous rockness, French would go on to front the second, admittedly less stellar, lineup of Cactus for 1972’s ‘Ot ‘n’ Sweaty, so considering he went from Leaf Hound to Atomic Rooster to Cactus in about two years’ time, that’s a hell of a resume to have amassed.

Hard to pick which wins out between Leaf Hound‘s Growers of Mushroom and Atomic Rooster‘s In Hearing Of. They’re very different albums, but I think if you’re going from front to back, you’ve gotta go with Atomic Rooster. That’s not to take away from the power of tracks like “Freelance Fiend” or “Sad Road to the Sea” or “Growers of Mushroom,” but taken as a whole, In Hearing Of stands up. Those keys? Shit. Both are killer records anyway, it’s just fun to pick one over the other. I’m sure Mr. French, who’s back fronting Leaf Hound these days, has his favorites as well. I’d be interested to know what they are.

I wasn’t sure about posting that Dave Wyndorf interview this evening. I mean, it was Friday at like 5:30PM, which is when the White House breaks bad news knowing no one will be paying attention, and I really think that conversation is worth being seen by as many people as possible, but in the end I was too excited about it to hold it back until Monday. That and the transcription took me all afternoon and I didn’t want the whole day to have passed and have nothing to show for it in the immediate. I can’t imagine it makes much of a difference one way or another. Those who are going to see it will see it, everyone else will likely survive. It’s just a cool piece.

The choice I faced today was either review the new Red Fang or post that, but I said I’d have the interview up one way or another, so I wanted to make it happen. Maybe Monday I’ll writeup the Red Fang record. Next week is that Saint Vitus show in Boston, and I know I’ll be reviewing that, as well as the new disc from Iron Man, which I’m late on but still think it’s worth getting a review up. I’ve got a Red Fang interview in the can as well, have been sitting on it for a while, so maybe I’ll get that posted. I was trying to set up an interview with Windhand this week (and last week, for that matter), but it didn’t come together. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe not. Interesting to see the varying nature of cred. I always take things too personally.

If you didn’t, you should really take some time and check out the Domovoyd record that was posted today. It’s a good one, and weird. Svart has been very quietly (also loudly) killing it in bringing forth a wide variety of fascinating releases, whether it’s Domovoyd, Seremonia, In~Graved, Goatess or Hexvessel. Lots of good stuff, and a roster that seems to be continuing to grow — see The Golden Grass, who have a 7″ coming out associated with the label. Wild times.

As ever, was short on time this week, but I tried to make the most of the hours I had. Tomorrow during the day I’ll work to catch up on stuff I missed this afternoon. Whatever you’ve got planned, exciting or dull, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hopefully also you’ll get a chance to check in on the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Debate Rages: Tittyhawk vs. the Ass-Volcano

Posted in The Debate Rages on October 6th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

They’re both obviously classic heavy rock records. British outfit Atomic Rooster released their first album, Atomic Roooster (with the extra ‘o’), in 1970, and Aussie proto-doomers Buffalo unleashed Volcanic Rock three years later. If you’re standing in a store, and the two of them are there on the shelf in front of you, there’s no decision. You buy both.

But what I’m curious about in this new feature (that I hope will be a series from here on out, depending on the reaction/response it gets) is the artwork. Atomic Roooster and Volcanic Rock have some of the most ridiculous artwork ever put on a vinyl sleeve.

The first is a hawk trapped in a glass cube that inexplicably has breasts — and what’s up with that chair in the corner? — and the latter it what looks like a skull-faced neuter from Dragon Ball Z holding a giant penis over his head as he stands atop a giant volcano that turns out on the second half of the gatefold to be a woman’s ass and what may or may not be menstrual lava.

Each astounds in how little sense it makes, so I put it to you — which is the better cover?

Atomic Rooster, Atomic Roooster (1970)

or Buffalo, Volcanic Rock (1973)

Click either to enlarge the image, and leave your vote in the comments.

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