Atomic Rooster

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969)

- Vincent Crane (RIP 1989) -- vocals, keyboards

- Nick Graham -- bass 

- Carl Palmer -- drums, percussion 


  line up 3 (1969-70)

- Vincent Crane (RIP 1989) -- vocals, keyboards

NEW - John Cann (aka John Du Cann) (RIP 2011) -- lead guitar,

   bass, backing vocals 

NEW - Paul Hammond (RIP 1992) -- drums, percussion 


  line up 3 (1970-71)

- Vincent Crane (RIP 1989) -- vocals, keyboards

- John Cann (aka John Du Cann) (RIP 2011) -- lead guitar,

   bass, backing vocals

- Paul Hammond (RIP 1992) -- drums, percussion

NEW - Pete French -- vocals


  line up 4 (1971-73)

NEW - Steve Bolton -- lead guitar (replaced John Cann)

- Vincent Crane (RIP 1989) -- vocals, keyboards

NEW - Chris Farlowe -- vocals (replaced Pete French)

NEW - Ric Parnell -- drums, percussion (replaced Paul Hammond)

NEW - Bill Smith -- bass


  line up 5 (1973)

- Vincent Crane (RIP 1989) -- vocals, keyboards

- Chris Farlowe -- vocals

NEW - Johnny Mandala (aka John Goodsall) -- lead guitar  (replaced  Steve Bolton)

- Ric Parnell -- drums, percussion

- Bill Smith -- bass


  line up 6 (1979-80)

NEW - John Cann (aka John Du Cann) -- lead guitar  (replaced 

  Johnny Mandala)

- Vincent Crane (RIP 1989) -- vocals, keyboards

NEW - Preston Heyman -- drums, percussion  (replaced Paul Hammond)


  line up 7 (1980-84)

- John Cann (aka John Du Cann) -- lead guitar 

- Vincent Crane (RIP 1989) -- vocals, keyboards

NEW - Paul Hammond -- drums, percussion (replaced

  Preston Heyman)

NEW - Bernie Torme -- lead guitar (replaced John Can)





- The Alan Bown 

- Alibi 

- Asia

- Andromeda (John Cann and Paul Hammond)

- The Attack (John Cann)

- Big Bertha (Pete French)

- Brand X

- Bullet (John Cann and Paul Hammond)

- Cactus (Pete French)

- Colosseum (Chris Farlowe)

- The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (Vincent Crane and Carl Palmer)

- Daemon (John Cann)

- Dexy's Midnight Runners (Vincent Crane)

- John Du Cann (solo efforts)

- ELP (Carl Palmer)

- Empire

- Chris Farlowe (solo efforts)

- Farm (Paul Hammond)

- Fire Merchants

- Peter French (solo effort)

- Five Day Week Straw People

- Hardstuff (John Cann and Paul Hammond)

- Headstone (Steve Bolton)

- Hellboud

- Horse

- Ibis

- Katamandu

- Leafhound (Pete French)

- Matchstick Men

- Nova (Ric Parnell)

- Reduced Shakespeare Company

- Skin Alley (Nick Graham)

- The Sonics (John Cann)

- Carl Palmer (solo effort)

- Wide Open (Steve Bolton)






Genre: progressive

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  In Hearing of Atomic Rooster

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS 74108

Year: 1971

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 5245

Price: $20.00


The first time I heard this LP it made little or no impression on me.  Imagine my surprise when I randomly pulled it out of the shelves and discovered that my initial impressions were completely wrong.


Self-produced, 1971's "In Hearing of Atomic Rooster" was released in the wake of another round of personnel changes; this time drummer Rick Parnell replaced by Paul Hammond (ex-Andromeda and ex-Farm), and former Big Bertha and Leafhound front man Pete French brought on to handle lead vocals.  Bands in turmoil normally don't turn out quality product, though desperation sometimes works to their advantage.  The latter seemed to be the case in this instance - the revised Atomic Rooster turning out what may have been their most impressive album. Exemplified by tracks like 'Breakthrough' and 'Break the Ice' the album found the band offering a much heavier guitar and keyboard propelled sound.  Progressive touches remained in the mix, but the overall sound was far more conventional and rock oriented than found on the first two LPs.  Doubt that comment ?  Check out the side one closer 'Devil's Answer' which was released as a UK single and actually went top-5.  Though their voices were quite similar (without the liner notes I'd be hard pressed to distinguish the two), French and Crane both proved first-rate singers.  Other highlight included the pretty keyboard propelled ballad 'Decision / Indecision' and the bluesy-rocker 'Black Snake'.  In fact with the exception of the throwaway instrumental 'A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down' the whole LP was worth hearing. That was quite a complement given the set clocked in at over 40 minutes.  (Always loved Roger Dean's inner sleeve drawing.)  


"In Hearing of Atomic Rooster" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Breakthrough   (Vincent Crane - Darmell) - 6:17   rating: **** stars

Jazz-rock ?  Rock-jazz ?  Beats me how to label 'Breakthrough'.  All I know is Pete French sounded great on this one and Crane's droning keyboard pattern was simply hypnotic.  Touch of Spooky Tooth on this one ... While trolling YouTube I found a performanceof  'Breakthrough'.  In the interests of accuracy this clip was from 1972 television performance featuring a different lineup than the group that recorded the original track.  Vincent Crane was the only holdover at that point in time with the rest of the line up consisting of guitarist Steve Bolton, drummer Ric Parnell, and singer Chris Farlowe.   Not that I would win any beauty contests, but this incarnation of the band was pretty rough looking. 

2.) Break the Ice   (John Cann) - 5:05   rating: **** stars

Penned by guitarist Cann, 'Break the Ice' was built on a nifty guitar and keyboard riff that the band pounded into dust.  Luckily it was a really good riff.  You also got to hear Cann finally cut loose at the end of the song.

3.) Decision / Indecision    (Vincent Crane - Darmell) - 3:51  rating: **** stars

Hypnotic, almost pastoral, keyboard-powered ballad that always reminded me of something Steve Winwood might have written for late inning Traffic.  One of French's nicest vocals.

4.) A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down (instrumental)   (John Cann) - 4:34  rating; ** stars

The title was simply goofy (an artifact of the times), but the instrumental 'A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down' sounded like a decent in-studio jam that they happened to capture on tape.  Almost jazz-rock fusion to my ears.   YouTube has a promotional clip of the song - same performance as the earlier clip, though no Chris Farlowe on this one.  Steve Bolton was the featured guitarist:  

5.) Devil's Answer   (John Cann) - 3:28   rating: **** stars

As exemplified by 'Devil's Answer', Crane managed to squeeze out the coolest sounds from his Hammond B-3.  As the album's most pop-oriented tune,  the track was tapped as a 45 throughout the world.  YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song on UK Top of the Pops television show.  I'm thinking guitarist Cann is featured on lead vocals. 

- 1972's 'Devil's Answer' b/w 'The Answer' (B+C catalog number CB 157)


(side 2)
1.) Black Snake   (Vincent Crane - Darmell) - 5:58
   rating: **** stars

Maybe it was really inspired by a snake ?  Beats me.  I will tell you with Crane handling lead vocals 'Black Snake' had a great, slightly ominous  blues-rock sound.  Cann adding just the right touch of lead guitar.  This clip was taken from the same 1972 performance as the other two - Bolton, Crane, Farlowe, and Parnell.  Admittedly Farlowe gave the song a totally different vibe.  Be sure to check out Farlowe taking a bite out of a sandwich at the start of the song - priceless. 

2.) Head In the Sky   (John Cann) - 5:35   rating: **** stars

Goodbye any pretense towards progressive moves - Written by Cann, 'Head In the Sky' offered up a straight ahead mix Cann's fuzz guitar and Crane's Hammond B-3.  As subtle as a crashing B-52.  great rocker.   

3.) The Rock (instrumental)   (Vincent Crane) - 4:31  rating: **** stars

Admittedly the horn charts were a bit jarring, but 'The Rock' had a great melody and gave all the members a chance to stretch out and show their stuff.  The song also showcased just what a good drummer Parnell was.  The song  appeared as the flip side to their 'Devil's Answer' 45.

4.) The Price   (Vincent Crane - Darmell) - 5:15  rating: **** stars

French's voice may have been an acquired taste, but he seldom sounded as good as on the frenetic rocker 'The Price'.  Always loved the song's dark and threatening aura.  One of their finest performances.



Naturally commercial success brought another round of personnel changes with Crane firing Cann.  Hammond quit in protest.   Former Wide Open guitarist Steve Bolton took over Cann's role with Rick Parnell rejoined the band as Hammond's replacement.    The new line undertook a tour of Europe and North America.  At the end of the tour French tendered his resignation, reappearing as a member of Cactus.  Cann and Hammond reappeared in Bullet. 





Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Made In England

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS 75039

Year: 1972

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 6089

Price: $20.00


For Atomic Rooster's fourth studio set keyboardist Vincent Crane welcomed yet another line-up - this time around lead guitarist Steve Bolton, former Colosseum singer Chris Farlowe, and drummer Ric Parnell.  Produced by Crane, 1972's "Made In England" found the band shifting creative gears.  While Crane remained the prime creative force, jazzy and progressive touches scattered throughout the collection,  That said, Farlowe had a major impact on the overall results.  With a dry, raspy voice that didn't have a great deal of range (he bore more than a passing resemblance to early Arthur Brown), technically I don't think anyone would argue that Farlowe was a great singer.  Within those constraints the guy certainly made the most of what he had, giving the collection a strange, but fascinating dark and disturbing edge ...  (We've all seen those Disney cartoons that feature an evil snake as a character ?  Well, Farlowe had the kind of voice that matched up well with the snake character.)  For the band's long-standing progressive fans this was probably way too funky/commercial.  On the other hand, if you didn't have that baseline for comparisons, the set wasn't half bad.


Not their best, not their worst ...  look for one of the earlier releases before dabbling with this one.


Needless to say, the band fragmented shortly after the album was released.  Bolton reappeared as a member of Headstone.


In case anyone cared, the original UK released on Dawn featured album art at was radically different from the US pressing (Dawn catalog number DNLS 3038






"Made In Englandr" track listing:

1.) Time Take My Life   (Vincent Crane) - 5:59   rating: **** stars

Opening up with a nice little electric keyboard figure from Crane that quickly exploded into a fully orchestrated segment, 'Time Take My Life' took a sudden and unexpected shift into funky (!), blues territory.  The song also served to showcase the collection's slightly dark and disturbing feel.   Nice start.  

2.) Stand By Me   (Vincent Crane) - 3:46   rating: **** stars

'Stand By Me' found the band diving headlong into funk.  Personally I would not have expected much, but they somehow managed to pull it off in convincing form.  In fact the song was so good, you were able to overlook Farlowe's uncomfortable stabs at singing in falsetto.   

3.) Little Bit of Inner Air   (Ric Parnell) - 2:37    rating: **** stars

Penned by drummer Parnell, 'Little Bit of Inner Air' was a slinky, jazz-tinged number that also sported the album's most ominous feel.  Farlowe's sneering vocal was really kind of scary - back to the evil snake comparison ...  easy to imagine him handing some poor woman a poisoned apple.  

-4.) Don't Know What Went Wrong   (Vincent Crane) - 4:05    rating: *** stars

Jazz can be funky and 'Don't Know What Went Wrong' served as a good example of such a hybrid.  Kudos to Bill Smith's bass which kept this one on track.  

5.) Never To Lose   (Steve Bolton) - 3:15   rating: **** stars

Penned by guitarist Bolton (who also turned in a crushing solo on this track), 'Never To Lose' bounced back and forth between pretty ballad and a more severe and threatening course.  When Farlowe sang '"I've seen the error of my ways ..."   you were left to wonder if he was about to walk out the door with an automatic weapon.  Only complaint is that the song just seemed to stop in the middle of nowhere.  


(side 2)
1.) Introduction  
(Vincent Crane) - 0:25    rating: ** stars  

Hum, side two's 'Introduction' started out with a brief snippet capturing Farlowe doing his best Solomon Burke impression.  Shame it was less than 30 second long.   

2.) Breathless (instrumental)   (Vincent Crane) - 4:50    rating: *** stars

Crane's piano driven 'Breathless' was an intriguing, jazz-flavored instrumental.  The song's highlight came in the form of Bolton's blazing guitar solo.  

3.) Space Cowboy   (Steve Bolton) - 3:17  rating: **** stars

Yeah, the opening Atari game combo sound effects haven't aged very well, but then 'Space Cowboy' exploded into a strange mash-up of Arthur Brown-styled craziness, heavy rock, and country hoedown.  Strange, strange, strange and definitely worth hearing because it was soooo odd.    

4.) People Can't Trust   (Vincent Crane) - 3:52    rating: *** stars

'People Can't Trust' was a straight-ahead stab at soul.  The melody was suitably funky with Brown again providing a nice bass line and if you didn't mind Farlowe's raspy delivery it wasn't bad (though the female backup singers sucked).   

5.) All In Satan's Name   (Ric Parnell) - 4:44    rating: *** stars

Another Parnell composition, 'All In Satan's Name' bounced all over the place, including blues-rock, conventional hard-rock, and progressive segments.  Farlowe sounded strained throughout the track, but  Bolton used it as a nice platform for displaying his considerable chops.     

6.) Close Your Eyes   (Vincent Crane) - 3:48    rating: ** stars  

'Close Your Eyes" found Crane and Farlowe apparently having decided they wanted to be Delnaey and Bonnie.  The song was actually quite good, but it also brought out Farlowe's worst performance characteristics - a shrill, over-sung, and highlight irritating performance.  Yech.   





Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ****

Title:  IV

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS 75039

Year: 1973

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 137

Price: $24.00



So here's another mystifying example of where a US label decided to repackage an album for the domestic market and managed to add nothing of value to the end result.  Released in the UK and Europe under the title "Nice 'n' Greasy", Elektra decided to modify the track listing replacing the songs 'Satin's Wheel' and 'Goodbye Planet Earth' with the instrumental 'Moods' and 'What You Gonna Do'.  Elektra also slapped on a new title (technically this wasn't even their fourth release) and new, far less distinctive cover art.   In the end you had to wonder why the went through the effort since with the release of 1973's "IV" Atomic Rooster sounded like they were essentially going through the contractual obligation motions.  With keyboardist Vincent Crane credited with producing the set and writing all of the material, tracks like  'All Across the Country' and 'What You Gonna Do' found the band taking a shot at fairly conventional blues-rock.  The results weren't horrible, but anyone expecting to hear something along the lines of their earlier progressive-oriented catalog was probably going to be disappointed.  I'm actually a fan of  Chris Farlowe's gruff, bluesy voice, but I suspect  lots of folks would express a different opinion. Giving credit where due, it was also one of those collections that grew on you after a couple of spins and there were a couple of strong performances - 'Voodoo In You' exhibited a cool swamp-rock edge with one of Farlow's best vocals, while 'Take One Toke' was downright New Orleans-styled funky.

Hardly a classic Atomic Rooster release and not exactly a must-own collection, but a steady and professional set that's worth a spin (though you'd probably want to find the original "Nice 'n' Greasy" release, rather than the US release).  And yes, once the album was released the band fragmented with Farlowe, Mandala, Parnell, and Smith all handing in their resignations.  After a brief break Crane continued on under the clever name Vincent Crane' Atomic Rooster.





  For anyone curious, here's the original cover art and track listing


  Dawn catalog number DNLS 3049






"IV" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) All Across the Country   (Vincent Crane) - 5:09   rating: *** stars

'All Across the Country' started the album out with a decent slice of blues-rock that served to showcase Johnny Mandala's crisp guitar and Farlowe's growling voice, though Crane's late inning keyboards were the true highlight.   Certainly not the most original song you've ever heard, though the reference to Alka-Seltzer always brings a smile to my face.

2.) Save Me   (Vincent Crane) - 3:14   rating: *** stars

Complete with punchy horns (and I'm usually not a big horn fan),, 'Save Me' found the band returning to the funkier sound they'd previously explored.   Kicked along by a Farlowe performance that was simultaneously slinky and ominous, this one's always reminded me of an early Arthur Brown performance.   On of the most commercial efforts on the LP, the track was released as a single in the uK and France. 


- 1972's Save Me' b/w 'Close Your Eyes' (Dawn catalog number DNS 1029)  

3.) Voodoo In You   (Vincent Crane) - 7:03   rating: *** stars

My choice for standout performance, 'Voodoo In You' showed what an impressive singer Farlowe could be when he was allowed to stray from standard blues-rock moves.  Built on a slinky, swamp rock melody that quickly dug its way into your head and wouldn't leave, this one sounded like it'd been recorded in the middle of a dark crypt.       

4.) Moods (instrumental)  (Vincent Crane) - 4:24   rating: ** stars

One of the 'new' songs added to the US release, 'Moods' was a pretty keyboard-propelled instrumental.  Maybe it's just my ears, but he first half of the song has always reminded me of one of those Vince Guaraldi tunes that you hear on Peanuts specials.  Soothing, but nothing particularly memorable.    


(side 2)
1.) Take One Toke   (Vincent Crane) - 4:59   rating: *** stars

'Take One Toke' (I frequently see it listed as 'Take One Take'), took awhile to get going, but when Ric Parnell's drums kicked in, the song displayed a surprisingly funky edge and gave guitarist Mandala a chance to showoff some of his moves.   

2.) Can't Find a Reason   (Vincent Crane) - 4:25   rating: ** stars

A plodding and forgettable ballad, 'Can't Find a Reason' sounded like a bad Alan Price song.  Farlowe's never sounded very good on slower numbers (his voice becomes fragile and craggy) and this was no exception.    

3.) Ear In the Snow (instrumental)   (Vincent Crane) - 6:12   rating: *** stars

Powered by Crane's organ, the instrumental 'Ear In the Snow' sounded a bit like Booker T. and the MG's trying to toughen up their patented Stax sound.  Not an unpleasant, but it also sounded a bit like a promising jam session that they group left unfinished.   

4.) What You Gonna Do   (Vincent Crane) - 5:25   rating: ** stars

Another song added to the US album, 'What You Gonna Do' was a predictable blues-rocker number.   I'm guessing the song was intended to showcase Farlowe's bellowing blues chops, but the song was just too ull to make much of  a difference.   



Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ****

Title:  Death Walks Behind You

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS 74049

Year: 1971

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2576

Price: $20.00


Self-produced, 1971's "Death Walks Behind You" served as Atomic Rooster's second studio album, but their American debut.  For some odd reason,  the band's American label decided the original UK cover art was unsuitable for US audiences, replacing the cover with a drab and forgettable rocket-motiff that didn't even bother to include the album title.  

UK pressing B&C catalog number CAS-1026

For the band's sophomore release original bassist Nick Graham and drummer Carl Palmer were gone.  Graham subsequently hooked up with Skin Alley; Palmer reappearing in Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  Joining keyboardist Vincent Crane for this outing were former Action guitarist  John Cann (aka John Du Cann) and drummer Paul Hammond.  Pulling a page of of the Ray Manzarek catalog, Crane assumed bass duties, having  figured out how to handle bass using the foot pedals on his Hammond organ.  While Crane remained the band's focal point, Cann served as the creative mainstay writing, or co-writing about half the material, handled most of the lead vocals, and served as lead guitarist.  Musically this album's always been an interesting dichotomy to my ears.  At an individual level the songs have always struck me as being inconsistent, ranging from first-rate, radio-friendly pop-rock (the single 'Tomorrow Night'), to dreadful cocktail jazz (the instrumental 'VUG')..  At the same time, it's one of those albums where the collective sound is far more impressive than the individual songs - if you listen to the album in one sitting, it makes a far bigger impact on you than needle skipping though the set.  The set' was also interesting for sporting a surprisingly dark; almost ominous feeling about it.  The opening title track was a pretty good indication of the album's overall direction.  Accordingly, maybe not a great album to gift to someone with their own personal demons.   

"Death Walks Behind You" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Death Walks Behind You   (Vincent Crane - John Du Cann) - 7:31   rating:**** stars

If you managed to sit through the first minute of abstract, almost discordant keyboard, slashing guitar, and burping bass musings (think along the lines of a soundtrack for a grade B slasher flick), 'Death Walks Behind You' morphed into an unexpectedly impressive slice of heavy rock.  Built on an infectious keyboard and guitar riff, it was one of those melodies that climbed into your cranium and wouldn't leave.

2.) VUG (instrumental)  (Vincent Crane) - 4:59   rating: ** stars

Ever heard one of those mid-'70s Brian Auger and Oblivion Express albums?   Not really blues ?  Not really jazz?  Well, with the focus on Crane's keyboard arsenal, the Crane penned instrumental 'VUG' sounded very much like something out of Auger's recording catalog.  That wasn't meant as a compliment.  YouTube has a August, 1970 performance of the song on the German Beat Club television program:   Not sure why the clip always makes me think of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem (of Muppets fame).  

3.) Tomorrow Night  (Vincent Crane) - 3:56   rating: **** stars

I wonder how many folks expected to hear a top-40 hit from a band like Atomic Rooster (well it charted in the UK) ?  Regardless of their expectations, Crane delivered the goods with a song that was equal parts bluesy, metal, and top-40.  By the way the album and 45 sported significantly different mixes. YouTube has a clip of the band apparently lip-synching the tune on the British Top of the Pops television show with a stage full of slightly bored female dancers (admittedly it was a hard tune to dance to).

   UK pressing

- 1970's 'Tomorrow Night' b/w 'Play the Game' (B&C catalog number CB 131)

4.) Seven Streets  (Vincent Crane) - 6:41  rating: *** stars

Always loved Crane's melodic church organ opening (and his work on the bass pedals).  The addition of Du Cann's fuzz guitar made the tune even better.  To bad the song didn't stick with the original feel and structure since it went off the rails into a over-raw blues tune direction.   


(side 2)

1.) Sleeping for Year   (John Cann) - 5:24  rating; **** stars

One of the album's most commercial and straight ahead rockers with a number irritatingly catchy riff, say what you will, but  the opening of 'Sleeping for Years' sure gave Cann an opportunity to cut loose.  Great tune to crank out on a quality set of speakers, or even better, some nice headphones.  Excellent blues-rocker that demonstrated just how good Cann's voice really was.  YouTube has a killer Beat Club performance clip at:     

2.) I Can't Take No More   (John Cann) - 3:32   rating; **** stars

Another Cann composition, 'I Can't Take No More' was even more FM friendly.   This one probably should have been tapped as the album's second single.   A little bit on the frenetic side, but still enjoyable, YouTube has an extended 1971 Beat Club performance:  

3.) Nobody Else (instrumental)   (John Cann) - 4:58   rating; **** stars

The oddball "chanting" has always puzzled me, but once you got past that the song opened up with some of Crane's prettiest keyboard work.  Beautiful ballad and an album highlight. 

4.) Gershatzer   (Vincent Crane) -  7:58   rating; ** stars

The closing instrumental 'Gershatzer' placed Crane front and center ...  From a technical standpoint I guess it was impressive, but listening to Crane demonstrate his prowess for almost eight minutes just didn't do a lot for me; particularly when a great deal of his solo time sounded like discordant self-abuse.  Yeah, the rest of the band re-engaged about halfway through, but then you had to deal with an extended Hammond drum solo.   Not a highpoint for me.