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Vincent's finest 35 minutes
on 20 July 2007
Of the trio who made this album, two (drummer Paul Hammond and keyboards/bass man Vincent Crane) died some time ago -- Hammond in an 'accident' and Crane in a 1989 depression-triggered suicide. Thus there's a macabre irony about the title of this LP and the cover shot of the threesome sitting in a graveyard.
But as a 70s teenager, I thought these dark allusions rather cool. The band appeared carefree in their scruffy, unkempt clothes, but as the sleeve-notes from Chris Welch revealed, the band members lived in filthy poverty until the success of this, their second album. Vincent Crane played piano, Hammond organ and and a rather indistinct bass -- either through the keyboard or the organ pedals -- presumably because the band couldn't afford a fourth musuician to play bass guitar. In that respect, Atomic Rooster reminds of Van Der Graaf Generator, who relied on organist Hugh Banton to provide bass for 'Pawn Hearts' etc.
The music is almost uniformly great, the interplay between guitar and organ being highly reminiscent to me now of Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore. But this 1970 album would have been released at about the same time as 'Deep Purple In Rock' so I suspect the influence flowed in both directions. Crane at times also sounds like Keith Emerson.
But the lesson of ELP vs Atomic Rooster is that for a trio to succeed, you had to be either outstanding musicians or all be good-looking. Sadly Crane was not a 'looker'. When you see repeats of Arthur Brown's 'Fire' on Top of the Pops, there are almost no shots I can remember of Crane, despite this being half his composition.
For me, this is a great record, and certainly in my Top 100 rock albums. I still enjoy it, 35 years after first hearing it, which is more than I can say for other favourites of the period.