Atomic Rooster

Devil's Answer: Live on the BBC

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Of the 15 songs and 72 minutes of these BBC sessions from 1970 to 1981, it's good news for discriminating fans that, with the exception of three 1981 tracks, everything is from 1970 through 1972, the most interesting era of Atomic Rooster. It isn't such good news, perhaps, that the version of their 1971 British hit "Devil's Answer" is one of those 1981 tracks, although at least the lineup on that performance -- Vincent Crane, Paul Hammond, and John DuCann -- is the same as the trio that comprised the Rooster during part of the early '70s. Crane, in fact, is the only musician to appear on every song. The styles drift from keyboard-dominated hard rock with similarities to his previous work in the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, through messy hybrids of metal and prog (and, when Chris Farlowe took lead vocals, some soul and funk) that become increasingly tedious as the disc progresses. Carl Palmer is on just two of the selections, both recorded in the mid-1970s just before he decamped for ELP, and those certainly rate among the most listenable performances here. "Tomorrow Night," their only big British hit save "Devil's Answer," is present in a 1971 version. If you're into the band, it's hard to imagine you wanting your money back, since the sound is good. It is fair to observe, however, that the material and accompanists are not up to the level of Crane's skills, and Crane's playing isn't even all that interesting on the cuts of later vintage. And how did Chris Farlowe end up in Atomic Rooster anyway? (He is on the tracks from 1972, which comprise about half the CD.) The affectionate liner notes from Arthur Brown, who was never part of Atomic Rooster, but with whom Crane made his best music in the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, are interesting.

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