Friday, May 20, 2016

Atomic Rooster - 1973 - Nice ´N´ Greasy

Atomic Rooster
Nice ´N´ Greasy

01. All Across the Country (5:13)
02. Save Me (3:14)
03. Voodoo in You (7:05)
04. Goodbye Planet Earth (4:10)
05. Take One Toke (5:00)
06. Can't Find a Reason (4:30)
07. Ear in the Snow (6:12)
08. Satan's Wheel (6:32)

- Chris Farlowe / vocals
- Vincent Crane / Hammond organ, electric piano, piano, A.R.P. synthesizer
- Johnny Mandala (John Goodsall) / electric guitar
- Rick Parnell / drumkit, percussion

After a change in direction with the previous album `Made in England' for a more white soul/R&B sound, the fifth Atomic Rooster album `Nice N Greasy' saw the band still carrying on in that style, but to sadly diminishing returns. Apparently recorded in something of a hurry, the results only confirm that statement, and it's a noticeable step down in quality from the previous albums. It's a bunch of mostly just decent tunes, with a pretty useless cover of one of their biggest earlier hits and only one or two pieces that offer the classic dark magic of Rooster albums past. New guitarist Johnny Mandela (actually John Goodshall, later of fusion band Brand X) stands out the most, filling the album with smouldering electric bluesy wailing, and of course (as on all their albums) the drumming, from Rick Parnell, is front and centre and full of fire. Vocalist Chris Farlowe is still in decent form, just unfortunately saddled with mostly inferior material, but the biggest letdown of all is unforgivable - piano/organ player Vincent Crane is so low-key and subdued that it's like he's frequently missing altogether. When the `leader' is mostly missing in action, what chance does an Atomic Rooster album have to truly shine?
Album opener `All Across The Country' is a decent start, a well performed bluesy chill-out, driven by Johnny's slow-burn guitar soloing throughout the entire piece. Farlowe croons along confidently, Parnell drums up a busy storm, and Crane plods along on electric piano, but it takes for the more up-tempo second half for the piece to leap to life and for him to make his presence known with some brief soloing. `Save Me' is an uninspired horn driven remake of `Friday the 13th' from the self-titled debut album, with a tiresome histrionic vocal from Chris, only the little snarling electric guitar fills before the `Somebody...please save me' pre-chorus moments lift the track, bringing a little metal danger. `Voodoo In You' is the first standout moment, a slowly grooving classic darker Rooster track full of dark lust with that slight occult tinged unease they're known for. Johhny's simmering guitar leads the way, Chris purrs a seductive echoing vocal, but sadly Vincent is completely swamped by the other players and should have been mixed more upfront. `Goodbye Planet Earth' that follows is a slow funky jam dominated by Chris's hoarse bellow, but it's dull with a repetitive vocal that never really goes anywhere, and worse still, Vincent seems totally absent from the piece altogether.

`Take One To Toke' opens the second side with a heavy jazz/funk jam, with just a little aggressive piano, chugging wah-wah electric guitar and improvised vocals, but the `Do you want it, do you need it' words couldn't be more tired and tedious. You can hear Crane's Hammond straining to emerge at the end, but it retreats back with not even a whimper. Much better is the surprising gospel ballad `Can't Find A Reason', with big orchestration and classy warm piano from Vincent, and it's easily one of the most purely romantic and spiritual moments to appear on a Rooster album. Finally we get one of those infectious killer instrumental workouts that light up all their other albums, and for the first time on the LP Crane's Hammond organ and electric piano roars to life on `Ear In The Snow'. It's ably backed up by scratchy electric guitar and nimble unhinged drumming, and the entire band totally cooks on this one, easily making it the highlight of the disc. Sadly the promisingly titled album closer `Satan's Wheel' doesn't deliver much. Opening with jazz-fusion electric guitar ripples and creeping tip-toeing piano, some dreamy spacier verses are fine, but a boisterous chorus is repeated over and over, never achieving much at all. Damn, with a title like that, it should have been the perfect opportunity for some infernal brimstone-fuelled Hammond organ from Crane, but it never shows.

This version of the Atomic Rooster band would quickly splinter after this recording, until a new line-up reformed around Vincent Crane in 1980 in more of a heavy metal style. The Castle Music CD reissue adds a few bonus tracks, as well as a detailed booklet with many fascinating anecdotes and quotes from Chris Farlowe, doing what it can to make the album more completely appealing. Half of `Nice N Greasy' is worthwhile, the rest is throwaway if well-performed, but there might just be enough to get stronger fans over the line. Newcomers should check out the first three albums, followed by `Made in England, and only then look into this one. This is really for more forgiving die-hard followers of the band, and they'll definitely find something worthwhile here, even if it's often a pale imitation of the band at their strengths.

1 comment: