Atomic Rooster Live in Germany with Vincent Crane & Bernie Torme

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ATOMIC ROOSTER - Live In Germany 1983

15.jpg (107027 bytes)Once in a while, a rock fan's dreams come true when some of his favourite musicians suddenly get together to record and perform. Occasionally it works - like Dylan and The Band, Van Morrison and The Chieftains, Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney. Unfortunately, more often it doesn't - just think of Blind Faith or The Style Council. Luckily, the combination of guitarist BERNIE TORMÉ and Hammond hero VINCENT CRANE'S legendary hard prog rock group ATOMIC ROOSTER was very much an alliance that worked. If you have any doubt about what I mean, just stick this CD on your player. It may sound raw and "live", recorded as it is out in the hall at a gig in Germany in 1983, but it has more spirit and character than most top-notch hi-fi digi-tech recordings I can think of. Bernie Tormé's first encounter with Atomic Rooster happened from an audience point of view in his native Dublin, in 1970. The group was then a trio consisting of just organ, bass and drums. What did Tormé, the ultimate Stratocaster magician, think of this no-guitar line-up? "They blew me away," he says. "They were just totally fantastic. It's one of the best gigs I've ever been to in my whole life. I just walked away completely in awe, thinking, 'Who needs guitars?'" Luckily, Tormé stuck to his Strat but it would be another twelve years _ some of them spent as a member of the immensely successfully band Gillan - before Bernie finally became an Atomic Rooster himself. In the meantime, Vincent Crane had gained notoriety as one the longest surviving musicians in the British rock scene.

Born 21 May 1943 in Reading, Crane had received three years of formal music training at the London Trinity College of Music. Following that he joined several smaller line-ups such as J.C. & THE MACHINE and THE WORD ENGINE. His first professional gig came in 1963 at London's Marquee Club, where he performed with his own VINCE CRANE BAND. Three years later he met ARTHUR BROWN and together they formed THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN, whose 1968 single, "Fire", along with a similarly titled follow-up album topped the charts all over the world. After three tours of America, Crane left this group in 1969 and, accompanied by drummer CARL PALMER (also a runaway from Arthur Brown), returned to England on Friday the 13th ... Atomic Rooster were formed soon after when the two of them were joined by bass player NICK GRAHAM (incidentally, the group name was inspired by a member of US group RHINOCEROS, who had used it as his alter ego). Soon after, influenced by styles such as jazz, rock, psychedelia and hard progressive rock, Atomic Rooster released an eponymously titled LP for the record label B&C. In 1970 the group were augmented by JOHN DuCANN, a guitarist and lead singer. DuCann had previously been in hard progressive guitar acts such as ANDROMEDA and THE ATTACK. When Nick Graham left the Rooster, they became as a trio, with Vincent Crane playing bass on the lower part of his organ keyboard (only later did he start to use a set of bass pedals, as on this current release). This slightly unusual combination of instruments made for an original and distinctive sound, where the arrangements relied heavily on riffs. Since Vince Crane's left hand was busy playing bass notes, he only had one hand available to press down chords. The result was a loud and energetic form of playing, with organ and guitar performing in unison with the organ bass. In addition to this it must be recalled that John DuCann was performing the lead vocals, so in a sense Atomic Rooster was a three-piece with the same power as a quintet. It was obviously very hard work for all involved but the effort paid off. After some nine months of touring Carl Palmer left to join EMERSON LAKE & PALMER. Crane and DuCann got in RIC PARNELL as a replacement, but the new line-up didn't quite gel and it wasn't long before Parnell had to be replaced by PAUL HAMMOND. Hammond had been drumming since the age of twelve and in 1970 had won a competition held by Melody Maker. Some sources claim that this was where he was first spotted by Vincent Crane; John DuCann, however, recalls that Paul Hammond was the member of a band called FARM, whom Atomic Rooster had been billed alongside. Apparently, he was a junior draughtsman at the time when Crane and DuCann recruited him. Titled Death Walks Behind You the following LP entered the UK Top 10. A single, "Tomorrow Night", was taken from the LP and reached to No. 7. The next LP did even better, earning the group a Top 5 position, while the single "Devil's Answer" got to No. 2. Soon after the group was involved in a car crash during a tour in Germany, and Paul Hammond broke his leg. While recovering from the accident he learned that John DuCann was leaving Atomic Rooster, and he decided to follow go along with him. They formed the basis of HARD STUFF, the first group to release a single for Deep Purple's label PURPLE. Crane soldiered on with a new line-up including singer CHRIS FARLOWE. However, in the wake of the late 1970s New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the DuCann/Hammond line-up reformed and soon found themselves back on the road as well as in the recording studio. This went on until 1981, when DuCann once again left to make room for Bernie Tormé, who has recently broken away from Gillan (interestingly, Tormé's solo single from that same year, a cover of THE KINKS' "All Day And All Of The Night", had featured John DuCann on rhythm guitar). For a rundown on Bernie's history prior to joining Atomic Rooster look no further than the sleevenotes for previous releases on Retrowrek. The short but rather intense story of Tormé's involvement with Atomic Rooster started with a phone call: "It was Vincent Crane!" Tormé still recalls. "He asked me to do an Italian tour. Vincent was a great hero of mine. He was just an amazing musician and performer. So of course I said yes." Tormé recalls meeting Paul Hammond at Crane's house: "He was very, very drunk. Always."

16.jpg (69568 bytes)With Vincent Crane now using bass pedals and singing lead vocals the trio did one afternoon's rehearsal, and off they bravely set for Milan! "The tour was chaos, the gigs were chaos," Tormé continues. "Vincent demolished a Hammond organ which had been hired for him from the support band on the first night. Paul and I just carried on. A repair was bodged up and we did two more gigs which were just a haze. The promoter vanished after two night leaving us stuck in some hotel in a godforsaken part of Turin, with no transport. We finally let the bags and stuff out the windows and did a runner, on buses and trains back to Calais. It was just brilliant!" In fact, the experience was so much fun that Bernie did another tour in Germany with Vincent and Paul, which he recalls as "just as funny and even crazier". It was during this tour that the concert featured on this CD was recorded for posterity. Tormé also played on Headline News, the group's subsequent album. By then, however, he was busy establishing his own band THE ELECTRIC GYPSIES. Atomic Rooster toured Germany and Yugoslavia but disbanded in 1984, after which Vincent Crane joined DEXY'S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS. Suffering from the aftermath of a horrific nervous breakdown he committed suicide in 1989. A year later Paul Hammond died of an overdose. To this day Atomic Rooster is still recalled as one of the most original and persistent bands rooted in late 1960s British rock, when the division between hard rock and progressive rock still hadn't occurred. There are many great things to be said about this band, however they had one particular quality which for me defines them more than anything. They wrote and played some of the greatest riffs ever in rock 'n' roll history _ and as anyone knows, riffs are very much what rock 'n' roll is about. But that's enough of me talking. Instead, stick on this compact disc and join the audience watching Atomic Rooster performing "live" in Germany in 1983. I'm sure by the end of the disc you too will be crying out for another "Zugabe"! CLAES JOHANSEN with thanks to Jeannie Crane and Bernie Tormé


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