Friday, October 2, 2015

Atomic Rooster - 1970 [1990] "Death Walks Behind You"

Death Walks Behind You is the second studio album by British rock band Atomic Rooster. It was their first album to receive US release, albeit in a different sleeve. It is commonly thought of as the archetypal Atomic Rooster album, recorded by the 'classic' line-up of Vincent Crane, John Du Cann and Paul Hammond. It is certainly, critically and commercially, their most successful album and often hailed as a classic of the progressive rock genre. It also produced the hit single "Tomorrow Night" (UK #11), which became one of the band's best-known songs. The album's cover features the William Blake monotype Nebuchadnezzar.

"Devil's Answer" might be the record for which Atomic Rooster are remembered, but it was their second album that posted warning that they were on the verge of creating something dazzling -- simply because the record itself is a thing of almost freakish beauty. With only organist Vincent Crane surviving from the original lineup, and John Du Cann coming in to relieve him of some of the songwriting duties, Death Walks Behind You opens at a gallop and closes with a sprint. The title track is effectively spooky enough for any Hammer horror aficionado, all descending pianos and Psycho-screaming guitars, while "Gershatzer," a duet for organ and percussion, proves that new drummer Paul Hammond is more than a match for the departed Carl Palmer. It's in between these dramatic bookends, however, that Rooster truly peak, with the stately "VUG," the pensive "Nobody Else," and the truly amazing "Tomorrow Night" (one of the scariest love songs ever let loose on the U.K. chart) all impressing. Crane's liner notes, incidentally, remind us that the album packed a different version of the hit, with an extended ending that descends into unimagined chaos -- a shocker for the pop kids, perhaps, but a fabulous bridge into the succeeding "7 Streets." Possibly the best evidence for this being Atomic Rooster's masterpiece, however, comes not simply from what's on the album, but for what has been left off. An excellent repackaging and remastering job restores the original artwork in all its gatefold glory, but you'll search in vain for bonus tracks -- not because there were none to add, but because they simply wouldn't fit. Sit through Death Walks Behind You, after all, and you really won't need any more surprises.

This album is (or should be) considered as a landmark and a masterpiece in the hard rock category by metalheads, progheads, and progmetalheads. The North American version came with a different cover depicting a rooster at atomic speed in fire. With Palmer gone to ELP, and Graham forming his own band, Crane had to restart this band from scratch and conVinced John (Du)Cann (formely of psych bands The Attack and Andromeda) and Paul Hammond to take the drum stool (since the organ seat was already taken), Vincent Crane soldiered on. The partnership between Cann and Crane was like cat and dog, but they did manage to pull off some classic early heavy metal for almost two albums. Every track here is a gem in its genre and Seven Streets is my fave although the public will remember mostly their outstanding single Tomorrow Night. 

Tracks Listing
1. Death Walks Behind You (7:24)
2. VUG (instrumental) (5:03)
3. Tomorrow Night (4:02)
4. 7 Streets (6:47)
5. Sleeping For Years (5:30)
6. I Can't Take No More (3:36)
7. Nobody Else (5:04)
8. Gershatzer (instrumental) (8:01)

Total Time: 45:27 

Line-up / Musicians
 - John Cann / acoustic & electric guitars, lead vocals
- Vincent Crane / Hammond organ, piano, backing vocals
- Paul Hammond / drums, percussion

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