When I was handed this assignment I added Atomic Rooster‘s Death Walks Behind You to my phone & it went directly to the top of the playlist. I casually listened to it a few times & then decided I better get serious about listening. Off to the computer where I put it on repeat & cranked it up. Then I did a bit of research as I listened. After all I knew nothing about Atomic Rooster before Dante asked me to review this album; it was recorded before I was born….
The title track opens with a piano progression and a screeching guitar chord that becomes a discordant crescendo. Death Walks Behind You & is stalking you with intent. As the main melody starts there’s a heavy funk line in the bass & a classic 70s guitar underlying the chorus. John Du Cann’s slightly growly vocals are the warning we all want to scream at the characters in horror movies.
lock the door, switch the light /you’ll be so afraid tonight /hide away from the bad…count the nine lives that you had / start to scream, shout for help/ there is no one by your side.
The third track on the album is one of Atomic Rooster’s more well-known songs. Tomorrow Night (a hit single for the band – #11 in the UK in 1971) again has that classic 70s feeling. Piano & percussion combine to form a nice funk/prog opening with the guitar slide sneaking in underneath. The guitars add a heavier metal to feeling to this song. The progression changes into a slower groove with the piano fading at :50 into the song & the keyboards take a more frontal approach along with heavy cymbals. This feels like a band jamming out in their garage & I’m just hanging out on the old couch enjoying the session. Tomorrow Night has a lot going on & it takes a couple listens to pick up on all that’s going on. Listen closely & you’ll hear it… MORE COWBELL! The ending is one of rapid fire guitar licks, heavy reverb & discordant piano; a trippy slide into the Streets.
Walking into the fourth track is a dark progression of bass & Vincent Crane’s organ surrounded by climbing guitar and Paul Hammond’s drums holding everybody on pace. The organ & guitar accelerate into a crashing wall of sound and transition into more prominent keyboards. Streets is a frenetically paced song.
seven lonely streets I’m walking all on my own /seven days I weep, oh all alone, so all alone /seven lonely streets, on my own.
I don’t feel so much like I’m walking to this song but that I’m on a dark, deserted street & my pace is quickening because something unknown is following me. I don’t dare look behind me but rather need to keep haul ass with the driving guitar; rushing headlong into a call & answer session with the bass & keyboards. These guys are rocking out hard; using every bit of skill to work their instruments. Fingers would be a blur running up & down the frets. The end slows down and leaves us panting and breathless from the race.
Sleeping for Years – heh, as sleep deprived as I am right now I’d settle for hours – opens with a reverb heavy solo by Du Cann. In fact much of this song feels like one long guitar solo & I’m not that excited about it. The music is good but I don’t enjoy the final product like some other songs. It feels jumbled, harried & somewhat sloppy at times.
I Can’t Take No More mellows out, backs off the screaming guitar & brings back that driving funk-like bass. The guitar feels much more balanced here. There isn’t anything major happening here; just solid playing.
Melodic piano introduces us to Nobody Else. The beginning is a solid piano song & the vocals are crisp but I’m beginning to feel like somebody is messing with me. Is this a Billy Joel song?? I mean, I like the Piano Man but I was rocking out…. Oh wait, here’s the progression from simple piano melody to a richer musical experience. Guitars, drums & our friend the cowbell join up and we rock on. Another swing into the mellow piano to end the song leaves me feeling relaxed & revived.
Atomic Rooster ends this album with Gershatzer. Right into the music, no lead in just full-fledged guitar, keyboards, drums… then a rather abrupt change into some truly great piano runs & just as quickly into a techno-trip on the keyboards. The progressions here are lightning fast & surprising. Back to piano & a rapid-fire scale. This piece is beyond description. Moody one second, calm the next & raucously out of tune the next I kick back & just absorb the notes. I air drum with the solo (yeah, I look crazy but nobody can see me) and enjoy the great big ending to a complex album.