In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster is a remarkable album, but not for the most obvious reasons. On first listen, it’s a heavy psych-prog album by a band centred around former Crazy World of Arthur Brown organ-botherer Vincent Crane and the band’s only album featuring the vocal talents of former Leaf Hound vocalist Peter French (who would later release a solo album with the wonderful title Ducks in Flight), but that’s not the most remarkable thing about it. What is remarkable is that it was recorded by a band that didn’t actually exist.
The initial sessions for the album were recorded with vocalist and guitar wrangler John Cann and drummer Paul Hammond, both of whom left the band shortly before or after French joined (various sources contradict each other on when exactly this was). Crane then wiped a lot of Cann’s guitar work from the album, opting for more emphasis on his piano and organ work. Cann’s sterling fretwork wizardry is all over In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster, so who knows what great stuff was wiped after he’d left the sessions – Chances are we’ll never know because neither Crane or Cann are still with us, having passed away in 1989 and 2011 respectively. Hammond also passed away in 1992, but unlike Cann, his musical contribution to the album was undiluted, in fact his drumming is a major feature throughout.
Stars of the show though are Crane and French, with Atomic Rooster’s lynchpin being an organ-grinding marvel and Crane possessing one of the greatest rock yelps the vast majority of rock fans never heard. Crane and French finished the album together utilising what Hammond and Cann had left behind (one can only imagine that neither of them could afford legal representation at the time, or the split was considerably more amicable than average) and despite all the odds, it was a strong album, boasting eight tracks, two of which, “A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down” and “The Rock” are oddly enjoyable instrumental work outs. It is Cann’s vocals, not French’s on the sinuous “Black Snake”, but it doesn’t jar the listener, indeed his vocals suit the song far better than French’s more histrionic voice would have done, so it’s evident that Crane was being careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
With great heavy-prog tunes like “Breakthrough”, “Break the Ice” and “The Price” dotted throughout, In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster is one of those albums that deserves wider recognition by fans of 70s rock. It’s well paced, doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and despite it’s tortured genesis, the musicianship is top-notch throughout. If there is one way it could be improved, maybe I would have sequenced the album so that “Head in the Sky” opened the album with it’s squall of sound, instead of being stuck two third of the way through the album, on the second side. This is a minor quibble though, as In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster is one of those albums ripe for rediscovery for an audience who may want to investigate 70s hard rock beyond the ongoing Led Zeppelin reissue programme.