Metal Dawn [Head 1CD]
BBC sessions 1970-1972. EX SBD

Although the band continued on for years into the future (and then came back a few years after that), the only Rooster that really mattered was the earliest, the 1970-1971 line-up that shrugged off the departure of drummer Carl Palmer, and hovered for a brief, but very real moment on the edge of a genuine commercial breakthrough.

Two hit singles, "Tomorrow Night" and "Devil’s Answer," are Rooster’s best known legacy, but "Death Walks Behind You," "Save Me," "Friday The 13th" and "Seven Lonely Streets" were just as powerful, and this odd little compilation captures the band at its most magnificent.

The sound quality is not what it could be, and neither is the advertising. Far from rounding up the five BBC sessions that Atomic Rooster recorded between 1970-1972, this is a mishmash that opens with three cuts recorded live (possibly for the Beeb) in 1971. Vinyl lifts of the singles "Play The Game" and "Devil’s Answer" follow, before we get into a pair of 1971 studio out-takes, the instrumental "A Spoonful of Bromide" and "Head In The Sky." A version of "Stand By Me," recorded for the BBC’s Johnny Walker show in June 1972 is followed by three further tracks erroneously claiming to date from the same session ("Close Your Eyes," "Breakthrough" and "Save Me"), and the set wraps with three more live cuts, from French TV that same year.

With John DuCann having made great swathes of the Rooster archive officially available, this disc is a curio at best. But it’s also a reminder that, for all the material that is on the streets, the world still awaits an authoritative Atomic Rooster anthology. Most of this CD would find a happy home therein, but it’s such a minor part of the story that you need to be a completist to hunt it down on its own. - Dave Thompson

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September 29, 2006