Greetings loyal masses of the cult, this is "Tales of the Psychic Warrior"; a young fan's view from the battlefield. I am here to offer you insights, opinions and reviews of all things Cult. Before we get started, let me tell you who I am and what I am about.
My full name is Jacob Paul Koehler and I am 21 years old. I reside in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I am not attending college. I am finishing up my undergraduate degree at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the field of Communications Media with an emphasis on Radio Production. If you have already read my first concert review then you know how I got into this amazing group and that I probably have way too much time on my hands. But if you wish, you can read all about my obsession right here in my new column.
Every few weeks I will offer you my insights on BOC albums, bootlegs, or any random thoughts and observations in general about the past, present, and future of Blue Oyster Cult. Now keep in mind, I have no credentials whatsoever that would make me a scholar on Blue Oyster Cult, I am not published anywhere else and let's face it, I am just a kid for goodness sake. This however does not make me any less of a fan and it is merely my love and passion for this group that gives me the power to write this column for this great website.
As a further disclaimer to you the readers, these writings are merely my opinions and nothing more. I greatly encourage discussion and would very much like to hear back from as many people as possible. So if you disagree with me or feel like I have a good point, please feel free to tell me. I would love to hear from you.
In conclusion, I would like to thank those who came before me; Bolle Gregmar for being the undisputed master of all things BOC, Martin Popoff for inspiration and Mr. Hotrails himself, Ralph, for putting up this great site you are now visiting. So keep it here for all things BOC and keep it here for more "Tales From The Psychic Warrior".
|Chapter 01: On Flame With Rock And Roll|
|Chapter 02: Don't Fear The Reaper: The Best Of Blue Oyster Cult|
|Chapter 03: Workshop Of The Telescope|
|Chapter 04: Super Hits|
|Chapter 05: Some Enchanted Evening|
|Chapter 06: On Your Feet Or On Your Knees|
|Chapter 07: Imaginos|
|Chapter 08: Secret Treaties|
|Chapter 09: Agents Of Fortune|
|Chapter 10: The Cowbell Syndrome|
|Chapter 11: Tyranny And Mutation|
|Chapter 12: Blue Oyster Cult|
|Chapter 13: Spectres|
|Chapter 14: Extraterrestrial Live|
|Chapter 15: No Room in Cleveland: BOC & The Hall Of Fame|
|Chapter 16: Fire of Unknown Origin|
|Chapter 17: A Long Day's Night|
|Chapter 18: 16 June 2007: State Theatre, Uniontown PA|
|Chapter 19: 14 Sept 2007: Burgettstown PA|
|Chapter 20: Grades I got in College ["Extraterrestrial Live": An Artistic Analysis]|
Welcome to another installment of Tales of the Psychic Warrior, I am your humble host Jake, here with more on the exploits of our favorite Oysterboys.
As I am writing this I am sitting in Indiana, Pennsylvania awaiting graduation and the exodus into the work field. Here it is fall and with the myriad of colors of the leaves that change day by day I know that life around me is also changing. My peers are staring a hole into the future and the vast uncertainties which lay before them. I too am one of these people, yet for as long as I can remember I have also taken a long glance at the past, be it my own or the days before my birth long since forgotten. This is the case with the lion's share of my taste in music.
Being of a different generation, I am faced with a significantly different attitude and perspective when it comes to the music. For me I have a large back catalogue to search through and can start my journey into the music at any point in time that I want whereas others who were around when the music was first made can look at the music and remember when it was new and how it stood out not as a classic, but a contemporary part of the times and how it compared to what else was going on. This leaves us with not only original LP's but another player in the game; the "Greatest Hits".
For better (unreleased material, bonus new tracks not found on any other LP, rare singles and artwork, expansive liner notes) or worse (poor song selection, poor representation of past albums and or entire career, edited versions) these can serve as a good way to introduce those who came late to the party and give them a chance to get a brief review of what is to come with whatever group you are trying to get into. Blue Oyster Cult is no exception. While checking on www.allmusic.com I counted twenty-five compilations since 1987. I counted only eighteen total albums released by the band themselves, including the live ones.
So in order to maybe help out those of you who are not sure where to start, I have offered some examples that I found helpful in getting me started in my affinity with BOC.
As previously noted in "My First BOC Experience" this was my first real introduction to the band non-radio. This was the first time I could look at the band outside of just the usual "Reaper" or "Godzilla" and get down to some lesser-known tracks.
All in all I feel that this is guilty of having too many tracks off of "Specters" and not having any tracks off of "Tyranny and Mutation". Secondly, the version of "Career Of Evil" has the alternate lyrics from the original off of "Secret Treaties". Furthermore with only ten cuts, this hardly gets you a good view of the band and that four of these tracks I had already heard on the radio. So with only six new BOC songs to this listener, this did not quench my thirst. Looking back, I think it was pretty interesting to see such a dark horse track like "Death Valley Nights" wind up here.
Now here is where it really got me. I was sixteen and going through a bad bout of depression when I came across this in my local Borders music store for only $7.99! In American dollars, this is a steal. I immediately connected with this collection of new and familiar songs to the point where I did not take this out of my stereo for about two solid weeks.
This collection introduced me to what is now my all-time favorite song in the BOC canon with "Flaming Telepaths" and got me interested in what "Tyranny..." had to offer with "The Red and the Black". I was stoked to hear the original version of "Astronomy" and was blown away at the majesty of "I Love the Night". The last half of the disc took a while to grow on me but with time, these songs have appeal. I told all my friends about this disc and even got my friend Phil Melodia to pick it up. He liked the pop stuff on the second half....not a surprise.
It is in my opinion that this is far and away the best single disc compilation on the market. Some albums are under-represented ("Tyranny...") but that would just be me being nit-picky. In the long run, the good more then outweighs the bad leaving the listener with a great start. This is highly recommended to anybody who is new to the game of BOC.
Now I know what you are thinking, you are thinking that more is better and if you got the cash, then go for whatever gets you the most bang for your buck right? Well with some groups, this is not the case... but it is here. C'mon people, there are thirty-two songs and by default this is arguably the set to own if you want an overview of BOC. To be honest, the reason I picked this up was because I thought these were all live tracks. I was stupid. I admit this.
But for once my stupidity paid off. Had I not bought this early in my collecting then I would have missed out on the unreleased versions of "Buck's Boogie" (my favorite version, even better then on "On Your Feet....."), "The Red and the Black" or "Workshop of the Telescopes" (also my favorite version). The latter tracks appeared on the infamous 1972 bootleg now resorted here for all to enjoy. Secondly, it hits you with some of the best points of their first live record "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees", but we will get into that one later.
With the exception of "Mirrors" and "Cultosaurus Erectus", all studio albums get at least two shots and with the high unavailability of "Club Ninja" in the states, the last two tracks on this two disc set are another plus.
I know its next to impossible, but this one just delivers more then the rest by far by means of sheer catalogue content alone. A lot of unreleased stuff and great live cuts make this the king of all BOC retrospectives on the market today.
After twisting his arm to buy this one evening, my friend and partner in Cult crime Dan Cummins picked this up because he was a fan of "Godzilla". That is exactly how they got me. After a while they grew on him and then he was asking me what he should buy next. Another convert for the brotherhood!
It is very sparse, but managed to find that this comp throws a lot of curves for not only the song selection, but for the fact that the version of "The Red and the Black" is the bootleg live version found off of "Workshop...." I found that to be pretty interesting that that version made it on to it and not the studio version. Not highly recommended, but worth a look if you are a newbie and want a bargain on a good CD.
Well there you have it, the story of how BOC compilation collections played in my life. I learned that for some reason that whoever out these together did not care for "Tyranny...' and seemed to acknowledge the power of BOC in concert. But my journey only began here, and it only got more complex and complicated as I went along.
Be sure to with thoughts or questions. I would be glad to hear from you.
Bonus DVD: "Some OTHER Enchanted Evening"
Recorded 1978 direct to 3/4 inch video at The Capitol Center, Landover, MD
Previously Unreleased Live Recording (Live Mix by George Geranios)
Hey cultists, here we are again for another installment of "Tales of the Psychic Warrior" with me, your humble host Jake. In this piece we will examine the second live album issued by the band in 1978 elegantly titled "Some Enchanted Evening".
Regarded by Classic Rock magazine (and some of the band members themselves) as the definitive live album from the group, this collection is also held in high regard from many fans. Most notably however for the live cut of "Astromony", which many consider to be the definitive version of that song in particular.
I remember this disc that was purchased by my older brother Aaron one summer because he wanted his own versions of "Godzilla" and "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and my brother mistakenly thinking this was a compilation album and not a live offering picked this up. On the way home we put it in the stereo to see how it sounded. Needless to say when he found out it was all live, he was upset but thankfully did not return it and let it collect dust in his room in our basement.
For years he let this thing sit without ever playing it. Not one single listen. So after a few months, I picked it up and put it on. I was not completely blown away at its contents right off the bat, but I remember wanting to hear more. My curiosity was peaked.
Inner contents aside, I was and still am impressed by the cover art. Any teenager might not find the grim reaper riding on a black stallion in the desert at midnight cool, but I was clearly not any teenager. Check out the intricate detail on the skull; it looks as if it is saying "Yes young man....come and follow me to worlds unknown...". I took the ride and have not regretted it one bit.
Even the liner notes were interesting with Eric and Allen on a plane going god knows where while making a phone call. The head shots of the band themselves with their own personal signatures below them were also a nice touch. The coolest thing I thought was the address to write to for the complete BOC lyrics. I wonder if that would still work?
I tried to keep all of my thoughts and writings in strict chronological order for this column, but if you read the "Compilations Of Cult" piece, I actually heard this before "Don't Fear The Reaper- The Best Of Blue Oyster Cult" and "Workshop..." so this release dates back pretty far. These versions of songs really go back a long way with me.
Anyway before I go off on an even longer tangent, here is the track by track rundown of the entire album.
R.U. Ready 2 Rock
Having already heard the studio version before, I knew pretty much to expect with this track. Personally I could go either way with this version or the "Specters" version, but it was cool to hear them break the song down in the middle to let Eric tell one of his stage raps about how the last time they played at the Fox Theatre they sold it out just like they did that night. Allen Lanier really lets loose on this one with a cool synth solo while the band segues into a few riffs from "Kick Out The Jams" (more on that later). They close this one out with a blues-type outro and some cheers before the next track.
E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
Now this was the first time I heard this song, ever. I thought the main riff was really catchy upon first audio, but I have to admit that I did not get too excited over this song. I know this might shock some people, but hey, it's the truth. Now when I heard the studio cut, I dug that one a lot better. I am not entirely sure why, I think it might be the flange guitar effect on Buck's intro to the song that might have got me, or Eric's whispered vocal delivery. Either way, it is a classic BOC song that over a period of time I was able to appreciate and love; even if its not this exact version.
Now this might offend some of the old guard fans, but the first time I heard this was Metallica's cover off the "Garage Inc." album. I then heard the real one off of the "Don't Fear The Reaper...." comp a few years later. I still think both versions are great, but I am clear to defend BOC's version to the death whenever the situation calls for it. Honestly, I don't really see how this version is that much better than the studio version. I am not saying its bad at all, just nothing special. I do think Buck's solos over the chorus are really inspired and worth mention. On the vocals, I stand by what I said in my review of the August 5 show in Burgettstown that Eric should not try to shout this one as much. It really loses effect when he does. It is not as bad here, but if he would just lay back, blah, blah, you get the picture.
Kick Out The Jams
It was only within the past five months that I was able to get around to hearing MC5's original version. It was pretty good, but I was surprised to find out that it was a little bit slower than the BOC version. I might be out of my mind, but that I what I thought of it. Both still rock however. Eric really makes it sound like its his own song on this one, but it would have been a lot cooler if he said "motherfuckers" instead of "brothers and sisters" at the beginning. To this day I am still impressed at how fast these guys were able to play together and for Al Bouchard for handling the quick time changes. This is a cool song altogether and good to drive fast to if you ever get the chance.
While driving back from Sandy Creek, PA for a hunting competition with my Uncle Steve one Saturday evening, I heard this version on the radio. On the radio mind you! Still being new to the band, I am not even sure if I had heard the version on my brothers copy before this, I was really impressed by this cut. Buck's guitar playing really floored me here. It was so damn fast yet I could pick out every note he was playing and I always dug Joe Bouchard's bass fill near the end of the song. It is also of note that this is probably the only live version of this song under five minutes. All the rest feature the obligatory drum solo with the lasers and such.
(Don't Fear) The Reaper
Right from the first time I heard this I wondered what was wrong. I noticed the song was in a different key. It seemed strange as to why they would take a song in Am and play it in B, I think. I remember seeing Buck play this one with his Rick Kresiak custom SG that I know he tunes to F#. I am not sure why they do this, but it distinguishes it from the studio version. I really dug the elongated ending with the solos and the vocals on this and Allen's keys on the live version which differ from the studio version as well. Anyone who likes the studio version should check this version out just to see the difference between the two.
We Gotta Get Out Of This Place
This might sound strange, but at a young age, I was an Animals fan, and was intrigued to hear their version, yet it made me wonder why on a seven song live album they would make two of the cuts covers? So with the song itself, it's an honorable cover from a group of Animals fans most likely. They keep it true to the original albeit with more guitar solos. Eric sounded really good on this one, and its hard to do Eric Burdon well, but the other Eric did and should be congratulated for it.
(Writers note: right as I was finishing up the piece and about to submit it to Ralph, the video of The Animals performance of this song on Ed Sullivan came on...no shit!)
So there you have it, a good representation of a touring band with a strong live reputation. This is without a doubt a great record, but in my mind not the final word on this group as a live unit by a long shot. For this there are several reasons;
1. With only seven cuts, this is just simply not enough to chew on. There are too many songs and albums that were ignored. This is not by any means a fault of the members themselves, but it does give only a short answer to a long and detailed question.
2. Too many cover songs. I know that BOC put covers on their previous live release, but remember that it was a double live album upon its first pressing on vinyl. With this you only have five songs that are original and that makes it an EP for the most part. The upside to the covers is the fact that they are really good covers and worth a listen.
3. The versions of the songs here don't really stand out that much. I am not saying the versions here are bad by any means, but its just that they are short in overshadowing the originals and in some cases don't meet up with the studio versions at all. But, with BOC, I usually feel the opposite because most of the time the live versions of their work far exceeds the studio versions.
Ok, well that just about does it for me. Keep it here next time as we delve into another chapter of "Tales Of The Psychic Warrior". The next chapter will throw you the reader a bit of a curve so to speak. See you soon!
Stop the presses folks: this Valentines Day has brought us one hell of a treat in the form of the long awaited reissue of the classic "Some Enchanted Evening" from the mighty Blue Oyster Cult. Gone is the sparse seven track collection of songs and here in it's place is fourteen tracks of pure sonic fury which shows the band in it's prime according to drummer Al Bouchard who cites this tour as being the prime representation of the band at it's peak.
Now I think it would be redundant to go into each track individually and pick it apart, especially since I already did this above. I will go into some detail on each track.
I think that the version of "M.E. 262" on here really gives the version on "On Your Feet..." a real run for its money. The shorter version of the track really holds up and the vocals are a lot better here where on the earlier version they are more than a bit muddy after the 5 guitars bit. Furthermore, Al's drumming on this track is nothing short of awesome during the final verse.
"Harvester Of Eyes", one of my all-time favorites still doesn't beat the "On Your Feet..." version, but it still is an absolute powerhouse in the live setting. Joe's bass solo is, well, ok in my opinion. I feel his best work as a bassist was done as an in-the pocket player rather than a soloist.
However, his solo provides a cool build-up for the "5 Guitars" bit which is completely different from the 1975 version. This one is a bit tighter and melodically more complex and generally sounds more composed whereas the previous version seemed a bit more like a jam placed in the middle of a song..
"(This Ain't The) Summer Of Love" just seems not to be long enough. I mean I think it's one of their best riffs and I wish it provided more than just a lead-in to Joe's bass solo. As for the rest of the songs and their players, they really are on the top of their game. The live version of "Golden Age Of Leather" from the DVD shows that the boys can pull off a mighty studio creation in the live setting without missing anything that the original version had.
The DVD itself is of really good quality considering. The colors are crisp and clear and the sound is damn near perfect. I think it is such a treat getting able to see and hear the band in this context and a true testament to how far technology has come. The DVD format is really a Godsend for us rock nerds who eat this kind of stuff up. If you haven't got your hands on this by now, then what the hell are you waiting for?
Hello and welcome to another installment of "Tales Of The Psychic Warrior" and tonight we will delve into the deep, convoluted waters which is Blue Oyster Cult's disjointed masterpiece "Imaginos". Let me tell you right now, this is probably going to be the hardest piece I will ever have to write on this band. This concept, so dense and elaborate doesn't make it easy to those who choose to write about it. Unlike the others, I had to make sure I was listening to the album at the time of the submission. It was too difficult for me to just recall what the content was right off the bat. Furthermore, the stories of who played on what and what this reference means compared to that and how it all relates is enough to make even the most ardent BOC fan's head spin. This writing will mainly concern the songs themselves. If I have left anything out then either check out John Swartz's BOC FAQ or read Martin Popoff's book to get a more detailed description of events.
At the time of this writing, it is the dark, early morning hours of December 4, 2005. A gentle snow is blanketing the small town of Indiana, PA. The cold winds of winter have finally arrived and made their presence known. Visions of a seemingly endless winter are now firmly in the minds of many. But here and now, I will take you back to a hot summer some four years ago when I came upon this lost artifact seemingly lost and misunderstood to many one hot July evening.
In the summer of 2001, I was personally and mentally a wreck. Teenage depression and a whole load of other unimportant bullshit were casting me into a haze where I thought deliverance was a complete impossibility. But thank god the classes ended and the halls of my high school were miles and miles away. I was in dire need of change. My Uncle Todd was kind enough to give me a summer job helping him fix up his property. I was eager to join, and the money was good, I was going though a real spending spree when it came to music. It was around this time that I picked up the "Workshop Of The Telescopes" comp and a whole load of other music. During this time I was going on my usual route down McKnight road in Pittsburgh checking out my usual stores. NRM, Camelot, Borders and Best Buy were all located along a three to five mile strip of road that led right into the heart of Pittsburgh. That night I made another stop in a relatively new store with a somewhat deceptive name.
Half Price Books was a store that mainly specialized in, well, half-priced books, yet interestingly had used vinyl, tapes and CD's. I had made some good finds there in the past and since it was a new store, I thought I would check it out. Maybe I would get lucky. In this case, I did.
While browsing though the bins of used and discarded CD's; I came across the big red letters that would indicate a Columbia Records album. The band name was familiar, yet what was that strange word? I had never heard about this album whatsoever and had completely no idea of its existence. I picked it up and examined the case. Good shape. No cracks or heavy abrasions. Booklet was intact. Price: $5.98. Good, it was cheap too.
When I turned the case over, I was very puzzled. At this time I was wary of anything that BOC released in the eighties. I knew they "fell" from grace around '83 or something so I was not sold on it yet. It was when I looked at the songs on the disc.
What the hell???!! "Astronomy", that's off of "Secret Treaties". And they don't have a song called "Blue Oyster Cult", do they? Hey, all the original members are on this, and it's from 1988? What the Hell are Robbie Krieger and Joe Satriani doing here? These have to be the most unreadable liner notes ever, what the hell kind of story is this? Right from the beginning I was already asking questions. And I hadn't even listened to the damn thing yet!
So I picked it up and something else and headed for home. I was deep into my mix-tape phase at the time. Every new CD was transferred to a cassette tape so I could listen to it on my walkman. At this time I was up to about forty or so mix tapes in my collection. I wanted to add this, but as I said before, I was highly suspicious.
I can vividly remember passing by Ross Park Mall while inserting the CD into the stereo and saying to myself "please don't suck, please don't suck" as the first chords of "I Am The One You Warned Me Of" kicked in. I thought it was pretty good and at first digestion, I was in fact happy with my purchase. True, it reeks of bad eighties production with its thin drums and sometimes cheesy sounding synths, but the songs were good and the performances were well up to par. I was a little bit confused to see all of these guest musicians and singers on here. What was their purpose?
Basically, Al Bouchard and Sandy Pearlman put this all together after Al was booted from BOC in '81 using old ideas and long unused song and story structures. They now had the chance to put it all together. So with their own hands and a slew of guest musicians, they set about connecting the dots in the vast BOC landscape with this grandiose concept album. However, the boys at the head offices were not keen on Al's vocals and did not want to put it out without the BOC name on it. Long story short, all the other boys in the band were called up to play on the album so it could be released as a BOC record and make everybody happy.
The result is a concept album like no other. A concept album that according to mostly all involved being completely out of sequence. I did some research on this and in my opinion can pretty much support this claim. Unless it's exactly what they want us to think... Oh and if you like lots of backup vocals, and I mean LOTS of backup vocals, then this is probably the best album BOC has ever done.
But in terms of the songs, here is what we have;
I Am The One You Warned Me Of
With a catchy guitar riff and a strong vocal from Eric, this gets the album off to a strong start. Like I said before, the drums do not sound all that good. Too chambered and too tinny and overall, way too flat. The guitar work on this track is really good. Too bad nobody is sure exactly who did it. This song and the entire album in general showed a burgeoning progressive side to the band that had not really been so much at the forefront. In case you missed it (I did for about three and a half years) Jon Rogers guests on this song adding vocals to the later verses. I like this song quite a bit and it does stand out when I think about this album as one of the better on the disc.
Now its time for Buck to tag in and take vocals on this one. Lots of keyboard effects and muted guitars usher in the song. Once again, good guitar work from whomever! The incessant "Seven Seven Seven" spoken word background parts can get annoying, but it was the only real thing I remembered about this particular song. Once that part hit, I remembered the rest of the song. Buck does a good job vocally showing off his well-trained tenor voice to great effect.
In The Presence Of Another World
Even after four years of listening and consideration, this is still my favorite track on the record. The atmospheric piano and guitar accompaniment to Eric's haunting vocal give this song a great start. After a few bars of this, the drums kick in and it becomes a lot heavier, with a great chorus and backup singers that are not overdone. Then it slows down again and fades to a couple seconds of silence before the guitar and piano creep back in with the backup singers to a symphonic ending complete with spoken dialogue from both Eric and some females branding the "master" a "monster". Great song, and in my opinion a classic in the BOC canon.
Del Rio's Song
Once again, we have Eric taking the lead vocal with some backup from Buck with a surprisingly upbeat and melodic number. The guitar solos get pretty heavy with this one right before Al Bouchard comes in with a spoken word part complete with echo! A little bit strange, but hey it is a concept album right?
The Siege And Investiture Of Baron Von Frankenstein's Castle At Weisseria
Yeah, I know, that has got to be one of the longest damn song titles in history. This track bares the vocals of Joey Cerisano, a veteran of the New Jersey music scene singing over elaborate keyboards and a heavy guitar riff with even more backup vocals from a small army of singers. This Cerisano has a high range, much higher than Eric or even Buck for that matter. It is interesting to hear a guest vocalist come into a band and completely do a full lead vocal on a song, yet Blue Oyster Cult was hardly a "band" on this album. Al comes in to add a few "Carpe Diems" near the final verse. The song fades out with a strong modulation and some great piano work and lots of multi-layered vocals which give it an operatic quality. It goes without saying that there is no other song like it in the BOC catalogue.
Ok, now with the "Rocky" type guitar riff ushering in the song and elaborate keyboard flourishes you might think that there is nothing left you could do to change on the original version right? Wrong, cause when Buck's voice comes in, you are just getting started. Yes, Buck takes this one over from Eric and pretty much everything but the lyrics themselves are turned upside-down. And yes, there are a ton of backup vocals on this one; the "hey, hey hey" parts really sounding cheesy. I read that on one version of this, Steven King gave a spoken word intro. I would love to hear it. The guitars are much more structured and I wonder if its true that Buck and Joe Satriani played on this one. A somewhat interesting if somewhat lame attempt at revisiting a classic.
Magna Of Illusion
Buck keeps things going, taking another lead vocal on this with some spoken word help from Al with this vocally non-linear melodic tune about the diary of Imaginos. In other words, the lyrics are sort of left-of center and seemingly hard to put together since they are not very "orthodox". No easy to follow cadence or rhyme scheme. I have to admit, the song really takes a left turn when Al's vocal parts come in. The music is pretty good, but it mainly serves only to help the storytelling-like atmosphere of the vocals. Not bad, but nothing really to write home about.
Blue Oyster Cult
You think that a song that bares the name of the band would be much better known among the fans right. Not in this case. Here the bands title song rests on a forgotten album that most have never heard. Unlike "Astronomy", this song is a massive reworking of "The Subhuman", which was originally titled "Blue Oyster Cult". Funny huh? Anyway, Buck and Al pretty much duet on this, trading lines and parts over heavy background vocals that claim to "understand". Good piano work and good guitar work once again rule this track and pretty much the rest of the album as well. I feel that some of the spoken word parts do take away a little bit from the song, yet without them the song would in fact seem lost. I do like the "chorus" where the title is finally mentioned. There are some interesting jazz-like guitar solos at the five and a half minute mark before the song's fadeout some two minutes later. Personally, I take the more subtle "Subhuman" over this one any day.
Any person might think that when you got to the title track of a long and elaborate concept album you would be met with a large, well written and strong cut that sums up the album seriously right? Well you are shit out of luck here. This come in with a downright sad sax line over a guitar riff and lame Las Vegas type backup vocals. I can't believe this made it on here in this condition, and this is the closer! This is without a doubt the only "bad" song on the record. Jon Rogers takes lead here and I am sorry, does not deliver, but with all the other stuff I said about the song, it can't be all his fault. It is sad that such a strong album ends with such a whimper.
Well there you have it, the opinion on the greatest concept album you will never hear. With an asking price of between 15 and thirty dollars on eBay you can bet a lot of people want to get their hands on this rare classic. I do feel its worth it, it is an important albeit obscure piece of the BOC puzzle. I am still happy that I lucked out and got it when and how I did personally! It would not be wise to start your BOC collection here, not by a long shot.
I really think the playing on this album is very good, it probably deserves more credit then it will get. If you are a guitar, keyboard, or backup vocal (!) fanatic or a fan of bad eighties drums, then here you go; your musical wet dream. Don't get me wrong, the actual drumming is good, just the sound here I feel is really below par for such a prestigious act.
That should do it for me here folks. Remember to with any comments, questions, corrections, mistakes or even general hate mail. See you next time when we go with something that you should have in your collection. See you later!
Hello again and welcome to another installment of "Tales Of The Psychic Warrior" where we get to the final album from BOC's "black and white" period, the highly acclaimed 1974 masterpiece "Secret Treaties". In all honesty, I probably shouldn't even be writing about this album at all. Gallons of ink have been spilled over its contents in the past thirty years, yet it is also for that same reason that I should go ahead and write about it anyway.
Without a doubt, this is in the top two of my all time favorite BOC studio albums, hands down. Almost all the songs on here are classic and with the 2001 reissue this was even more apparent. Seriously, I feel that sometimes reissues are not always a good thing, unless they can improve on an album and on this case it did. Even the last five tracks that got thrown on are up to par with the rest of their work.
Ass kissing aside there are still flaws mind you, yet this is the case with just about any album ever made. Many believe the concept of the perfect album doesn't exist, yet there are rare occasions where you get pretty damn close. This is one of those cases.
Lets once again go back to the summer of 2001, around late July in fact. Having taken a big step in my "cult"-ucation by purchasing "Imaginos" a few weeks before I thought I would take a chance and see what these new remasters were all about. I was out one night with my friend Phil Melodia, an old football buddy who is still to this day one of my all time best friends and partners in crime. Along with Dan Cummins whom I have known literally since "Imaginos" was released in 1988 and Todd Bebb, the four of us have been as thick as thieves since the last days of high school. Anyway, Phil and I were out one night in his '84 Pontiac Bonneville and decided to stop at Northway Mall, conveniently located at the edge of my neighborhood and stop in at Borders Books and Music. I know its not some cool independent record store, but if they have what I want then I will get it there.
Once inside, I stroll right over to the "B" section right near the back entrance of the store. There it is. And multiple copies I might add. I pick it up mainly because there were a lot of songs off this album that I had heard already so I thought I would get it and hear the rest the record had to offer. After purchasing, we headed out. Phil had to check on his sister's dog while she was away so I tagged along.
Misunderstanding the exact location of her house, we got a little bit lost. We wound up in Wildwood and needed to get to Bellevue so across McKnight road and through Perrysville with a right turn in West View, we wind up at the house. On the way we both listened to the tracks in their entirety.
Career Of Evil
As stated previously, I was not all that taken aback by this track when I first heard it. I thought the vocals were kind of lame and the riffs not heavy enough. Over time I feel this song has only gotten better by each listen. Personally if I hear a song once and don't like it then I probably will not grow to like it later. Here I was proven wrong. The riffs may not be earth shattering, yet it is catchy and makes an impression. The back-up vocals and the elaborate harmonies really sugarcoat this poisonous poetic piece of perversion. Buck Dharma also lays down some really interesting, swirling guitar lines around the middle to great effect. Allen Lanier's atmospheric keyboard work also was of note and this is one of his best studio performances in my mind. Eric Bloom's vocal delivery is nothing short of sinister in its claims of apathy towards the song's intended victim. It took me a while but I never realized how dark and sadistic and confrontational the lyrics actually were. Thanks to a woman named Patti Smith, the fact that these overtly misogynistic words are written by a woman leaves the listener wondering about the intentions of the composer. Why would she wanna do it to your daughter on a dirt road? It makes you think, and that is a good sign of a good song. It leaves you to make your own connections and assert your cognitive powers to unlock the mystery of the song itself. Lastly, my friend Todd Bebb claims this to be one of his favorite BOC songs. Good choice B.
I find this an interesting composition in the BOC canon; dark and mellow yet foreboding, mysterious and forward. Considering that the original title of this song was in fact "Blue Oyster Cult", this is a very crucial song in the saga of the Cult. Eric is in fine vocal form here and as usual Buck lays down some great solos which seem to give it a Doors vibe. No wonder they worked with former Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger worked with them later on. This swirling mass of aquatic and deathlike imagery gives us the listener the first if only real idea of what the real Blue Oyster Cult might be. The lyrics here are superb. The chorus and bridge verses weave tales of betrayal, isolation, and redemption at the hands of a mysterious group of men (?) who make a deal for the protagonists life in exchange for allegiance to them. This track is definitely worth a listen.
Dominance and Submission
Once again we have here another lyrical tale of perversion, resurrection and change set to the backbeat of a rock band at the dawn of a new year. As was the case with "Career of Evil", I was not that impressed by the song at first listen. Al Bouchard's vocals did not do that much for me, but I was impressed at the heaviness of the riff and the general tone of the music. But as was the case with "Career..." this song grew on me and became a favorite. I love the way how the riff keeps changing and the call and response nature of the vocals were at first well, lame but have since grown to be kind of cool, especially in the live setting. On a more personal note, I have deemed this song to be the theme song to the life and exploits of "Danger" Dan Cummins on the evening of December 31, 2004 to the early morning hours of January 1, 2005. Since thins song has a New Years theme to it, I made sure to have it in my car on that very New Years night. I was twenty at the time (if you listen to the song you will get what that means) and went to a party at Todd's apartment in Ben Avon. Let's just say Dan had "too much revolution" and submitted to the dominance of Jim Beam and Pepsi. My girlfriend Mandie Cammarata was with me. We picked him up and put him in the backseat and drove him home. Whenever I hear that song, I think of him and the events that took place. Ah drunken youth..........
A favorite of both mine and recent convert to the cult Mike Errett, this song is what got BOC mistaken labeled as Nazis. It's about the German jet of the same name. That's really it. Considering that both Sandy Pearlman and Eric Bloom, the singer of the song are Jewish pretty much shoots down that misconception. Rumor and hearsay aside, this song rocks. A fast paced charging guitar line with a rapidly delivered vocal with a brief modulation in the middle right before things speed up again make this one of the strongest cuts on the album. Once again, great lyrics and a great delivery and strong backup vocals from the whole gang.
Ok, now that I know what tracks were passed over for this one back in 1974 I wonder why this one made the cut at all. Even having read the explanation of Richard Meltzer's lyrics, I am still wondering why they went ahead with this. I will go so far as to say that this is by far the weakest point of the album. Eric and Al do a pretty good job of handling the vocals and the music is all right, but I just can't get behind this song. It moves well, has good performances, but just comes up short when compared to the rest of the album. I would have gone with another one of the cuts left off of the album in a heartbeat.
Harvester Of Eyes
Ok, here we go; getting back to the real meat of the album, here is one of the best songs BOC ever did. With a great riff and one of the best vocal deliveries from Eric ever, this song will rock your face off. Well maybe not that much, but you might want to rip it off its so good. The lyrics are so damn empowering and mighty in their structure and delivery that you could see what the character might look like in real life with such a vividly painted picture painted merely by the words. I dig the slow riff around the halfway mark and the double-stop riffing of Buck Dharma near the song's conclusion. I can't recommend this song enough. What's even better is what comes next.
Ladies and gentlemen, here it is. In the warped and diluted mind of I your humble narrator this is the best Blue Oyster Cult song ever. There is no doubt in my mind that this is anything but the best song they ever did. If you read my second review then you know just how crazy about this song I am. From the very first time that droning piano and drum roll came across to me from my speakers in my room I was absolutely hooked. In my various ventures in the world of recorded music I have a theory on a good song. Some songs get better the more you listen to them; this is called a "dark horse". Some songs on the other hand you absolutely love from the first second you hear them and they stay with you forever. This song is the latter. I can vividly remember lying down on my bed one February evening as this song bled out from two 22inch cabinets. As a teenager dealing with all the lovely things that high school had to offer in the way of anxiety, social pressures, conformity and all that other shit that makes some people write lame and vapid poetry on some stupid blog where they claim that nobody loves them was starting to get to me. These words and this music gave me a haven where none of that really seemed to matter; a sanctuary where they knew what I was going through and understood that my mind was on fire with all the pressures of being a teen in America. Here I could get away and get lost in the music. This music. Allen Lanier really steps it up on this one with his best performance to date. His synth sounds do so much more for this song then most people probably give him credit. They give the song an aura or atmosphere if you will that is somewhat dreamlike in a way; as if the song is just floating right outside the realm of consciousness.....or something like that. Al Bouchard's drumming and Buck's guitar work coupled with Eric's best vocal ever push this song to a stunning climax which by song's end is staring the listener down until.....
Ah, yes this the inevitable closer to a truly epic collection of music. As stated previously, I first heard Metallica's cover back in '98 on the "Garage Inc." album and was a fan from the beginning. I know that this song is a favorite to many of you out there and I can see why. The very structure of the song is very simple yet in its simplicity it yields great power in its ability to hit the listener with its moody shifts from distant spaciness to confrontational assaults that leave the listener still wanting more. I thought it was interesting that Al Bouchard tried singing this one and after 100 takes it kept getting worse so Eric Bloom tried it and nailed it in one take. This one definitely works better in the studio than live. Buck and Allen raise the stakes by offering some truly inspired performances when they trade lines after the last chorus before another high energy conclusion. To put it bluntly, if you are not moved by these last three songs, then have absolutely no chance whatsoever of becoming a Blue Oyster Cult fan or actually being one yourself.
Bonus Reissue Tracks:
Boorman The Chauffer
I feel that this should have made the album. Joe Bouchard is in fine vocal form and has a strong and melodic catchiness to it too boot. Good song to drive fast too I might add. Good, stable guitar work and great drumming from Al. I really wish I could read the lyrics to this one and the others in the bonus tracks series, can you help me?
This song is so damn evil, I love it. It is funny in a way, but still manages to take itself seriously enough not to be considered a mere novelty song. Its so catchy and memorable it will make you want to sing this to your maternal figure on mother's day. Man that would be classic. The music itself really only serves to accompany the lyrical content on this, nothing too much to write home about there, but this is more than worth a listen if you want to hear an "interesting" take on the various women in the life of the singer.
Mes Dames Sarat
I wonder how Allen Lanier felt by having this song passed over from the final release of the album because it is a very good song. Similar to "The Red and the Black" in a way, almost like a backwards version with a good vocal from Eric and good trade-off solos from Allen and Buck. In fact on subsequent recorded live versions of "The Red and the Black", you can hear the intro to this song as an interplay between Allen and Buck on guitars. Once again this should have made it back in '74.
Born To Be Wild (Studio Version)
Both Phil and I agreed on it that night when we heard it coming from the car stereo that this version sucked. I feel the tempo was totally wrong and I did not like how they changed the riff structure of the song as well. I do give them some accolade for making the song their own, but it just doesn't cut it for me. It's far too slow and uninspired to really be effective. They could have left this one in the vaults as far as I am concerned.
Career Of Evil (Single Version)
There is not that much of a difference here from the original version so if you have heard that one then you know pretty much exactly what you are getting. The vocal mix is altered slightly with Eric's voice being the only one and the backup vocal of the Bouchard's having been removed. The line about "...doing it to your daughter on a dirt road" are altered. If you have the choice, take the original version. Censorship sucks.
Well there you have it. Other than my complaints about a couple of tracks there is not much else for me to say about this record. It is simply great. This would be a good place to start if you are a new BOC fan and a good one to put on if you are an old BOC fan. It is easy to find and can be picked up at any major or minor music store.
Ok, well that's it for me this time; be sure to come back later when we get to delve into Blue Oyster Cult's greatest achievement to date in my opinion. What might it be you may ask? Well just be sure to come back and see for yourself. Until next time!
Hey there Cult fans, its Jake here with another installment of "Tales Of The Psychic Warrior". Writing in my Pittsburgh home with my brightly lit up Christmas tree, we look into my favorite part of the BOC saga, the stellar live album from 1975, "On Your Feet Or On Your Knees"; the last and final part of the so called "black and white" period of the band which got the audience ready for a big change come '76. I know I have been highly critical in my writings and have looked down on a few of BOC's past achievements that many hold in high regard. Well this will be different here because I really have a hard time finding anything about this album that I do not like. I can't tell you how many times I have played this be it in the car, at home, or anywhere. Whenever I think of this band, my thoughts usually wander back to this. This truly awesome blend of sounds that I feel is too often overlooked. Here you will see at how a live album should be done and why I feel that this one in particular is worthy of being called their best.
Once again we head back to the summer of 2001. Around mid August I was out with one of my partners in crime, Phil Melodia who was with me the night I picked up "Secret Treaties". We were in separate cars as we went to the Ross Park Mall on top of McKnight road to kill some time. I actually saw this in National Record Mart (NRM) a few weeks prior. I thought I would pick it up. Formerly located underneath the escalator, this once popular chain store had taken a lot of my money. No problem. I went over and took the lone copy from the bin. I thought the packaging with the limo parked in front of the church and the song titles listed inside a book on the back were so cool. The ominous image they carried at the time was truly personified on just the cover alone. What else was there yet to be experienced inside?
I immediately put the disc in the stereo when I got to my car. From beginning to end this album just rocked. Period. From the opening chords of "The Subhuman" to the last blast of feedback of "Born To Be Wild" this was without a doubt one of the best live albums I ever heard. Even now, years later I still put this on just because its that good. It never got old or boring. It only seemed to get better. This has gone with me on road trips to see Mike Watt in Morgantown, West Virginia and spent many of nights in my car blasting from the speakers while driving the streets of Pittsburgh. Truly and honestly, this record will probably stay with me until the day I die........or until I lose it and have to buy another damn copy.
With the songs themselves I apologize now beforehand if I ramble more than I usually do. Since I know these versions so well I could probably go on even longer. But I will try to spare you.
Having already heard this version off the "Workshops...." compilation, I still think its strange how this song sort of "materializes" out of a haze of cheers, random chords and a sudden uttering of the song's title from Eric Bloom(?). Usually you have some grandiose intro and a real upbeat, fast-paced song that knocks the audience a good one right from the start. Blue Oyster Cult, ever the ones to buck the trends and do something different, start out with more of a subtle whispered introduction rather than a grand and lavish greeting to you the listener. The tempo is a little bit faster than the studio version and the harmonies are a little bit more complex. Eric's voice is in fine form as usual which proves my theory that his ability to sing in the live setting is much greater than in the studio. Joe and Al Bouchard lay down a jazzy backbeat while Allen Lanier and Buck Dharma take turns with solos. Allen's keyboard part is one of his rare chances to step into the spotlight and show off his skills. This piece is a good showcase for him. Buck comes up and plays a really cool yet restrained solo that really builds the song to a harmonized end with Eric coming in to add to the conclusion. This is without a doubt the best version of this song. The studio version is too subdued to achieve maximum effect. Also of note; this is the only live version of this song that I can find. Am I wrong on this?
Harvester Of Eyes
Wow, such a great song. Whatever good things about the studio version I said are nothing in comparison to this. From the swirling synthesizers to the spoken introduction name checking the record's title to the sinister main riff, this song doesn't just start, it arrives. It arrives and is not going to take prisoners. The parts here are so well written and played that it is hard to fault its power. I think its cool that they change things up a little bit in this version. Here they add a fast part where everything but Buck's guitar stops while Al Bouchard lays down a few fills to send the song into overdrive. Almost titan in its power and scope this is still to me the best song on the record.
Hot Rails To Hell
Until I picked this up, I never heard this song before. It proved to be a good chance to hear Joe's voice alone and analyze it further. I think he has a great voice, but I feel he is more suited to the studio. The music really lives up to the title in my mind; fast, aggressive and unrelenting. As par for the course, Buck uses this song to go into a frenzy of sorts with the guitar the rest of the band lays down a good groove to ride out on. They also use pauses and stops in the song to add to the power and give it weight and not let it get boring. I really wonder why the rest of Joe's songs were not as aggressive as this. Either way, this is without a doubt a classic and recommended to anyone into good rock and roll.
The Red & The Black
Ok, remember what I said about the song "Mes Dames Sarat" in the "Secret Treaties" piece, well the intro to that song serves as the intro to this song here. It is kind of cool, but I honestly prefer the original version. It does however give the song an interesting twist and offer us a chance for Allen and Buck to trade guitar lines for a change. Eric and Joe Bouchard really shine as well in their roles and Al Bouchard kicks up a storm on the drums. Clearly when it was first recorded this song was probably seen as a kick-ass live piece that would floor the whole room. I think they achieved their goal. At the song's conclusion, Eric thanks the audience for his whip.....I don't know why it got on here either.
Seven Screaming Diz-Busters
Now for another shot of adrenaline, we are hit with another fast paced number that keeps the pace of the album on high. This is another track that just burns when played live. Here we see BOC really ahead of their time in terms of sheer sonic speed. There weren't that many bands playing this kind of stuff this fast at the time and here was BOC just running away with it. Near the halfway mark, Al and Buck take over and go into a great jam with only guitar and drums years before when the White Stripes were shitting their pants and NOT getting paid millions for it. The whole atmosphere of the song entirely is just stunning. The numerous crescendo's that just seem to build up and on forever until you are hit with the next part right between the eyes. It's a shame this one is not played live that often anymore. One of Eric's many infamous onstage raps make its way on to here as he talks about his close personal relationship with Lucifer whom he knows on a first name basis.
Another showcase for Buck as the title suggests, here we have a cool instrumental piece to keep things going. Al really doesn't get too much credit on this one for his drumming on the track which is superb. This song falls into a really odd groove that doesn't follow the strict 4/4 time signature. You can tell that he has a background in jazz with his fills and cymbal work. Buck as you could guess goes wild here with his solos. I am surprised that this song isn't better known as a truly amazing piece of fretwork from Mr. Dharma himself. The melody is just so good that I wondered simply why I hadn't heard this song before.
Last Days Of May
With a moody solo from Buck we are whisked off into a lurid tale of a drug deal gone wrong. The haunting melody and the atmospheric keys of Allen, this song reels you right in from the beginning. The whole piece paints such a vivid image. As you listen to the words and hear the notes you become transfixed to what is going on. This is another cornerstone of the work, which shows you the power of this group on stage. Buck play's one his best solos ever while the vocals drop out before the last verse. When I first heard this song I felt the last verse was probably the most interesting and intriguing of the piece. When I graduated nine months later on May 31, I found those same words echoing through the back of my mind time and time again;
"They're OK the last days of May
But I'll be breathin' dry air
I'm leaving soon
The others are already there all there
Wouldn't be interested in coming along
Instead of staying here?
They say the West is nice this time of year..."
Those words meant something to me. They meant change. They resembled a breaking away from my past into my future. Call it stupid or call it delusional but that is what I felt. I was saying goodbye to many things. People and places that I would never see again and a ton of other things were about to fade away and become mere images, a hazy outline of a place I once knew, a girl's face without a name and a random memory whose events I would never be able to fully recall again. I turned away and many things were lost to the murky places in my subconscious. Its funny how you can seemingly forget years of your life but you can remember the intricate details of a simple song......
Cities On Flame
And the crowd went wild with this one as the infamous riff in F sharp(?) heralds in the first "classic" song of the band's repertoire. Al sounds good on the vocals here and Buck does his thing. I have to admit that he truly has a great and original style to him as a player. He has a great sense of melody underneath all that damn speed and technique. It's a shame that he gets little credit for being such a great player. I do feel that they still play this one too fast live, but I don't think anyone cares. Eh, oh well.
Somehow this version also made it onto the "Workshop..." compilation and I was happy it did. This version totally eclipses the studio version in terms of vibe alone. Now here is when playing something faster can be a good thing. The sound of this track hits you like a mechanized panzer assault with its driving beat coupled with a truly great guitar riff and Eric's strong vocal. Before the drums fade out Allen and Buck trade lines back and forth while Al hits his gong. Now there is something that is lacking in music today. Then in comes the in the infamous 5 Guitars. Al picks up a guitar and the guys go to town. Some of the changes are a little sloppy and some of timing is a little off...but its just so damn cool. I mean five guitars, c'mon! How are five guitars not face-meltingly cool? If you think its stupid then I hope you die. Well not really but you probably have no business reading this at all. After the guitars fade out, the drums come back in and the song rips back into the verse riff with all of the guys repeating the "..must six Englishmen live that I might die..." line repeatedly until the incendiary "1,2,3,4" mantra is chanted that pushes the song into hyperspace. Fellow Cult fan Mike Errett claims this live version to be his favorite BOC song of all time. Good choice Mike.
Before The Kiss (A Redcap)
Much better than the studio version, this another tale sung by Buck about a fight at the infamous Conry's bar. I dig the sped up tempo and Al's cymbal work.. I also really like the jazzy tempo changes for the verses and Joe's bass fills and Buck's rhythm work really make this an interesting piece of music. It was kind of sad to see BOC tone down their jazziness in their later years. Buck truly is the best balladeer of the group when it comes to signing. I really like this track and I am happy to see that it was included on here because time has seemed to have forgotten this track and its nice to have it documented here.
Maserati GT (I Ain't Got You)
Ok, here it comes with the covers. An obscure Yardbirds track is the choice here and in interesting one at that. Before this I had never heard of this particular track until I picked this up. I thought it was cool that they put in a few lines from The Doors' "LA Woman" in there. As a big Doors fan I thought it was, well, cool. Buck lets it fly here and really lays down some tasty solos unaccompanied. A fine rave-up indeed. I think it was a good choice to use a cover that is not that particularly well known to avoid any other associations others may have with the song. On top of that you also have a fine tribute to the song itself. Then near the end the boys go back into "Buck's Boogie" for a few bars to take the song home and I think its Allen who gets to take a solo for a change. All in all I think with the addition of "LA Woman" and "Buck's Boogie" this was truly a great cover.
Born To Be Wild
With another introduction (from a woman who does a good wolf howl) we have the final track of the record. Now having heard the studio version of this cover I was more than wary about this one. I was happy that for the majority of this song they kept closer ties with the original. Allen's key work here is of note as well as Eric's vocals and as usual, Buck's guitar work. Near the end the listener gets a chance to hear Eric and Buck's infamous "Texas Chainsaw Guitar Duel" where they would scrape the fretboards of their guitars together for some howling feedback. I never really gave this track much thought until now. To me it was just another cover and I have a few versions of this song on other bootlegs. However, this does not take anything away from the song itself. Its still good; I just never really looked at it too much. My fault probably.
From beginning to end, this album never, ever lets up one iota. Even when it ebbs to less then intense, its own moodiness and darkness just takes you along even faster. To put it better, if it was all fast and aggressive it probably would in fact lose some of that aggression in the long run. The fact that it goes into "Last Days Of May", "The Subhuman" and the mellower parts of "Seven Screaming Diz-Busters" just makes what is fast and heavy like "The Red & The Black"or "Hot Rails To Hell" all that heavier.
Now here are some of the reasons as to why I feel that this is the definitive live release from this group;
1. Ok, you have a good dozen cuts here to chew on; a good number of tracks. Also working in the band's favor is the fast that it only had three albums to choose from. Therefore there isn't much left out. At twelve tracks divided by three albums that is about four songs from each album that could be on here. They did not take this route and instead had a quarter of the tracks on here from their new album alone. A move like that takes balls. To add to that, they put on a hard to find instrumental track just to make things interesting. In other words, they truly made this something special. They made it something different and gave it something new to offer the fans. A few bonus cuts and covers and you have an edge on the other live albums of the day.
2. The versions of the songs themselves outshine the originals in most cases. As previously stated above "Harvester...", "Subhuman" and others all just destroy their original incarnations while at the same time staying true to their studio nature. Take Phish for example; everybody says they are a lame duck band in the studio and the only thing that matters is their live albums. I do think that live they sound better but that does not make their studio stuff shit by a long shot. This is another reason that makes BOC truly great. It is rare for a band to be a great studio band as well as a live band no matter what you say. To be able to work so well in both aspects is truly an achievement.
In the years since purchasing this album I have gotten others into it as well. Dan Cummins and Mike Errett are two examples. Mike even went so far as to buy this on vinyl twice! He is even more of a hard rock purist than I apparently. As far as others go who talk to me about music, I always tell them about how truly great this record is and how its an essential part of any record, tape or CD collection. I am even upset that allmusic.com even gives this a bum rap. How could anyone who hears this not like it? I guess the ensuing years have made me extremely biased....and possibly crazy.
Ok, well that just about does it for me here. Next time I know I will piss some of you off because I know I am going against the grain on this one. Next time I will discuss some of the finer and not so finer points of the biggest studio album in the history of Blue Oyster Cult... for better or worse. See you later!!!
Hey there Cult fans; its time for another installment of Tales Of the Psychic Warrior and tonight we cut into the first album of the post black and white period and the beginning of a whole new and ultimately platinum chapter in the band's storied career of evil. This would ultimately bear the mark of being the album with undoubtedly the most famous BOC song in existence. Yes, the infamous (Don't Fear) The Reaper, the dark classic penned by Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser that turned the world of Cult upside-down and brought them the success they all had been fighting for...for better or worse.
It has been stated even from the band member's mouths themselves that they never saw themselves as a pop band. They thought they were too heavy or their whole stigma made them pop poison; too much for the teenyboppers to handle. Yet it happened. It happened in a major way that inadvertently created a power shift within the ranks that altered the direction of the band as a whole. So in these pages in front of you we take a look into this part of the story where everything seemed to change and the past would become just the past as the band now found themselves in a new realm surrounded by temptation and dare I say it, AM radio. For me, this started in 1999 while spending time in Mr.Geibel's seventh period study hall and some weird guy named Jesse "Albert" Cuyugan.
Jesse was a weird guy...to say the least. It was not uncommon for him to show up for school dressed as a pimp on any random Tuesday or grow out his fingernails and sharpen them to razor-like points (that bastard actually cut me with those damn things once) or other things of that nature. One afternoon, we somehow got on to the topic of music and out of the blue (forgive the pun), we got on to the subject of BOC. I can't remember what else we said but I do remember that we were talking about (Don't Fear) The Reaper. He said that he liked that song a whole lot but the album that it was on sucked for the most part. Them he rambled on about Megadeth's Cryptic Writings and I lost interest in the conversation.
Cut ahead to the summer of 2001 (notice a pattern here?), when I was downtown with my mother. It was August, the last day of summer and I wanted to stroll the city streets and pick up something to cap off the last few months. I had just the right place in mind. We went to lunch at Pirmanti Brothers in Pittsburgh's Strip District. If you ever get the chance and the weather is good, take a trip and walk the streets and take in the sights. Its full of a bunch of cool little shops and restaurants that serve really interesting cuisine to say the least. At the far end of the Strip closest to the city is a place called Eide's. If I had to choose a perfect store, it would be this one. It literally has everything I love all under one roof and three stories. Needless to say, the music selection here is amazing. Anyway, I walked out of there with Pantera's Vulgar Display Of Power and Blue Oyster Cult's Agents Of Fortune. I was anxious to hear what this record had to say and see if it was any good. I really liked tracks 1,3 and 4 quite a bit and they were the only tracks I heard at the time so I had high hopes. When I put it on......I think Jesse was not too far off.
To put it bluntly, I was let down by this when I first heard it and I am still to this day not that big of a fan of it. It starts out really strong and then it falls flat on its face by the middle and just sort of stays there. I have to want to listen to this and that rarely happens. It is in my mind the most over-rated album in their entire career. Here it is track by track:
This Ain't The Summer Of Love
Ok, things start off pretty good here a solid and enjoyable song with a snarling vocal from Eric and a simple yet strong guitar riff. To be honest with you the only real fault of this song is the fact that it is not longer. Let's face it, nobody wrote a biker song quite like Blue Oyster Cult. An extra verse would have only made it better. I really dig the rhythm guitar sound on this and I have to give credit to the production team of Pearlman, Krugman and Lucas.
Here it is; the first major curveball of the record and the first and only lead vocal from Allen Lanier and a damn sax solo. This is a very stripped down, piano driven track that is quite different from the rest of the songs in the BOC catalogue. In other words it doesn't really sound that much like a BOC song at all. The guitar takes a backseat and let's face it, this is not a common thing for BOC especially at the time of the release of this record. Not that great of a track, but gets notoriety for simply being the only one in existence with an Allen Lanier lead vocal.
(Don't Fear) The Reaper
What else can be said about this one folks? Not much? Probably true with this being the most highly recognizable BOC song in the world. I can't remember where I was or what I was doing when I first heard this with its swirling atmospheric aura. I did know that I liked what I heard and it stuck with me. From a musician's standpoint, this song is highly simplistic on paper; three chords with the solo section modulating to another key. Not that much to it. Then again they always say that some of the greatest songs are simple songs. The performances are stellar to say the least; Buck with his greatest (?) vocal ever and the now classic guitar riff that heralds in the cowbell which we all will forever associate with SNL's Will Ferrell. More on that later. I have always liked the solo breakdown before the last verse when the guitars seem to form a veritable wall of sound. I counted at least three guitar parts stacked together in that small piece of music with each one playing a different part. As truly over-played as this song is I still like it when it comes over on the radio. I guess that is what makes it so good; even if you hear it a million times you can still find something else new to like about it. But then again you don't need me to tell you that right?
E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
Another classic; this version actually trumps the live versions I have. I am not sure why, maybe Eric's hushed vocal delivery or the flanged guitar line, I just gravitate to this version. The riff when combined with the piano and rhythm section really creates a groove that sticks and stays in your head. Buck also lays down a great solo as usual and the chorus-like atmosphere of the vocals on the chorus really adds dimension and atmosphere to the track. I really like having this song just as the sun goes down and the first stars start showing up. Great song to say the least but then it is right about here when things all change.
The Revenge Of Vera Gemini
Ok, here is another shift in the scheme of things. I was not that impressed by this song that much when I first heard it and it took a lot of time to grow on me. I like Patti Smith's backup vocals and introduction but I was not that big a fan of Al Bouchard's vocals. I feel that this song is out of place and too heavy to be pop and too pop to be heavy, if that makes sense. I just was not that taken aback. I will admit that this song has an interesting vibe and is a great song to screw to. Moreover, it does have a cool title and BOC always had cool titles. Buck's solo is interesting and I really like Joe Bouchard's bass work here. Not a classic but still an interesting song nonetheless.
Another piece of Al Bouchard pop with some strange falsetto-backup vocals. Still not a big fan of this one either. I am still not that big on Al's vocal's here, they just really don't do it for me. And with the previous song you now have a total shift from the beginning of the album in terms of pace and mood. In itself this song does possess the sinister and perverse slant about sin and evil relationships in the lyrics yet the music is so straightforward that it loses the subtle edge their music once had. The music is just that; straightforward with no surprises to speak of. The music hits on a pattern and stays with it 'til the fadeout. Other than that there is not much else here to talk about. To me it's just a so-so song.
Here's Martin Popoff's favorite track from the Cultsters that he describes as an "early metal masterpiece". I think not. This one never really seems to fall together, when one part of the song starts another one begins before that other part can get good and the sound effects near the halfway mark are downright funny. Ever suck helium and try to laugh sinisterly? It doesn't work unless you find the Munchkins scary which I don't....not anymore at least. Eric doesn't really fit this track and based on what I have read about the recording of this song I can understand why. He disagreed quite a bit over the lyrics and had a few changed here and there and even Helen Wheels herself said that she did a better version of the song than Blue Oyster Cult did. I wonder what her version sounds like. Anyway, the music itself is nothing to write home about. I admit the main riff is strong and lasting and downright catchy but as a whole the song suffers from too many rapid changes and the use of silly sound effects.
An interesting track from Joe Bouchard. I am a fan of this song and it is one of my favorites on the album. A tale of a killing in a New York subway is the topic and it is set up well. Joe always seems to write cool piano parts to his songs. This lurid tale of subterranean urban murder paints a vivid picture of life on the street and Joe's mournful vocal delivery adds a lot to the piece. It is not a heavy rocker at all to say the least but it is still truly a great song. Now here is how multiple parts to a song can be used well. The various pieces of this musical puzzle shift and swirl to create such a powerful musical image that really makes it seem as if you were in that subway when it all went down. You get a feel of the dirt on the steps of the subway and the trash and the faceless hordes walking the streets of Old New York and the evil and malice that lurks just below the surface. Even better is the fact that he doesn't explain or give a motive for the crime; it just simply happened. You can tell that Joe has a certain fear of the city based on some of his other songs, which seem to dwell on the dark side of human nature within those types of places. It's a shame this one didn't get played live too often.
An interesting piece to say the least, Allen Lanier was on to something here as we hit on the dark horse track of the album. I was not that impressed when I first heard it but over time this has become one of the cornerstones of the collection that really remind me of what this album is about. Whenever I think of this record my thoughts often wander to this track for some reason. It is truly unique and a shame that they don't have more songs like them out there. I remember being in an apartment in Bellevue with blue walls that instantly reminded me of this song. I wish I was smarter and was able to figure out what the lyrics were trying to say but I can't seem to find the meaning if any such meaning exists. I just love the beauty that this song conveys both in the lyrics and the music. The synths and keyboards are the musical stars of this song which create an ambiance that makes this one of the all-time great night songs. The guitar work from Buck and Eric and the latter's vocal delivery cap it all off. The jazzy structure of the music makes this song different from the rest of the songs in the BOC catalogue. Apparently the boys were trying to be different here on this album in a major way. The cascading nature of the song's conclusion really put a bow on the track that leaves the listener with a beautiful musical package.
The final piece of the BOC pop puzzle is an Al Bouchard number with more lyrics from Patti Smith that tell the tale of a lovelorn woman in love with a musician. Not exactly a new type of theme but lyrically an effective one. The music itself straight up pop, if I haven't used that word up yet already. I am still not that big of a fan of the song as a whole yet I really like the words to it. I especially think its interesting that they were written by a woman mind you. I wonder if the rumor is true that she wrote it about a lesbian affair she once had. All in all the song as a whole is not that great but over time I have learned not to hate it I guess. This might have sounded pretty good live but I am not surprised that this did not make it into the live set, only once did it sneak in back in '76.
Fire Of Unknown Origin (Original Version)
Good song, I could really go wither way on which version is better, this or the 1981 version. I think Al did a really good job on the vocals here and I like the key this one is in; F# I think. Great piano work from Allen and bass work from Joe. I think this should have made the album upon its original release. Great lyrics and just an overall great song that finally has made the light of day.
Umm, ok, this one is a little weird. The music sounds like it's out of an old cheesy western and it's about a girl with a fetish for briar patches and torn pants. Al Bouchard sings another one of the leftover tracks but this one was not chosen for the album thank god. I just don't really like this song at all. It's just lame to be honest with you. The song has no real hook, the lyrics are left-of-center to say the least and the vocals are uninspired. I can't really think of anything good to say about this song whatsoever.
Don't Fear The Reaper (Demo)
A nice novelty song; an interesting piece of history that would eventually beget the classic song that would make BOC millions. It was cool to hear how the song was created and what parts were changed and what remained. I think it is interesting that most of this song stayed together and little was changed or added to the final song come recording.
Dance The Night Away
Another Lanier track that didn't make the cut. This song with a lot of work could be pretty good with a few different arrangements and a full band behind it. It is kind of interesting to hear a Lanier track with his lead vocal and no band behind him. Is it great, no. Should it have made the album back in '76, no, but I think it is cool it made it on here. Allen Lanier has without a doubt the most low-key role in the group and its good to see him in the spotlight for a change.
Let's get down to it; I was let down by this album when I first heard it and I think that without a doubt that it's the most overrated album Blue Oyster Cult has ever done. It took me a long time to appreciate it and when compared to the rest of their stuff both before and after it still doesn't match up. Here are some of my reasons why:
So there you have it. I am sorry if anybody cried into their keyboard over this but remember that this is what I think and nothing more. So be sure to come back next week where we hit up my favorite studio creation BOC has offered to date. See you later!!!
The Place: A crowded bar or dining hall in any average sized College town.
The Characters: Various males and females from the ages of 18 to 23 from various parts of the tri-state area and yours truly.
The Scene: Casually chatting about each other's interests, social lives and ultimately music.
Random Guy: "Dude, like what kind of bands are you into?"
Me: "A lot of stuff, a ton of Classic Rock like Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy to name a few."
Random Guy: "Cool, I've like heard of some of those bands".
Me: "Yeah, I am a huge fan of things from those eras. Right now I am still really big into Blue Oyster Cult..."
Random Guy: "Oh those guys from that SNL sketch, I need more cowbell!"
Me: "Yeah, those guys, they have a lot of cool songs..."
Random Guy: "HAHAHAHA that is like so funny. Did that actually happen, was that guy Will Ferrell played like really in the band?"
Me: "Um, no not really, they made it up and.."
Random Guy: "I have a fever...and like I need more cowbell....HAHA"
Me: (Starts beating random guy with fists and random blunt objects)
Yeah, this is something I have to put up with every time I mention the words "Blue Oyster Cult" among my peers. Hi, and welcome to another installment of "Tales of The Psychic Warrior". Today I have a major bone to pick with the other members of my "generation".
Now I consider myself a patient man when it comes to many things that face me in my daily life. When something like this arises however I have about as much patience as a spastic nine year old with ADD on a three day sugar and Meth binge. It just infuriates me to think that this is the sole thing this great band is known for; a sketch on a damn comedy show!
Now don't get me wrong; this is a very funny sketch. No question about it. The combined antics of Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken (who if you notice actually loses his cool and laughs when he goes back to the booth while Ferrell is dancing) are enough to crack a smile on the face of anyone with a sense of humor. Many of my peers have also gone on to say that it is the greatest sketch of all time in the thirty year history of Saturday Night Live and when you have past members with the names of Belushi, Aykroyd, Radner, Hartman, Lovitz and Murray, well that's saying a whole hell of a lot.
But to have such a great band be only known as fodder for television laughs is really fucking lame if you ask me. This goes to further prove my theory that there is not much hope for my generation when it comes to music. Yeah they catch on if its on a commercial or covered by another band which they insist the newer version is better but I can honestly say that not one person has come up to me from my generation and told me that the infamous cowbell sketch made them a BOC fan. Please somebody prove me wrong. Even now when I am with someone who is not totally into the band and the song comes up on the radio they say that damn line about the fucking cowbell. A man can only take so much.
Level with me here; Blue Oyster Cult is a good band right? Of course, then you wouldn't be reading this on a BOC fan site right? So if you are reading this you understand that these guys deserve better than this. As time goes on I just get the feeling that these guys are getting laughed at over this. That is not cool. It truly is a great piece of comedy and it will be one of the most memorable parts of Mr. Ferrell's career but to have THIS be the most memorable thing about BOC's career is a travesty to all things good and rock
I am not mad at SNL or anyone involved in the sketch, well Jimmy Fallon is a tool but anyway as a fan this situation is really getting to me. I can only hope that you can forgive my generation for just being too dumb to realize the genius that is this band. Maybe time will remember BOC for who they really are, not just material for the youth of the nation to laugh at. Need more cowbell........that is pretty funny.
Greetings all, its time again for another installment of "Tales of The Psychic Warrior" and tonight we will dig in to another chapter in the BOC legacy of sorts. It's true that too often the word "masterpiece" is thrown around when describing many different albums and works of various artists. Many times the punishment does fit the crime (i.e; "Electric Ladyland", "Billion Dollar Babies", "At San Quentin", etc) and there are sometimes where it is attached to a, how do I say it, a piece of shit that should have never been released in the first place (ex: "Rumors").
Then again there are the so called "lost" classics that time has overlooked or god forbid forgotten. In my musical journey's I have uncovered many of this caliber and upon discovery do my best to share it with all around me. In the case of this album, this is the very personification of the word "masterpiece". Albeit a lost one this album is a joy to listen to even after repeated listening. For the time this was a true prognostication of what was going to come in terms of hard rock and heavy metal. Eschewing some of the lighter stuff from the debut album the previous year, Eric, Joe, Al, Buck and Allen up the ante and live up to the tag of "The American Black Sabbath". The speed, the heaviness, the layering of parts and the sheer progressiveness should have this album on the list as at least one of the best hard rock albums of the decade, if not all time.
My story once again goes back to 2001, where all things BOC really began. It was around mid-October when I picked this up at the Borders at the edge of my neighborhood some Friday night; I think. As I stated in my "Compilations Of Cult" piece I noticed that this album seemed to be much underrepresented in the greatest hits that were released and after putting this album on I wondered why.
Without a doubt this is my favorite Blue Oyster Cult studio album; bar none. The only way I can really begin to tell you is by getting down to it track by track;
The Red & The Black
Re working the music from "I'm On The Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep" off the debut album the boys give us what might arguably be the first speed metal song ever. Taking a cue from the Blues Project who started out their shows usually with a fast number the album hits you right between the ears from the first bars and doesn't quit. The song starts with a sloppy and almost punky bit of drum rolls and heavy guitars before the beat picks up and the song takes off at a brisk pace. Al Bouchard really rips on this and Eric Bloom's vocals, snarling and mean as ever, do not disappoint. Buck Dharma keeps things going with some of his fastest (and some say his best) solos and riffs of his career; seamlessly combining country, jazz and blues licks to help forge something completely unheard of at the time. The harmony vocals where the music drops out gives the song an even greater weight and just adds to the furious tension of the song. Later on as the song starts to wind down into the last bit of pyrotechnics, Joe Bouchard steps in with a great bass solo that manages to just keep on reeling you in and wonder what else is going to happen next. As the song does start to wrap up, Allen Lanier comes in to trade licks (although his parts sound very down in the mix) before he and Buck share some harmony runs and bring this one to a close. With its speed and sheer sonic fury it's no wonder that Mice Watt of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE calls this one of his favorite songs and still plays it live in his set to this very day.
O.D'd On Life Itself
Like T-Rex's "Get It On (Bang A Gong)" but better this one starts out with a real fifties type rock riff in E as a counterpoint to the speed of the first track. This one is all about groove baby. Eric's detached vocals and cryptic words from Sandy Pearlman makes the listener wonder what the hell he is talking about; drugs, demons, spaceships, we might never know, but its still a damn good song with more great solo work from Mr. Dharma pushing the overdrive on his Marshall head to the limit with his SG. The Brothers Bouchard play really well and create a great pocket while Allen Lanier's organ work rests well on the cushion created by the rest of the music. His playing on this song really shows how well a few understated organ licks can add to a song in terms of dimension.
Hot Rails To Hell
Joe Bouchard's songwriting and singing make a sonic leap forward with this track, arguable the best on the whole album. This is one of the few times where these guys sounded better in the studio than live. On this take they just NAIL it. Al's drums create such a great backbeat that gives the rest of the band a solid foundation to ride the song out. Eric and Buck's guitar riffs seem to rumble with intensity and Allen's super distorted fills just give this song such a menacing vibe. As for Joe's vocals; stunning, absolutely stunning. His delivery and timing are a perfect fit for this song. I would have to say that Joe had probably the most dynamic voice; with the ability to come off as very soft and warm or mean and nasty at the turn of a verse. As a whole this song is without a doubt one the best they ever did and is the personification of the band as a whole; heavy riffs merged with virtuosic playing and strong melodies and vocal harmonies that stay with you long after the record stops playing.
Seven Screaming Diz-Busters
I will not go into what the hell the lyrics are about on this one; if you really need to know just go to the F.A.Q. I am not gonna touch it. As for the song, this epic piece of early speed metal is years ahead of its time. Even the Boss Bruce Springsteen was amazed at just how fast and intricate this song is. Its odd time shifts and angular riffs definitely give it a strong prog-rock vibe. I know that a lot of people gave the guys a lot of guff for making the main section sound a little like the Allman Brothers "In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed" but hey, I love that song, I love the Allman Brothers and when a band that I like makes a song that sounds like another band that I like I tend to see it as a win-win situation. I think that the real star on this song is Allen Lanier; his playing just fits this song so well. Like a glove. Buck's playing is nothing short of superb on this cut as he drifts from gentle and soothing to fast and furious as the tempo's and riffs shift like the waters on a raging sea. Later on at the four minute mark Joe and Al take over the song as Eric begins a call and response for each of the other instruments to mimic the words of the song from "the rigid arms" and "the laughs of pain". Also the sheer fact that the word Lucifer is said in this song dozens of times just adds to the sheer sinister sheen of the track. Outside of Black Sabbath there were not a lot of groups that had such daring to sing about such macabre subject matters during the reign of Nixon.
Baby Ice Dog
Here we finally get some room to breathe; a comedown from the intensity of the previous tracks is the first offering from future legend Patti Smith about a "bitch that made lies to me". Staring off with a howl from some wolves we have piano driven song with "lycanic" undertones and guitars that mimic the howl of wolves in the night. Al gets downright jazzy with his various fills over Allen's piano and organ parts which really dominate the track. Not as heavy or intense as the rest on the album, it is a welcome change offering a different angle; not too intense but still intriguing track with a great vocal from Eric. It seems to add to the album my not being too heavy while at the same time making the other songs heavier in comparison.....if that makes any sense at all.
Wings Wetted Down
By far the true dark horse track on the album, this song should get so much more credit as a BOC classic. Time has just made this song another title on another album but man this song is majestic in its forgotten glory. With some great piano work from Allen and a truly great melodic guitar part from Buck underneath another inspired Joe Bouchard vocal. With his voice double tracked it is almost out of key with itself which gives it an aura of uncertainty and an unnerving edge as if his voice is rain soaked from watching the black horsemen in the rain. Buck's solo is run through I think it's a phase shifter to give it that "wet" feeling as if the sound is coming out of an amp exposed to the elements. In other words, the music itself seems to live up to the words as if the music is wetted down as well; the music being part of the all-encompassing song as well as the title and the words. It paints such a vivid sonic picture with the music adding to the canvas as well as the words for a change. A truly vivid and descriptive musical artwork. A song one must hear to believe.
With the help of Richard Meltzer's lyrics Buck sings his lone song on the album; a strong rocker with a great riff and some great work from Allen Lanier's keys. The highly repetitive nature of the lyrics does leave an impact on the listener with its description of the unknown girl who its about. The apathy that is conveyed by the words paint a less than stunning picture of the supposed subject. An angry letter to an ex-girlfriend might be the inspiration for this track, but don't quote me on that. This song is not that popular among a lot of BOC fans; I am not sure why. The playing on this track alone should merit more fans. Its groove, albeit an angular one is still a groove and the work of Mr. Dharma on this one in particular is of note. Great solos and interesting twists to the music make this song one that deserves a little bit more respect.
Mistress Of The Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl)
One of Eric's best vocals this song tells of the Gardner who takes care of her gardens by using dead bodies that she kills(?) to feed her plants. A female reaper if you will. The music with its harmonies and dark instrumental accompaniment with its time shifts make this song stand out from the rest of what the seventies had to offer. The music has a beautiful dark tone to it, a dark purple hue if you could match it to a color on the spectrum. Allen gets more room to shine on this with a half-way interlude before Buck takes control with a short solo before Eric comes back in with the last verse. To put it bluntly, these guys are singing about death, murder and deception and they make it sound almost pretty. Only BOC could seem to pull that off. A great closer to the original album and is still played live every once in a while.
Cities On Flame (Live)
Here comes the bonus tracks; a live cut from either 74 or 75 (there is still debate as to which year) sees Al having trouble hitting some of the notes. Well if you toured as much as these guys did you might get a little burnt out as well. Buck really lets rip on this one and even though his voice was lacking, Al's drums were huge and damn fast with some great fills after the guitar solo. This track, still a classic by any standard holds up well here. I thought it was cool that this one got a lot of live cuts added to it because you know my love for BOC live and in the raw (!)
Buck's Boogie (Studio)
Not as good as the live versions by far, it is still interesting to hear this one in a different setting. The song does take on a different tone and seems compressed a bit in the studio setting. On this one Allen gets a little bit more room to shine for a change while Buck takes it easy a bit. All in all it has a much mellower feel to it than the ripping live versions. I can see why this did not make it on to the original albums, this has no commercial potential. But its still a great track.
Seven Screaming Diz-Busters (Live)
William Lindsey agrees with me, this is much better than the studio version. I will even go so far as to claim that this is the best version ever. I love Buck's overdriven tone on this one in particular and Eric truly lives up to being one of the best live singers ever. Also of note, this track is TWICE as long as the original seven minute studio version. Fourteen minutes about Diz-Busters, sounds like fun to me!! Other than the famous rap about Eric Bloom selling his soul to the devil in exchange for fame, the most notable thing about this version is the extended solo from Buck and Al during the middle part of the piece. It drops out so that only Al and Buck are playing and let me tell you, the interplay between these two instruments is amazing. Buck just flies up and down the neck incorporating some really cool Indian-like scales and runs while Al's jazzy backbeat provides a stable foundation. I say it again, this is the best version of this song I have ever heard; you should hear it too.
O.D.'d On Life Itself (Live)
Not that much else to report here other than it being a great live version of a great song. It is a good representation if not one of the only times BOC has done a song live without making a major change to the structure of the piece. Eric does sound a lot less constrained in the live setting, yet I am being redundant. Buck lets loose a little and plays his solos with greater speed, but there I go again being redundant. You know that live Eric will usually sound better and Buck will play faster and here is no exception.
Well that is about it, I can't really say anything else on this album. It is a masterpiece; hands down, no question about it. If you are into this band and do not have this record by all means drop whatever you are doing right now and go get it. Trust me its worth it. This work deserves more than what little credit it gets.
So next time we are going to get into the stunning debut of the band on the next installment of "Tales of The Psychic Warrior"!
They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression and here it is folks; the first chapter in the ongoing saga of The Blue Oyster Cult. It's your pal Jake again and here we get to analyze the auspicious debut from our famous oyster boys which we so know and love.
After years of slogging it out in the Ithaca and Long Island music scenes under various names and incarnations, the group finally got a legitimate recording deal with Columbia and set about their way with this now infamous slab of vinyl which hit stores in January of 1972.
My connection to this album came about in December of 2001. This was a present wrapped and carefully placed under a Christmas tree lit up to the nines. This would not be the only piece of the Cult that I would receive during that week (more on that later). I must say that I was not expecting what I would eventually get from this work. Then again with BOC one usually gets a whole lot of the unexpected.
Having familiarity with this track from the "On Flame..." comp that my brother picked up, I knew this song and liked it quite a bit. From the immediate descending chromatic riff to the dark, iconic lyrics and vocal delivery of Eric Bloom, this song is every bit the BOC classic. The lyrical concept of the piece, a secret sect of "Hell's Angels" who used the Altamont incident to give rock 'n roll the aura of evil to bring about the end of the world, is ambitious to say the least. The music itself is a whirling blend of bluesy piano riffs, pulsating bass lines, angular percussive measures and jagged guitar solos that will leave an impact. It's good to hear that they are playing this one live again because the power of this song in undeniable.
I'm On The Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep
Ok, now here is where it starts to get a little weird. To most, this song is the murky genesis that spawned "The Red And The Black" off 1973's "Tyranny And Mutation". This much is true. The lyrical content and basic structure is the same, but all in all this is a totally different song. Having been weaned on the later incarnation of this song I was happy and interested to play this song for others who had heard the later version prior. My colleague Todd Bebb was quite shocked to hear this version when I played it for him in his truck one night. As a whole, this song has a country-blues feel to it and a much more laid-back vibe than what came later. Vocally there is more help from the Bouchard brothers Al and Joe who supplement Eric's lead vocal quite well. On top of this, the percussion has a somewhat jazzier feel to it during the verse changes. The intricate rolls that Al Bouchard does give this song great dimension. After a few verses of this, we head back into familiar territory with the emergence of what would be the main riff for "The Red And The Black". I think it is cool to have two songs that are the same but different. This song is the brightest example of how much the band would change in the span of just one year. It is very rare to see any group make progress so fast.
Then Came The Last Days Of May
A story about a drug deal gone wrong. Without a doubt, the live version of this song blows this one away. Period. This does not make this version any less memorable. Once again this shows the amount of risk the band would take in the live setting. The studio version of this song has Buck Dharma playing the intro guitar melody in the upper octave instead of the lower one which he did in the live version off of "On Your Feet..." Another thing that is different here is the presence of background vocals and a ton of echo on Buck's lead vocal which comes off as kind of cheesy. Still the song oscillates with sonic and lyrical intensity. The dark minor-keyed feel still presents the listener with something that is worth holding on to. Furthermore, I guess I am still a sucker for a song that tells a story; happy ending or not.
Stairway To The Stars
I love that riff! I have many pleasant memories of this song playing while driving back from my brother's school in California, Pa. According to my resident guitar tone expert Bill Lindsey, that is one mean fuzz pedal that Buck is using in the intro. Allen Lanier's piano once again provides such great background to one of BOC's classic rock anthems about the jaded nature of rock stars and the apathy for other people around them. This still sounds great live or in the studio and is a strong live opener as well. This is definitely one of the stronger points of the album by far. The groove of this song is just damn near perfect. For what I do not know, it just is!!
Before The Kiss, A Redcap
Another ballad, this time it's about a biker riot at the infamous Conry's Bar where drugs and gasoline are in abundance. Buck takes lead vocal once again and we are faced with what is probably the closest thing that the group ever played to straight up jazz. Jazz that still however does rock. Musically this is one of the best songs they ever did. I can honestly say that in the realm of hard rock that there is no other song like it that I can think of. With swinging bass lines and truly inventive guitar riffs this song should be more than a dark horse. To put it to you straight, this is another classic in the BOC canon. I do think that it works a bit better at a faster pace live, yet the studio version has great charm and panache to its fine credit. With a building crescendo that culminates with some fine organ fills from Allen Lanier we segue into....
Here once again, the focus of the record shifts to a darker tone with Joe Bouchard's tale of a small town kid coping with the madness of the big city. Once again, Joe Bouchard uses all parts of the song to paint a sound picture that places the listener right in those seedy downtown scenes which lure you in and never let go. Musically this is a rather subdued piece with Allen hitting some eerie tones with his organ while Joe's paranoid and somewhat manic vocal delivery adds the final layer to the piece. While hardly the epic anthem that some of the other songs on the record are, this still stands as a transitional rock piece which echoes the strains of late sixties psychedelic, electric rock with the hard edged, mammoth riffage which would eventually surface in the later years to come.
She's As Beautiful As A Foot
With a drum roll we launch into the most esoteric and downright unsettling song the band ever did. Most would dismiss it as just weird, but there is a whole lot here to forgive the pun, "sink their teeth into". Todd Bebb pointed out the similarity of this song to the work of Sonic Youth. I very much agree that the dulcet and unnerving tones of the guitar lines when coupled with the subtle key work of Allen Lanier do give off a Sonic Youth-type feel. Was Thurston Moore a BOC fan, maybe so. To be more direct, the music of this song is truly beautiful. Every part of this piece is seemingly and rather meticulously crafted to make this dark and sinister song about fetish eroticism an elegant musical statement. The harmony vocals and the repeated chorus line at the song's conclusion end it on a great note so to speak. I know the title is weird, but this song is very much worth checking out if you haven't already.
Cities On Flame With Rock 'N Roll
It was in mid June when I first heard this song played on the radio going on the overpass from West View to Bellevue over Interstate 79. From the first few notes of "the riff" I was hooked. I was not that big of a fan of Al Bouchard's vocal at the time, but it grew on me. This song is definitely underrated as an all-time classic in anything related to rock. Buck Dharma just goes wild and the rest of the boys lay down the best groove in BOC history. My main complaint about this song live is that they simply play it too fast. If you listen to this song you can see why I feel this way. Here, they nailed it. The anchor of the album and the strongest sign of things to come for BOC in the ensuing years, this song just rips from start to finish. You will be a better person if you listen to this song. Trust me.
Workshop Of The Telescopes
As stated previously, I feel the live version of this song off the "Workshop...." compilation far outscores this less superior version. It sounds as if this was recorded under water and Eric does not come off all that well. I think that this song really came together in the live setting and here I just feel that they were just trying to play up to the whole "sci-fi" thing a bit too much. Allen and Buck still shine on this version however by using their instruments to add dimension to a poorly produced track on a good album. Not a bad song mind you, but they could have, and they eventually did, do better. The sound effects at the end were pretty cool though.
And once again we are hit with another curveball; a bright and upbeat and somewhat folksy track about the redemption of Sir Rastus Bear. The elaborate and well-written harmonies of Eric and the Bouchard's really end this album on a bright note. Allen uses his Hammond to once again give the music a melodic bed for all the rest of the parts to rest on a d gently glide on. If you have some friends into soft-rock, then guide them here. It's catchy and will turn the heads of any new BOC fan. I think it was really ballsy to end a heavy album with such a bright note, but then with the added backwards guitars and piano, they leave you with a dark musical question mark; what was going to happen next?
Donovan's Monkey (Demo)
Other than some really impressive guitar work and some over-miked organ work, this demo from the early days does not do that much. The drums never seem to really stay in one place long enough to create a good pocket for the rest of the parts and I have no idea what the hell the lyrics mean. Not essential but an interesting side-note for those hardcore BOC fans.
What Is Quicksand? (Demo)
Ok, now this song is worth discovering. I really liked the interplay between the guitar and vocals and the harmonies here are inspired and once again intricate and well composed. Eric comes off well here on this one, but I do think that it sounds too much like a lost product of the previous decade just like the one before it and the ones after it.
A Fact About Sneakers (Demo)
Once again, too many shifts and not enough gel in the music to make it really work. The harmonies are good and the guitars are good, but I know that I am being redundant. You could skip this one easily.
Betty Lou's Got A New Pair Of Shoes (Demo)
A by product of their years as a cover band, this less than inspired cover of the Bobby Freeman tune falls flat. It's your basic oldies rock tune with some good piano work from Allen. If you miss it, eh. It's still no biggie.
All in all, this album is definitely not that heavy and sounds muffled and subdued in many aspects. Seemingly still a few steps behind Black Sabbath, they would more than make up for lost time within the next year. There were some classics to emerge from this however with "Cities On Flame" and "Stairway To The Stars" becoming live staples as well as the epic "Then Came The Last Days Of May" which is a live event that must be experienced. But even for its faults, this was still one hell of a first impression.
That's it for me here folks. Be sure to come back later for more "Tales of The Psychic Warrior!"
Greetings creatures of the Cult; in this week's column we delve into the first record from the band in the aftermath of their first platinum disc and hit single. Now some would say that success spoiled the band and this album showed the first sings of the band's eventual fall from grace. It was not looked upon highly among the executives at Columbia and it got a rather lukewarm reception from the fans with the exception of the first track.
Before I go into the vast intricacies of the songs themselves I must say that I feel that this album far exceeds their previous work, "Agents Of Fortune", considerably. For starters, this album is altogether more cohesive than the last one and it feels more complete as a whole entity rather than a collection of songs. Not to say that "Agents..." was just a bag of tunes here and there, but in comparison to what came before this, I think it came out a little bit more polished and together.
Another reason why I like this will be best explained from a quote I read from Allen Lanier out of Martin Popoff's book entitled "Blue Oyster Cult: Secrets Revealed".
"A bit of the fantastic, and also, a lot like night. There is a nocturnal ambience about the record. It seems that no matter what we do, that's what comes out."
I cannot put it better myself. This is my favorite nighttime record by far. Countless times I have been out driving or in my room with the lights out and just put this one on and just take it all in from beginning to end. If you are at a party that is just winding down and all the assholes have left and you have nothing left to do, put this one on and ride out the rest of the evening with a smile.
My personal story with this album began in the hectic aftermath of late December 2001. I armed with newly acquired Christmas money went out to the stores with this title on my mind and in my sights. I made sure to get this one next mainly because I had already heard most of the tracks on various compilations and wondered what else the record had to offer me. Media Play, (now defunct as of February 2006) was a new store in the mall to take the place of the once mighty Camelot and eventually NRM in the Ross Park Mall. I did not sight this title at any of my other shopping locations so as a last ditch effort to find it I went here. To be honest with you I never really did like this store all that much. Call me a hippy but I just got bad vibes from the place. It kind of reminded me of a rock 'n roll Wal-Mart. Anyway, there it was amongst the vast white bins and placed right out in front so to catch my eye.
From then on I played this one as much as I could and was blown away by the sheer nocturnal majesty of it all. Without a doubt this is one of their best and is highly underrated. Here it is track by track:
The first song BOC song that I ever truly fell in love with. For years I had absolutely no idea what the hell the verse lyrics were but damn was that chorus catchy. One of the top three BOC songs in terms of notoriety, this rocker comes out of the speakers with the tenacity of an enraged bull that just got an eye full of red. I highly doubt that if you are in fact reading this that you have not heard this infamous song. Eric and Buck do a great job of handling the vocals together with Buck throwing in some of his best solos as the Bouchard brothers lay down a truly massive groove. Joe Bouchard then steps out and lays down some great bass fills over the vocal effects right before Eric comes in with some announcements in Japanese to add to the overall campiness of the track before the band returns with full force to the song's outro. Live, the boys would stretch this one out to around eight to ten minutes as the bass solos and drum solos make their way into the set which is still the case today. I could really go either way when it comes to the studio or live versions. Each offer something special in its own right and are each worth the time to listen.
Golden Age Of Leather
Arguably the best beginning to any BOC song ever, this one begins with a chorus before it lapses into another Buck Dharma riff that ushers in the tale of a group of renegade bikers making their final stand against the changing times. Buck, as is the case with many of the story-songs, takes lead vocal with help from Eric Bloom during the final section. My only real complaint on this track is how thin the production sounds on this track. The drums sound extremely chambered and seem to sound as if they were recorded in 1987 and not 1977. The guitars sound as if somebody just discovered treble-boosters and the song loses a sort of ominous quality. I think this one deserves a remix. Mixing concerns aside, the song is really good. The somewhat bright and upbeat beginning section which ushers in the story of the last gang of west coast bikers is replaced by a dark and minor-keyed accompaniment that changes the tone of the song greatly. Here Eric trades off with a Boys Choir depicting the final battle between the last holdouts of leather's golden age. Later on, Buck comes back in as the music shifts pace and tempo before the second part reprises to take the song out. Rather ambitious I must say with all of its parts; this comes across as a nice mini-opera telling the tale of the last battle of these outlaws at their own hands. Some say it's a sequel to Transmaniacon MC with its biker theme. As I stated before, my only real complaint with this song is the way it sounds on the original album. It sounded stifled and it would have come across a whole lot better if it had more room to breathe. Also of note, as complex as this song is, it sounds great live.
Death Valley Nights
Here we see the true star of this album come out for the first time. Al Bouchard makes one of his best vocal contributions ever on this true BOC classic. I do not know how this song got overlooked but this song is so well-written and so damn good I just sit back and wonder why it did not become huge. Allen Lanier's piano work is just stunning when mixed with Al's detached and warped vocal delivery. The dynamics of this song are also nothing short of incredible. Al sounds millions of miles away during the verses until the chorus line comes in with Buck and Eric's guitars are coming at you from all sides before it lapses back into the verses. The guitar sound on this track is well-layered with a combination of electric and acoustic guitars to give the sound great dimension and crunch. These lyrics supplied by Richard Meltzer are so poetic and beautiful I could just imagine seeing this person lying down in the vast sands of Death Valley on the verge of physical and emotional death. I agree with those guys I met at the August 5 show in Burgettstown; this is one hell of a song and it's a damn shame that Al isn't around in the band anymore to sing it.
Searchin' For Celine
Ok, it took some time for this one to grow on me. I liked the beginning part with the piano but thought the verse riff sounded out of place. Eric sounds good, but I felt that the music moved around a bit too much. Time has made me a fan of this for the bridge section when the beginning lapses back in before Buck goes off on a rare wah-wah tinged solo. In all respects to Allen Lanier, I think this song could have used some work. Perhaps a reworking of the verse music perhaps. Then again it did grow on me and Allen Lanier would make considerable strides as a writer by the time of the next album.
Another beautiful piece sung and written by Al Bouchard who comes to the forefront of this album as its true star. I know that I have been highly critical of his work in my past columns, but he really makes good on this entire album and this song is a shining example of why. I wish this song was longer. From the gorgeous arpeggios that usher in the song about the danger and tragedy of forced love and emotional tyranny. A woman wishes to be ridden of her prison-like relationship by any means necessary. Buck and Joe provide great backup vocals during the explosive chorus steeped richly in bright melodic power. The guitar harmonies that drive this song to the final verse are simply great. The lyrics are still a bit cryptic when concerning the end of the song; what do "fireworks coming down from her head" mean? I have no idea. Does it matter; probably not. This song is a joy to listen to and to experience as a whole.
R.U. Ready To Rock
I still think this should have served as the opener of the album. No question. As much of a fan of Godzilla, I still feel that this should have been the obvious choice to kick off the record. With a thunderous opening guitar and pounding drums, this pre-metal epic starts off strong and does not let up. Eric is in fine vocal form and the rest of the band follow his lead with some of the best riffs, backup vocals and piano work ever. No wonder this was often the band's first number on many of their tours and served as the opening track on next year's live album. In time it would serve as the opener to the first BOC show I ever saw in 2004 in Johnstown at the Cambria County War Memorial. Once again, I could go either way in terms of which version I like more; studio or live.
Celestial The Queen
Another track that had to take some time to grow on me, this Joe Boucahrd number with a Helen Wheels lyric comes off as a bright ballad about love from a woman or a being of another world. As is the case with all Joe Bouchard's tunes, the piano work is very dense and well structured. After repeated listening I noticed that this song is musically very dense. There are a whole lot of parts that one might not pick up on during the first impression so that gives the song a great ageless quality to it. I guess that is why I took to this one a whole lot later. If you can, listen to this one on headphones. Trust me. I really think this would have sounded a whole lot better live and I hope if a version of it exists that it turns up soon.
Goin' Through The Motions
I know this one gets some flack for being a somewhat shameless attempt at another hit single, I really like this Eric Bloom collaboration with Mott The Hoople's Ian Hunter. My pop buddy Phil Melodia digs this one a whole lot as well. Basically its just a simple pop song with some great vocals and hooks with a great bridge that lyrically alludes "Stairway To The Stars". I heard that this one got trotted out live a couple of times, I think it would have worked pretty well. Allen Lanier's synths while droning and repetitive still sound great and give great character to the song. I think that this song gets a bad rap and it's a rap it doesn't deserve.
I Love The Night
I have no idea (and neither does Sandy Pearlman) why this song is not as well known as "Reaper..." and not a smash hit single. From the first time I heard this I was floored by it. From the seductive guitar lines to the layered harmonic vocals and the romantically charged lyrics this song makes my all time top ten for BOC. No question. I can think of a time when I was riding in my buddy Phil's 84 Bonneville coming back from a party near Route 65 when I put this on. It also reminds me of sitting outside Dan Cummins house as the fireflies light up the backyard in the summer. It also reminds me on films, and other scattered memories that fill up the spaces in my mind. This song puts so many images in my mind that as I am writing this I find it hard to concentrate on what my hands are supposed to be doing. The guitar work from Buck is some of his best and the keyboard work from Allen is extraordinary. The sound on this cut in particular is the best on the album by far. I wish I could hear this one live. This is my favorite track on the entire album and if you have not heard this song then whatever you have to do, hear it. Now whenever I think of a hot summer night, this song comes sweeping in to provide the soundtrack to my imagination.
Joe Bouchard's strongest contribution to the album by far, this tale of the world famous vampire from the pages of Bram Stoker ends the album on a high note. With some chilling piano work from Allen and the disjointed vocal delivery of Joe Bouchard this song starts out as a beautiful ballad then lapses into a technical guitar riff that echoes prog-rock leanings before the bridge ends and the next verse picks up. This swirling musical masterpiece builds to a stunning climax before the final verse comes in as the song's title character vanishes into dust. This is arguably Joe's best contribution to the massive BOC song collection; it is just so dense and well constructed that any major music fan could dig this.
Well there it is. Some of the most beautiful music the band ever recorded was placed on this album. I am not sure what else I can say about how great this piece of work is as a whole. I can honestly say that this is Al Bouchard's crowning achievement as both a player and a singer. I can say that without his songs this album would have simply not been nearly as good. Rumor has it that this is next on the chopping block to be reissued. I know that I can't wait for it. But I guess until then I can live with just these ten tracks that have given me so much these past five years.
Well that should do it for me here. Be sure to keep on checking in for further updates. Next we will cover another chapter in the saga of the live albums. So until next time, keep it here for more "Tales Of The Psychic Warrior".
Bonus Reissue Tracks:
Stop the presses folks: this Valentines Day has brought us one hell of a treat in the form of the long awaited reissue of the classic "Spectres" from the mighty Blue Oyster Cult. Strangely considered a disappointment in the aftermath of the success of "Agents Of Fortune", this classic has been reissued with four bonus tracks for all to hear and enjoy. Some of the tracks were gems and some were, well, a little to be desired.
Probably the strongest of the four tracks, this Buck Dharma sung tune is a smooth, polished rocker with some great piano work from Allen Lanier and the usual superb riffing of Mr. Dharma from the stop-start intro riff to the reverb heavy verse sections and the jagged solos played over the fade-out. I think this one should have been on the album; it's strong and well composed with a lot of hooks. But seeing as to what did make the album, I find it hard to pick any of the tracks that did make the album to remove to make room for this one.
Dial M For Murder
Ok, this one really left me scratching my head. It sounds almost as if it was a Soft White Underbelly track from the late sixties. It really has that retro feel. Eric does a fine job on the vocals and the band plays well behind him, but I think this one deserved a re-write to break it up a bit. I think that with work, this song might have been a bit better but in this form it really seems a bit unripe for picking. Other than the first few seconds of the song, no real riff stands out and none of the vocal melodies are really that catchy. Basically this song doesn't have a strong hook like the previous one did. And it shows.
Ok, this song is not that good. Al (or is it Allen) doesn't do that deadly of a job on the vocals which really kills the song to be honest. The music is not that bad and it has a good hook and with some work the riffs could really make this one swing, but alas, bad vocals weigh this song down like a stone and it falls flat on its face.
Be My Baby
I have always liked the original version of this some for some reason and I was happy to hear that there would be a cover of it on this album. They do a pretty good job of re-creating the infamous Phil Spector "Wall Of Sound" production for the tune. Eric Bloom really comes out as the star on this song with his voice sounding nice and smooth over Buck, Joe and Al's backing vocals. Allen Lanier gets a chance to shine with his piano work which really is the push behind this song that keeps it going. It's a bit camp, but I love it.
Salutations Cult fans, and welcome to another chapter of "Tales of The Psychic Warrior". In this installment we delve into the band's last official live album for two decades. As a way to catch their breath over the excitement that was 1981, the band unleashed this to keep hungry fans busy that were simultaneously pushing Fire Of Unknown Origin towards platinum with the strength of Burnin' For You, the album's massive hit single penned by lead guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser.
But alas, it wasn't all good news in the wake of all this success, on the eve of the Monsters of Rock Festival at Castle Donnington, the band fired drummer and primary songwriter Al Bouchard and continued on with the tour with lighting tech Rick Downey on drums who would eventually appear on all but two of the live album's tracks and the subsequent studio album Revolution By Night. So in order to help cover time and keep the fans busy, they put out what I feel is the next best thing to On Your Feet... in the liver department. Sure it has its flaws, yet all in all this is another shining example of the live power this band possessed and is worth a listen to anybody who has the gift of hearing recorded sounds.
My story of this album dates back to about February of 2002. I spent a long Saturday afternoon hanging out with some of my old football buddies from the team; the Longo brothers, Doug "Bubba" Smith, Brian Pav, and of course Phil Melodia and a few others. We wound up hitting the Ross Park Mall and with Camelot officially closed for good and NRM now a thing of the past, Media Play would have to serve as my only outlet for music in this place. Skimming through the BOC section I came across Greg Scott's amazing cover art and picked this up promptly. Needless to say, I was very happy with what I found. Let's get down to it:
Dominance And Submission
Having already heard this one off the Workshop... comp a few months back, I was already familiar with this track. It was interesting to hear Eric Bloom take lead on this one as Al relegated himself to back-up vocals on one of the two tracks he appears on. As usual, Buck Dharma goes wild when he gets the room and Eric shines in the live spotlight like no other. I am still undecided as to which version I like better. I really think that Al does a stellar job in the studio and the added sound effects coupled with Pearlman/Krugman's crunchy yet crisp production give this live version a run for its money. On the other hand, Eric Bloom has the best voice in the band in my opinion and he completely delivers the goods live, so I guess here it's a draw.
Cities On Flame
Now we see just how things have changed in the post-Al Bouchard era as Eric takes over from the departed skinsman on lead vocals. I have to admit, he sounds pretty good on this version; better than on the other live versions that I have heard him sing. It's as if you can tell that he is trying to show that he can do it better than the one who came before him. Rick Downey as a drummer does his best to do the songs justice on all the cuts, but you can tell that he lacks Al's jazzy quirks and nuances and just goes for sheer out and out power on most of the songs. Buck once again draws out the solos as much as he can to show his prowess on the fretboard.
The first true shining star of the album, this lost classic from Mirrors (more on that later) really gets a chance to breathe in the live setting far away from the chambered and restrictive guise of Tom Werman. In other words, this song kicks ass live! Eric goes for the throat as Richard Meltzer's lyrical tale of S&M debauchery with music from Buck and Joe Bouchard pummel the ears of those to care to listen. Allen Lanier gets a little room to move here on the keys with piano and synth work that add great depth and perspective among the walls of guitars and drums. Without a doubt, this version decimates the studio version. Buck lays down one of his better solos on the album right around the halfway mark before Eric and the rest of the band come in again to close the song out.
The Red and The Black
Similar in sound and feel to the version off of On Your Feet..., this is one of the few songs that do not better the studio versions. Its good to hear Allen Lanier take a solo here and there, but this song has a very sloppy feel to it. It seems that the band is trying to catch up to the song only to have it elude them in the end. Rick Downey also seems to be a bit behind the beat and for that the song suffers, yet we gotta give the guy a break considering the shoes he had to fill. Still not the best version recorded, but still a great song to drive really fast to on a Saturday night.
Having heard the studio version before, I was psyched to see this on the album and wondered how this would sound live. Allen gets to do his most ornate and elaborate piano part in recent memory and gets a chance to shine in the spotlight for a change. Eric still sounds strong and the rest of the guys back him up splendidly. Furthermore, Buck gets to play out a whole lot more on this version because the backward guitar heard on the studio version can't be here in a live version, so he just plays a whole lot of forward guitar instead, and it is good. And just as he brought in the song, Allen takes us out on a grand note by ascending the keys to a stunning climax.
Burnin' For You
A worthy offering of the then hit single, it is sped up a bit as Buck takes lead vocal. I have always thought that Joe Bouchard played great on this song and never got enough credit. Well, here you go. Joe played great on this track. Allen takes over on rhythm guitar as Eric mans the keys and teams up with Buck on the shimmering guitar harmonies that usher in the song and the beginning and the end. Live, this song still settles in a great groove and never manages to lose its shiny, polished luster in the dirty, dingy live setting. They do draw out the end so Buck can show us just how fast and how many notes he can play before the song closes. The only thing that I do miss from the studio version is the cool, almost monk-like vocal harmonies after the final chord.
I have always said that when a band I like covers a song from another band that I like, everybody wins. This is no exception. With Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger even showing up to lend a hand, the boys deliver an almost metallic update of the Doors classic tune from a dozen years earlier. It was so cool to hear Buck and Robbie trade leads back and forth while Eric took a stab at filling the shoes of the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison. I still think that no one can beat the Doors at their own game, but BOC do manage to do a hell of a job. It's a nine minute jam fest that includes another Eric Bloom tale of life in rock and roll with his plug for 7-Eleven and of course, beer. It's great for fans of both bands if you can get the chance to hear it.
The last of the two Al Bouchard appearances on this collection of songs, we hear the band during the riotous "Black and Blue" tour with Black Sabbath burn through an amazing rendition of this track that also lays to waste its original version recorded two years prior. Eric's vocals are more impassioned, Al plays harder, Buck plays faster and Joe still holds it down with a killer groove. Allen still delivers with some great keyboard work at the dramatic conclusion of the song as the partial voice of "the blade". All in all this song just seems to better fit the live arena, the sheer dynamics just stand out a whole lot better and it shows. Its also one of the last appearances of Al as a BOC member, and it's a hell of a way to go out.
Hot Rails To Hell
Another minor slip, this song suffers the same fate as track four; its too rushed and doesn't live up to the version off of Tyranny and Mutation. I have stated before that Joe's vocals are not nearly as effective live as in the studio and here it shows. He sounds a little tired as if this was the end of a pretty long tour (it was). However, it's still a great song and the added keyboard parts at the end of the song still give it something special. Also of note, I have noticed that when they play this song live, there seems to be a section cut out. Am I wrong on this?
And now we see the genesis on what this song would eventually become live. This jammed out version adheres to what we now know as the live blueprint of this track. Rick Downey gets to show his stuff as a drummer on this seven and three quarter minute version of their classic ode to the destruction of Japan at the hands of a mighty lizard. Eric gets things rolling with probably one of his best pre-song stage raps ever. Though still not eclipsing the version off of the previous live album Some Enchanted Evening, this song still does manage to exude some charm and make its own mark. You just have to love the riff behind this song and the groove and energy of this track is just downright infectious.
Veteran of the Psychic Wars
And here it is, the crown jewel of the collection, this song is what I think of whenever I think of what this album truly means to me. The whole band just takes this song to a whole other level. I so wish I could have been present at the Hollywood Sportatorium that night in October of '81. Basically it works like this. For the majority of the song, the band takes it like they did on the record. With some additional help on percussion from the roadies, BOC tells us the tale of Elric after years of battles with various nefarious beings both physical and metaphysical. Eric is in fine form and Joe lays down an incredible bass line as Allen (?) layers the song with massive amounts of keyboards as Buck starts off with a slow, echo-delayed-drenched solo. After a few bars of this, they double the tempo and they take off. Buck's notes taking on the role of psychic energy in a battle against and unseen enemy in a war of the minds. For what seems like hours his solos run up and down the fretboard taunting the listener who can do nothing but sit back and try to take in as much of this masterpiece as they can. Later on, it comes to a close as Eric comes back in with the final verse and this classic and ultimate rendition comes to a close. With a song like this, one cannot help but have a deeply personal history with it. I can remember bringing my stereo into the bathroom as I would sit and let the water from the shower rain all over me as I let my mind wander. Countless times I would just sit until the water had long since gone cold and play the song over and over until whatever was bothering me would fade away. Another time I can remember riding on a bus back from Chicago with about a couple hundred classmates after a Choral competition (where BOC would record a live album within a month at the Navy Pier where I just was!) as the sun cam up over the Ohio skyline. The rays of sunlight cutting through the clouds and trees like a fine blade hit my face while friends and peers lay sleeping beside me. As I thought back on my previous days with my friends, it hit me that this memory will last as long as my mind could hold it. I was about to graduate in a few weeks and a whole way of life would be left behind me forever. This song became part of the soundtrack.
E.T.I. (Extraterrestrial Intelligence)
As stated previously, I am still kind of undecided anymore on which version of this song I like more. This live version with its jammed out outro from Buck and the rest of the boys with a shouted, histrionic vocal from Mr. Eric Bloom really has a strong melodic density to it with its various layers that were not present in the studio version. Furthermore, this riff just sounds great live and having heard it live two times myself, I know what I am talking about.
(Don't Fear) The Reaper
And we reach the close of this fine collection of live recordings with the now (and then) classic track to the Grim one himself. Once again they go to that weird key in B I think for the live version. I think this one sounds a whole lot better than on the Some Enchanted Evening version. You can tell that at this point the band was considerably more comfortable with the song as a whole and it shows. I think that Buck plays an amazing solo over the conclusion of the song before its epic conclusion with Allen's keys once again adding great texture to the track as it winds down to a close.
It's said that this album is the best one BOC ever offered to us. I still to this day disagree. I have read about this and most of the critics who say that just say that the song selection is better because no real period is totally ignored. I do think that it's great for a band to hit all their marks so to speak, but just because a live album simply offers more variety does not make it superior. The quality of the specific versions of the songs themselves is what makes a live album great. I agree that a whole lot of stuff on On Your Feet... was looked over. It's a shame that say some more cuts off of Secret Treaties didn't make it. Oh well. If you read my piece on Some Enchanted Evening I did make a point of saying that the song selection was weak and missed quite a bit in terms of songs. But if you read it then you also would read that the main reason why it was not my favorite was because none of the songs on that album particularly stand out. If they did stand out, then who cares if there are only seven songs and three whole albums are almost totally ignored. On Your Feet... is a horse of another color. I know that a lot of things were missing from that album. But what makes that album great is the fact that those versions are so well played and sound so damn good when they cross into your ears and seep into your brain and never leave.
I will stand by and say that this is the second best live album from these guys I have ever heard and its worth your time and attention if you get the time. Well, keep it here for more Tales of the Psychic Warrior where next time I get to gripe on something that should not be something to gripe about. See you later!!!!
Why Are the Blue Oyster Cult "abandoned and left to die" by The Hall Of Fame ?
Greetings BOC fans; it's me your humble host Jake with more from "Tales Of the Psychic Warrior and tonight we shift gears a bit away from the music to focus on a growing issue surrounding the band itself. In layman terms, its time for me to rant about something that is starting to irk me more than just a bit.
Other than my birthday, the month of March brings about the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony which until recently, gave me joy to see some of my favorite artists finally get some well-deserved recognition and exposure to new fans of other generations.
Like I said before, this used to be a cool and exiting time where I could see things like Santana jamming with Peter Green on "Black Magic Woman" or check in to see Robbie Robertson of the Band jam away on Beatles classics with Paul McCartney and former BOC label mate Bruce Springsteen.
Now it seems like things have changed; the excitement of this annual spectacle no longer affects me in the same way. Call it aging or just plain jaded but I more or less just find myself getting angry at what I see. Instead of getting pumped about who DOES get in, I wind up getting miffed about who DOESN'T get in. Can you take a guess at who I feel should be there with Jann Werner getting one of those nifty trophies? Ding-Ding, you guessed it! It's more than about time that the Blue Oyster Cult get what they truly deserve.
Now as I can recall after reading the Hall Of Fame rulebook, one is eligible for the hall if twenty-five years have passed since the release of their first album. In a verbatim comment from the Hall's main website: "Criteria include the influence and significance of the artist's contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll."
Ok, sounds simple right? BOC has done this; their debut album was released in January of 1972 meaning that they have been up since 1997. Impact and contribution; got it. Looking at 12 million albums sold to date with covers of songs from the Smashing Pumpkins, Iced Earth, The Minutemen, The Goo Goo Dolls, HIM, Wolf and Metallica just to name a few we can see that this band's music has had some impact.
Having said that I only ask one question; what the hell are you waiting for? The band has been up for almost an entire decade and they still are not in? What's the deal? The Pretenders, one hit wonder Del Shannon, the Righteous Brothers and the Lovin' Spoonful make it in and BOC can't catch a break?
I am at a loss, but then again I for one do not think that I am alone. If you actually viewed the catastrophe that was this year's induction ceremony and the chaos that surrounded it then you can see trouble brewing for the boys in charge in Cleveland. After about ten years on the ticket and a plea from various members of the group to be taken off the list due to being constantly passed over for lesser acts in some cases, Black Sabbath finally gets the nod, yet refuses to play. Ever the Sabbath fans, Metallica step in to perform a tribute to their heroes, albeit a less than flattering one.
Furthermore, after sitting on the bill for about seven years, Lynyrd Skynyrd get their moment to finally play "Freebird" to tables of people who probably could give two shits about what was going on. This however would still not prove to be the biggest controversy of the evening. Having been passed over for five years, The Sex Pistols refused to even attend the ceremony and sent Mr. Werner a nasty (and comical) letter expressing their dissatisfaction with the whole thing.
As I was laughing about all of this, I started to think about who else isn't at the party. Deep Purple? Nope; been up since 1992 and still not in. Iggy and The Stooges? Nah; been up since 1994 with no chance of getting in. Alice Cooper; the father of American hard rock and the king of on-stage spectacle and dozens of classic songs? Of course not! He has also been on the bill since '94 and has been barely mentioned in the same sentence as the words "hall of fame".
To be honest with you, I really don't see a whole lot of hope in this situation. If they can let in one hit wonder Del Shannon and not Thin Lizzy (who have been up since 1996 and helped birth the entire Irish rock scene) another "one-hit wonder" then what chance do BOC have really?
But what I really think bugs me is the fact that Blue Oyster Cult is still gigging away some 150 dates a year and still (albeit sporadically) releasing new material with a small but highly dedicated fan base. I pose the question to you readers; tell me why they are not in the hall. I can't think of any idea why. I am stumped!
I predict that things will get a bit rough for Jann Werner in the years to come. Its obvious to me that lately he has been running out of acts to induct in place of various hard rock acts. Letting in Black Sabbath is showing that he is starting to cave and that he has worn out the nostalgia circuit in the past few years. This guy plays favorites; his. I am not going to hold my breath over seeing some of my more favorite heavy metal acts getting in even though many are up for it.
To be honest, I don't think they will ever come around to letting in the mighty BOC. It doesn't seem to be in the tarot cards. Maybe agents of fortune will shine down on the band and I can be thankfully proven wrong and BOC can enjoy the boost in exposure and record sales. Then again they can be lost and never get to take the stage in front of the most un-rock and roll crowd ever assembled. Hell, maybe they shouldn't get in with how fake and plastic it all seems anymore. They may be playing small clubs to handfuls of people but at least they are still true to the music and hopefully each other. I guess integrity comes at a price; it means that you can't go to Cleveland. Boo-Hoo.
Well that should do it for me this week folks. Remember to keep it here for more "Tales of the Psychic Warrior" when we tackle the 1981 classic "Fire Of Unknown Origin". Until next time!
Hello everybody; It's been a LONG time since we last spoke. I went on an extended hiatus these past nine months trying to put things in order so to speak. And due to the huge amount of e-mail that I have received regarding my absence (sarcasm mode now turned off), I have decided to get back to writing about this band we all know and love.
Tonight we look into BOC's last hurrah in terms of massive commercial success with 1981's "Fire of Unknown Origin", the second in a series of albums produced by the masterful Martin Birch.
Now I say Martin Birch specifically because whilst listening to both this and its companion piece "Cultosaurus Erectus", I came to notice something. It dawned on me that both this album and the one that came before it are without a doubt, the best sounding records of their entire career. Especially when it comes to the bottom end; Joe Bouchard's bass is as clear as a bell on here and for that matter everything else is as well. Not to say their earlier records were terrible in terms of sound production, they aren't. It's just that with Mr. Birch at the helm, you know within seconds that every chord, cymbal strike and vocal line will come at you through your speakers with crystal-clear stereo sound.
As for the songs themselves, the boys were on a roll. Their previous album, while not a hit in the states, was a smash in England and with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal still in full swing from the year before, the odds looked to be in BOC's favor once more. With the task of submitting songs to the upcoming "Heavy Metal" film soundtrack, they headed into the studio to begin work on the album that would once again put the to the top of the charts. It seemed that they had finally found a balance of hard rock and pop to please the masses. Too bad that it all seemed to fade too soon.
My personal story about this album takes me back to the summer of 2002. I was soon to be off to college and would spend nights hanging out with my buddy Dan Cummins, swimming in his pool at nights while working a Kaelin's Farm during the day. I was out one night with my brother Aaron at Best Buy and came across a copy for the low price of $8.99. It looked like it had been there a while. I picked it up and threw it in the stereo and cranked the volume. Here is what I have to say.
Fire of Unknown Origin
A totally different song from the demo that appeared on the re-master of "Agents...", this polished rocker now featured a vocal from Eric Bloom in an entirely different key and with a totally different arrangement. With Allen Lanier's synths filling up the background behind Joe Bouchard's throbbing bass line and Buck Dharma's double-tracked harmony guitar lines and staccato rhythm chord work, this is one of those songs that seems to safely straddle the line between smarmy pop and heavy riff-rock. A great song that would later show up on a bootleg down the road....
Burnin' For You
One of the top three BOC songs of all time in terms of popularity, I am certain that we all know how this one goes. Originally intended for Buck's upcoming solo album, this track but BOC back on top of the charts at the dawn of the eighties. Having heard this song a million times on the radio beforehand myself; I never seemed to notice that the chorus of this song had an almost identical chord structure to "Don't Fear The Reaper". Hey, if a formula works right? As to the song itself, Joe Bouchard plays one of his best bass lines ever and it's his part that really drives the song ahead. Not to be outdone on his own song, the harmony guitar parts of Allen and Buck usher in and out this rock-radio classic. Also of note is the elaborate "chorus" of background vocals that also show up at the beginning and end of the song. A true classic, albeit very overplayed both on the radio and live.
Veteran of The Psychic Wars
Of all the songs they wrote for the "Heavy Metal" soundtrack, it was one of the ones that had nothing to do to the storyline that actually made it into the film and ensuing album. Containing what Al Bouchard considers to be Eric Bloom's best vocal ever, this epic tune co-written by Michael Moorcock tells of the ongoing trials of Elric, the albino warrior and slave of the "black blade". More on that later, but for now we have this song to deal with. With its dramatic cellos and added percussion, this song immediately lets you know that it means business right from the get go. This song is an absolute gem in the crown of BOC, but this song has to be heard live in order to feel its full power. Hell, it's the namesake of this damn column!
A sadly underrated track on the album, this one begins with a great bass line from Joe before a Eric Bloom vocal begins to tell the tale of a clairvoyant left alive after a catastrophe. I know that Al Bouchard is not that big of a fan of this song, but I have no idea why. I really think its one of the stronger tracks the album boasts. As always, Buck lays down a great solo and the keyboards are great. What's the problem here? It has great flow and has a great chorus line that really sticks with you long after the song is over.
Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver
A somewhat forgotten epic, heavy rocker that surprisingly has not shown up all that much in live sets lately, this tale of the anatomy of stars and other things is really a great hard rock tune that any head banger could dig. This is one of the songs in the BOC cannon that really argues the fact of these guys being a well, heavy metal band. As is the case with most of the harder material, Eric takes the vocals on this one while Al Bouchard channels his inner Bonham to create a hard, heavy groove that just flat out rocks. Another lost classic so to speak. And this track really has all a rocker could love; screeching guitars and a heavy backbeat make this song more than worth getting into.
Vengeance (The Pact)
Staring out with elaborate yet hushed synthesizers, Joe Bouchard takes the lead vocal on a heavy hook-ridden track that takes its lyrics right from the pages of the "Heavy Metal" film script, telling of the exploits of the warrior Taarna and her crusade against evil. With its modulations and tempo changes, its downright proggy at points, yet thin at others. I think if the guitars were placed a bit further up in the mix, this problem might have been solved. Mixing issues aside, its still a pretty good song and a shame it doesn't get that much recognition.
Ok, the boys take a full-on stab at New Wave and I think they fall flat on their face in doing so. With its overdone keyboards and lightweight guitars killing what would otherwise be a killer song, we have this. I know that a few of the guys think this is a great song, but I just can't get into this song at all. And if that isn't strange enough, they get Eric to sing it. I think maybe Al would have done a bit better on this? We will never know.
After the let-down of the previous track, BOC bounces back and how! With Allen Lanier's haunting piano intro, this song is probably the best on the album. Eric's snarling vocal attack coupled with some brilliant playing from the whole ensemble of players. With the added touch of a violin here and there, the somewhat oblique lyrics and sound effects which on their own would sound stupid actually sound cool and interesting. All in all, this is one you got to here if you haven't heard it yet. One of the top twenty songs of tier career of evil to say the least.
Don't Turn Your Back
And it all ends on a low note. This is another song that really never gets going is isn't all that good. Too much synthesizer and not enough hook and melody drive this song nowhere. Buck does lay down a good vocal and solo, but it still doesn't save this one from being filler in my opinion.
Filler aside, this is still a great album and worth your money and attention. When you get down to it, there are only two songs that don't really seem up to par here and the rest of the songs for the most part range from good to classic. I strongly suggest getting your hands on this one.
Well that should do it for me tonight. Keep it here for more Tales of The Psychic Warrior. See you soon!!!!
Good evening again friends and fans! It's another edition of "Tales of the Psychic Warrior" with your humble host, me, ready to take you on another jaunt into the mystic realm of The Blue Oyster Cult.
Life teaches us many different things. It teaches us various social morays such as how to deal with our fellow man, how to treat our elders and basically how to run our daily lives. Life also teaches us some very hard lessons such as loss, growing old and disappointment. I am sorry to say that this piece deals with the latter category as we go into the Cult's latest official live album "A Long Day's Night" which started out so very promising one late summer evening.
I was in the Wallace Hall computer lab (the site where I got the crazy idea to start writing this column) and came across the band's official website. Therein I read some amazing news; a new live album was due to be released within a month. I was beyond stoked to find out that a whole bunch of tunes which I had never heard live before were going to be on it ("Quicklime Girl", "Harvest Moon" and most notably "Flaming Telepaths") as well as a slew of other BOC classics.
I counted the days. Of course when September 24th rolled around, I was bummed to find out that I had an exam in my Dynamic Earth Science class at eight A.M. Shit. So this meant that I would have a long day ahead of me. It would turn out to be a bright, shiny day. I took the test and as soon as I got some food and a little bit of sleep, I took the bus to the Indiana Mall to the local F.Y.E. Record Store to pick up this soon-to-be classic.
I held it in my hands and noticed the first of a few shortcomings; the majority of the songs that I really wanted to hear off of it, most notably "Flaming Telepaths", was nowhere to be found. Damn. They were to be on the DVD release only. Oh well, at least I got the CD. It should be great right?
Let's get right down to it; this album is not up to snuff. Period. I have really only listened to it about three times since the fall of 2002 and I don't think I am going to listen to it again any time soon. I have to be honest; Eric's voice sounds weak and tired here and it shows especially in "Astronomy" where he sounds as if he is really hurting himself trying to reach those high notes. The only real good track that Eric gets down on is the classic "Lips In The Hills" where he seems to be in a more comfortable vocal range. But other than that, this collection leaves a whole lot to be desired.
Do I think Eric has lost it? Hell no. If you have read any of my concert reviews, all of which took place well after this show, you would know that Eric was and still is the best singer in the band by far. He rocked it in Johnstown, Burgettstown and just this past month in Uniontown (more to come on that). But I got to shoot you straight; this was not a great night for Mr. Bloom and it makes the other performances suffer as a result.
I think I said all I need to say on this one. They are human and this was a bad night. Simple as that. The only problem is that the tapes were rolling on this one and I would highly recommend that if you know someone who wants to get into Blue Oyster Cult then tell them to steer clear of this one at all costs.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep your eyes and ears open for a write-up of the second wave of BOC re-masters as well as a first-hand account of the show in Uniontown in June. Until we meet again!
We were miles from anywhere we really knew and I, the navigator, was still not sure of how to get where we were going... and The Blue Oyster Cult were not ones to wait.
It was a rushed affair; something I am not keen to when it comes to concerts. Especially concerts that were far away in a place that none of us had ever been to before; this made me nervous. Work has me spending most of the weekends working and losing sleep due to really oblique schedules so by the time we all agreed to head out to Uniontown to see Blue Oyster Cult last Saturday night, it was too late to call off work for the following morning. It was going to be a long day.
The plan was simple; head out for the show at six and take 51 South to Uniontown to the State Theatre. Mike McDaniel, a co-worker and resident of the town gave me directions. Take 51, turn left at the CVS and take a right to the parking garage. It all sounded far too easy yet far too easy to screw up nonetheless. We picked up Phil and crossed over to pick up Dan then headed for 279 South. Aaron, my older brother and driver was there when Dan and I went to Johnstown to see these guys for the first time. That was in 2004 and Aaron got an epic case of the runs that kept him in the bathroom for most of the set.
Dan and I went to see them the next summer alone in Burgettstown; this time giving a full set. Each time they were amazing. Now we had A back and P joined us for this trip south. A minor bummer was the absence of founding member Allen Lanier who has been M.I.A. for the better part of a year. To replace him, Ritchie Castellano switched from bass to guitar and keyboards and Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, and Whitesnake) stepped in.
Traffic and a few pit stops had us running late. We were in jeopardy of missing the beginning of the show and none of us had tickets. I usually become a tyrant when a show day arrives. I make sure everyone is ready to go and I certainly make sure everyone has tickets before we leave. Now, not even I have a ticket and if we have to drive all this way just to get to the booth and find out that the show sold out would tarnish my rep for years to come and I would have to face the fact that I missed seeing BOC for the second time in a row.
It was a nice day; not too hot, plenty of sunshine and pretty light traffic once 51 opened up past 88. We had some great tunes with us for the night and we were just hoping not to miss the show.
Once we got within city limits, I began to worry. I had a feeling that something was missing from the directions, something Mike or I had overlooked. Nothing is more embarrassing than getting lost and missing a show. We got into town. Where was the CVS? There it is! Turn left. Ok, now where is the parking garage? Shit, turn here! Find a space! Yes, we made it! There's the Theatre! Are any tickets left? Yes! Let's get to our seats.
It was a very nice venue. Like a mini-Benedum with ornate wood carvings, carpets and stained glass adorning the walls. Walking up the stairs to the balcony Dan hit his head on a really low ceiling. Hard. It hurt having to watch it. We got to our seats and almost immediately the lights went down and the band ambled on stage. We winged it, yet still could not have timed it better.
After three shows, still no "Flaming Telepaths" and no major changes like those at the Edinboro show in February of 2006 that I missed but there were at least three songs played here that I had not heard live before. "M.E. 262" was in my opinion the highlight of the night. It absolutely rips live. Aaron and Phil both gravitated towards "Shooting Shark" which was amazing. Buck Dharma probably played the best solo I had ever heard him play during the closing bars of this epic song. And after all, it's Phil's favorite BOC song.
Dan was taken aback (as was I) by "See You In Black", a total surprise that I never saw coming. The only drag about the show itself was the fact that I had a hard time hearing Eric Bloom's voice. They needed to turn his mic up. Maybe if we were on the floor we could have heard him better.
We headed back to downtown to get some food at Pirmanti's in the Strip. Talk about a perfect way to end an evening. I had to get home and get a couple hours of sleep before I had to be back here for work.
Another one of those great days was now over...
It's becoming almost commonplace; conflict with our fellow man, which has been occurring since the dawn of civilization, is now almost expected when we, meaning my friends and myself, attend any concert. The results, which can be disastrous, are more often than not just entertaining and fodder for stories on how stupid the human condition can truly be.
I worked a midnight to six shift at CBS that morning and went home for a few hours of sleep before I had to run errands for the tailgating we were planning to do before the show. It was the same cast of characters for this BOC show; my brother A, P and D were all heading out to see the band again for the second time since mid-June. This time they would not be headlining but would in fact be opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd which did mean that they would be playing for a very large group of people, which I think numbered about 9-10,000 by set's end. This time would also find us in familiar territory; The Post Gazette Pavilion at Starlake, a shed out in the middle of fucking nowhere where A and myself have been attending shows since 1996.
Now even though we knew where we were going, we were still a bit nervous; anyone who has ever been there can attest to the long drive, the in-house hassles and the agonizing trek out of the parking lot. Yeah, this place kinda blows. But, we were going to do our best to prepare ourselves for anything that God or man might wish to throw at us.
After a few hours sleep, I woke up and went for a run before heading out to the store to get some food and clean out the coolers we were planning to use for food and drinks in the lot. We met up at P's place and got D and went to get beer. Once that minor task was accomplished, we headed West towards Robinson and to the second meeting of BOC to wrap up the summer.
We got there just as the gates to the lot opened and got a spot close to the end of the section we were located in hopes that we might be able to make a quick exit. We got the grill fired up and after I took a piss in the woods, we ate our fill of burgers, dogs and brats while waiting for the show to start. We kinda looked like this...
If you want to see some pictures, then check out Phil's myspace profile for about thirty of them from the pre-show and the concert itself. He really outdid himself this time. Anyway, after about two and a half hours of eating, drinking and chatting with the people next to us, we headed in just as it was getting dark and a bit chilly to catch BOC. Here's the set list:
Pretty much more of the same that they did in Uniontown with the exception that it was a much shorter set. "Buck's Boogie" was an interesting addition, I had never seen it live before and yes, after four shows, still no "Flaming Telepaths". Set duration aside, the show was killer. "O.D'd...." was heavy, I mean really heavy, like the amps were up to 13 and overdriven to the point just shy of meltdown and "M.E. 262" was still my favorite song of the night. I will have to agree with A on this, getting to hear "Shooting Shark" live under a starry sky was pretty sweet and Buck lit it up again as usual.
Eric was in great voice that night; this was without a doubt the best sound mix of them I have ever heard. Jules did a really cool solo which had the other members of the band conga dancing around his kit and Rudy Sarzo's bass solo began with a few bars of "Crazy Train" before launching into some power slaps and harmonics. And what more can be said about Ritchie Castellano whose keyboards made "M.E. 262" rock like no other and who's guitar work still shone even under the bright light of Buck Dharma? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The only glitch occurred during "Burnin'..." where Buck had a guitar problem and had to switch in the middle of the song.
I have to admit, having to hear drunken assholes shout "Godzilla" through every BOC song was really annoying and hearing the occasional shout of SKYNYRD!!! here and there irked me a bit, but I was happy to see these guys in front of a big crowd again. The place went absolutely apeshit when they launched into the aforementioned song above and stayed on their feet until the very last bars of "...Reaper". I hope that this leads to them playing bigger shows with bigger bands next summer.
After that, Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage to a roar as "Travelin' Band" opened their set of southern-fried classics. It looked like it was about to rain and the only one who wanted to stay was D so we waited until they played "The Ballad Of Curtis Loew" before heading for the blazer. But before we could do that, there was an altercation.
Some drunken, soon-to-be-a-meth addicted-trailerpark-skank got in P's face saying that he burned her with his cigarette. This would be a sound accusation considering that P does smoke, but the kicker is that he wasn't smoking during that song and had no cigarette in his hand when she said he burned her! Then in a fit of drunken rage, she takes her bottle of booze and tries to splash it all over P. Now it was dark and I thought that it was empty when she was flailing it around like a wand, trying to soak P with it but apparently she forgot to take off the damn cap and just shook her drink up while P stood there bone dry.
Some folks I guess...
We headed out to the parking lot to the strains of "...Curtis Loew" and got in the car just as the rain hit. We cut down 279 South to hit up Pirmanti Brothers in the strip for some sandwiches then we retired to D's house to play cards till half past one. It was another great day. Here's to many more...
Hey everybody, it's Jake here with another installment of "Tales of the Psychic Warrior"... sort of. The page may say different but I must admit that I am no longer a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but there was a time when that was the case. I was a Communications Major which means that you are mostly dealing with cameras, mixing boards and lots of scripts but I managed to sneak into Sprowls Hall for an Art class here and there.
I had one of those stereotypical "cool" Art professors in Professor Clark who let us pretty much do whatever we wanted but still wound up teaching us the effects of Art on mass culture. She further endeared herself to me when she let us pick a work of Art, any work of art and do a report on it instead of a Final.
"Oh really?" says the kid in the front with the leather jacket sporting a wry grin...
Enclosed herein is the very report about the piece of art that I chose. The result should be less than surprising.
"Extraterrestrial Live": An Artistic Analysis
Since 1970, Blue Oyster Cult has been rocking the masses with its distinct hard rock sound which mixes heavy guitars with dark and haunting melody with a sinister and cerebral twist. Needless to say with an image such as this, the band is truly one in a million in terms of sound and sight. The artwork on their album covers are well known for their iconic symbols and complex hidden meanings which hearken back to the works of Lovecraft, alchemy, space exploration, and the general unknown. References to almost all of these ideas are found on the cover to their "Extraterrestrial Live" from 1982; recorded on the Fire of Unknown Origin tour of the United States. Herein is a pastiche of sorts that is a collection is images and pictures that encompass their entire career to this point.
Artist Greg Scott who had previously done the "Fire of Unknown Origin" cover the previous year in egg tempera on a 15in by 15in wood panel was called in again to do the live album from the subsequent tour. A former Associate Art Director for Rolling Stone magazine; Scott had long been a fan of Blue Oyster Cult's work and jumped at the chance to work with them a second time. This time the medium was totally different as simple pencil sketches would take place of egg tempera for the final cover. The group's manager and visionary Sandy Pearlman also contributed the idea of adding Doberman Pinchers to the artwork's foreground and having the band's equipment unloaded to the side of the piece as if to show the band on tour all over the universe and landing on some distant planet.
With this in mind, Scott went ahead with the project in the summer of 1982 and did principal photography at Columbia studios in downtown New York. The band members are all drawn on the album's back cover underneath the ship. In comparison to his previous piece with the group, this would turn out to be much larger. The final drawing of the cover both front and back would be a whopping two feet by four feet and would take roughly an entire month to complete.
Now on to the analysis of the piece itself; as stated previously the group was infamous for having numerous cryptic symbols all over their records to date. The most infamous symbol associated with the group without question is the cross and claw which is found on just about all of their albums, singles, and anything remotely related to the promotion of the band itself. The symbol is located on the side of the ship, the robe of the alien, the equipment casings, and on the lapels of the group member's jackets.
The band's symbol is actually the symbol of Kronos (Saturn). According to Blue Oyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard, the symbol was used by Bill Gawlik in his "City of the Future" project (his Masters thesis in architecture at Stony Brook University). Sandy Pearlman liked the symbol, and hired Bill Gawlik to do the covers for BOC's first two albums. Sandy had Bill put the symbol on the covers, and it became the band's logo.
According to Eric Bloom, Gawlik is also responsible for the name "Tyranny And Mutation" for BOC's second album. While working on the artwork for BOC's second album, Gawlik was listening to BOC's first album. After 24 straight hours of drawing and listening, he told Sandy Pearlman, "This is tyranny and mutation!"
The symbol is also very similar to the ancient Greek symbol for "chaos". While it is visible on most albums, it can be hard to spot on a few (most notably "Spectres" and "Cultosaurus Erectus"). As an aside, the curved part of the symbol represents a sickle. Greek mythology tells us that the god Kronos, was given the sickle by his mother to kill his father, the god Ouranos. Kronos sliced off his father's genitals, and threw them into the sea, which later formed the goddess Aphrodite. Kronos later became the father of the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia.
Also, Saturn and Lead were congruent in alchemy, so the symbol for Saturn (the Roman name for Kronos) is also the symbol for lead, which is a "heavy metal" (sometimes incorrectly noted as the "heaviest" of metals - actually Mercury is, while lead is one of the "most dense"). With all this to digest you can see how dense the hidden meanings actually were. In other words you can tell that the choice of the symbol was quite deliberate and calculated on the part of the group.
Now we look at the colors and composition of the picture itself. Using pencils it was to me amazing at how well the colors turned out by giving the whole piece a bluish grey look to it as well as being able to show great detail in the faces of the band members and the like. Upon closer inspection of the band members you can see that Greg Scott even took the time to put the band member's last names on each of their jackets for good measure.
Also take notice of the intricate detail of the Oyster Boy's robe and the elaborate yet subtle crevices of the ship's portal at the top of the stairs and see how amazing the shading techniques were. He even gives you depth and space with the hills that fade off far away in the distance which seem to use much softer blues and whites while the items placed closer to the front have a much darker tone as if to give the viewer an idea that these items are much closer than the hills. With that aspect I was reminded of Masaccio's "Tribute Money" where he used warm colors in the foreground and softer colors in the background to give the illusion of depth.
I really feel the structure of the front cover is quite interesting as well. High Renaissance had the circular set up and the Ecstatic Baroque period was famous for the diagonal set up, this piece somewhat reminds me of another Masaccio piece titled "Holy Trinity" with its somewhat disjointed triangular set up with the Oyster Boy at the top of the stairs with arms outstretched and the two Dobermans at the bottom of the staircase.
Upon first glance, the viewer is drawn to the Oyster Boy at the top of the stairs with that figure being the most central of the piece. This figure is from Greg Scott's previous album cover for the group ("Fire Of Unknown Origin") and is now carried over to this live album as well. He is apparently the head of "The Cult" and the ambassador of their culture to the other worlds of the galaxy. This focus then shifts immediately when the viewer looks around at the rest of the objects in the piece as it noticed the Dobermans and the road cases that throw the balance off of the piece.
Note how they are somewhat carelessly stacked to the side; this totally throws off the symmetry of the piece, yet I feel that this was intentional. The ceremonious nature of the Oyster Boy who seems to be conveying a sense of otherworldly knowledge and things unknown is somewhat mocked by the presence of road cases and musical equipment. I feel that its somewhat satirical in a way of all those ancient hieroglyphs and sci-fi movies where a mysterious robed figure emerges from a spaceship to unleash terror or salvation. Here this is not the case. It seems to be saying that we have come from the far reaches of the galaxy over light years to bring you... .. rock n roll!
Getting to the Dobermans, here is another example of Blue Oyster Cult putting a ton of hidden meanings into what they do. Back when the band was in its first genetic inceptions, the band was toying with a massive concept that would eventually emerge years later as an album entitled "Imaginos" which told the tale of an altered immortal human who faced the people of the earth with the challenge of evil who received his powers from a group of alien beings called Les Invisibles and had servants called... the Blue Oyster Cult.
Even though the entire concept did not emerge until 1988, that is not to say that some songs that were part of the "Imaginos" concept did not sneak their way into some albums. Many in fact did. In 1974 the band released "Secret Treaties" which contained a song titled "Astronomy".
Sirius: The Dog Star, a star of the constellation Canis Major, the brightest star in the heavens. Used for navigational purposes because it usually remains fixed in the sky. The Dog Days ... the period of in late summer (between early July and late August) when Sirius rises and sets with the sun.
And according to astronomer and historian Dr. Paul Mather: "Okay, here's another Sirius connection. I remember R.A. Wilson making much about the connection between the "Dog Days" and Sirius. There is a "primitive" African tribe - the Dogon tribe - who, it seems, accurately detected the companion to Sirius and mapped its relationship to Sirius. This companion is invisible to the naked eye, and can only be detected by x-rays (I seem to recall). The tribe detected its presence long before modern radio astronomy." So the Dobermans represent constellations and the alignment of the stars in relation to tribes and navigation.
Another reference that the dogs bring up is to that of the Egyptian god Anubis, Egyptian god of the dead. Represented as a black jackal or dog, or as a man with the head of a dog or jackal, his parents were usually given as Re in combination with either Nephthys or Isis. After the early period of the Old Kingdom, he was superseded by Osiris as god of the dead, being relegated to a supporting role as a god of the funeral cult and of the care of the dead. The black color represented the color of human corpses after they had undergone the embalming process.
In the Book of the Dead, he was depicted as presiding over the weighing of the heart of the deceased in the Hall of the Two Truths. In his role as psychopomp he was referred to as the "conductor of souls". The Greeks later identified him with their god Hermes, resulting in the composite deity Hermanubis. His principal sanctuary was at the necropolis in Memphis and in other cities.
Anubis was also known as Khenty- Imentiu - "chief of the westerners" - a reference to the Egyptian belief that the realm of the dead lay to the west in association with the setting sun, and to their custom of building cemeteries on the west bank of the Nile. Here again we have the ideas of death and cults personified in the form of Dobermans.
Now we go over to the back side and the band members themselves. The band members from left to right are Allen Lanier (keyboards and guitars), Rick Downey (drums), Al Bouchard (drums, vocals, and guitars), Joe Bouchard (bass, vocals), Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (guitars, vocals) and Eric Bloom (vocals, guitars, keyboards).
Of interesting note is the presence of six members of the group. The five founding members of the band were the Bouchard brothers, Lanier, Bloom and Roeser. In August of 1981 while on tour in Britain, principal songwriter and drummer Al Bouchard was fired from the band on the eve of their performance at the Monsters Of Rock Festival at Castle Donnington. Needing a quick replacement, they hired lighting director and crew chief Rick Downey to fill in for the rest of the tour and would stay with the band until 1985.
However, Al Bouchard still appears on two of the albums 13 tracks and therefore was included on the back cover of the album along with the rest of the group members. Notice how Al is placed somewhat behind the rest of the figures as if he is fading off into the distance. He is also apparently talking to Rick Downey as if he is telling him what to do and what he is in for. Another notion is that since he was the band's most prolific writer and musical visionary, it is fitting that he is pointing the way ahead for the others to follow. Greg Scott even has Allen Lanier smoking a cigarette; his trademark accessory.
Well there is the analysis of this great piece of artwork from a great and intellectual band. Personally the music on here is great and is worth a listen to anyone who has a taste for hard rock that is a little left of center so to speak. And just a little bit of trivia for you, Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger guests on Roadhouse Blues.