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Blue Öyster Cult - Agents Of Fortune CD (album) cover

AGENTS OF FORTUNE

Blue Öyster Cult

 

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3.14 | 167 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "This is the night we ride"

While I appreciate the 'black and white' trilogy of albums, I'm in the minority who feels the band made a huge leap with Agents. This certainly put off some fans who had grown accustomed to the band and didn't want change. Fleetwood Mac did this with Tusk and even Zeppelin gets some flack for Presence, both of which were excellent albums with a different feel than more popular predecessors (and may have been better than their predecessors). But few great albums inspire as much angst as this one and I've never understood why. Agents took more chances given their fanbase's love of Secret Treaties, so it was the exact opposite of "selling out". Because it happened to score a big radio hit it was accused of being something it wasn't-I honestly don't think they expected the Reaper phenom that occurred.

Agents is first rate devious fun all the way through. Dark and yet insanely catchy, the songs are full of the tongue-in-cheek playfulness and campy hard rock brilliance few other bands have combined so successfully. They almost stole a page in pizazz/showmanship from Freddie Mercury or Elton John, while maintaining their night-rider tough guy sound. From sampling different musical styles to borrowing Patti Smith's poetic touch, creativity was at an absolute peak. Yes a huge radio hit was born, yet the sinister stories concocted in the other tracks are just as appealing. Hard rock and 60s rock are sampled, pop harmonies are blended with great hooks and punkish attitude, and a certain haunting mixture of surf and film-noir soundtrack recall the way The Doors could be both dangerous and commercial. It's also more ebullient and colorful in the overall sound motif, a pleasant improvement. The keyboards have been more heavily integrated and each member seems to be standing out front, I wonder if this album was more collaborative in songwriting than previous work? Summer of Love is a giant sneer, the Reaper's dramatic middle interlude a most perfect expression of deathly fear. Vera Gemini seems the pursuit of dangerous love with Smith's superb co-vocal, while Morning Final's music has a mini-epic feel of narcotic hazed grandeur in a Steppenwolf like package. All the tracks have this captivating combination of the eerie with the cheerful, a contrast between lyrics and vocals with dynamic playing that supports both. It did have its fans:

"Agents of Fortune is a startlingly excellent album---startling because one does not expect Blue Oyster Cult to sound like this: loud but calm, manic but confident, melodic but rocking. One area of clear improvement is in the matter of lyrics; for the first time there is less emphasis on absurd, crypto-intellectual rambling and more of a coherent attack on a variety of subjects." -Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, 1976

"It's still dark, mysterious, and creepy, and perhaps even more so, it's still rooted in rock posturing and excess, but gone is the nihilistic biker boogie in favor of a more tempered sound that gave Allen Lanier's keyboards parity with Dharma's guitar roar" -Thom Jurek, Allmusic

I love this album because of the remarkably high quality playing at every level put to music full of life and personality. No other album conjures as well the lights speeding by on a warm summer night, mystery, romance, adventures. Unlike the machismo of the first three albums there is a big dose of the feminine coming through in several tracks, perhaps the strong imprint of Patti Smith coming through on the boys. "Vera Gemini" is the highlight on an album full of them. Anchoring it all is the lead work of Buck Dharma and he has never played with more conviction than on Agents. On some YouTube comments I was reading, a gentleman posed the question "Ever noticed that Buck Dharma has never thrown away a solo in his life?" It was certainly true on this album, and every lead and rhythm part on this album, each guitar sound, are perfect. Agents of Fortune is not only the feather in the cap of BOC's career, but one of the best albums of rock's most iconic decade. I supposed that's enough gush but this album is on my top shelf---couldn't help myself.

Finnforest | 5/5 |

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