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

AGENTS OF FORTUNE

Blue Öyster Cult

 

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3.22 | 186 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
4 stars There are albums out there in which a single song within it stands out so much from the rest of the tracks that it practically carries the rest of the album on its back while sometimes not even being a representative song concerning the band's style and general output. Agents of Fortune wound up being one of those albums, elevating the financial status of the band in the process. But what can I say...even I couldn't help but skip to that track back in the day; it was really something else and quite effective in conveying an atmosphere. It was only during subsequent listens when I realized there was more to this release than that one tune, and now I find the album as a whole as pretty fascinating, but yeah, that one defining hell of a track was quite a game changer.

But before I wax poetic about "Tenderloin", there's still the rest of the album to consider. First of all, along with an improved, clearer production, the band also ventured a lot more out of its comfort zone. The dark attitude was still there, but the branching out into occasional pop territory was a new exploration. Yet the album branches out into a lot of other things, resulting in an album that's almost schizoid in nature musically, held together by the strange unsettling undercurrent in the overall mood, lyrics and penchant for killer guitar solos.

Opener "This Ain't the Summer of Love" is actually cool as a cucumber with a heavy guitar tone kicking things off on the right foot. It's got the motorcycles, meanness and iconoclasm one would expect out of BÖC going by their prior three releases. Other heavy hitters include "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)", the lone cosmic number with a ballsy bluesy riff anchoring it before the chorus shoots the band out into space. It's one of those songs in which when I first heard it, I knew it was BÖC, because it sounds like no other band I can think of. It's a great number and could have fit right in with Secret Treaties or even the debut, but I'm glad it's here since I'm not sure those productions would have benefited the song. Then there's "Tattoo Vampire" which brings back some fiery Tyranny & Mvtation action while featuring seedy lyrics involving the urban underworld and its dark secrets. That's actually a running theme for a lot of these songs, with the album's lyrics exploring a city-life underbelly setting moreso than anything else I've heard in their catalog, and in a few cases it really works wonders.

Not so for "Sinful Love", which may be their worst song of their entire 70's output, although the guitar solo (as always) is great. In fact the solo is so good I think Buck Dharma wrote that solo first and as a joke the rest of the band built a real crappy tune around the lead track just to prank Buck. The fact that this song starts off side 2 instead of "Tattoo Vampire" is an actual travesty. "Debbie Denise" isn't the best thing ever either, being an ode to some girl who stands by her rockstar lout of a man, but it sort of works because Albert can really pull off that hungover warbly voice so well...could have been an authentic delivery.

I can't fault the other tunes really. "True Confessions" isn't great, but the Elton John/Rolling Stones mishmash comes off pretty cool and the slow fade out provides an excellent tension builder for the next song. Then there's also "The Revenge of Vera Gemini ", which is icy cool with a slinky swinging gait and Patti Smith's vocal contributions. Certainly one of the most memorable tracks on the album.

But now it's time for some "Tenderloin" baby. I always get this impression of a lavish hotel room with a red velvet couch, neon lights flickering through the window, sirens wailing outside, a wine glass with lipstick on the rim, lots of pills and other things on the table etc. Eric's vocal delivery is at once impassioned yet sinister, and the air of lavish decadence hangs all over this sort of proto-new wave thing. I can only imagine the amount of blow involved in the creation of the song, considering that it's also a main factor within the lyrics, which neither condemns nor praises the protagonists. "It's just like life, there's never quite enough." It's one of those epiphanies when I could wonder "Is this the best time I can see myself having?" "Doesn't it all go eventually downhill?" and other thoughts during a binge or something. Slick, sleazy and quite unusual for the band, it's kind of it's own thing. The other couple of songs I haven't mentioned yet are quite awesome too.

So despite the presence of "Sinful Love", a song so bad you'd have to be a pigeon to sing it, Agents of Fortune really turned out to be a grower for me to an extent that I think it was the right thing for the band to do at the time, not just economically, but creatively since there's too many interesting gems to glare at, plus the sheer variety is noble and not really detrimental after a few listens.

Prog Sothoth | 4/5 |

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