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Blue Öyster Cult - On Your Feet or on Your Knees CD (album) cover


Blue Öyster Cult


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4.05 | 87 ratings

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5 stars Released in 1975, as a sort of ideal conclusion to their legendary 'black and white' trilogy, On Your Feet or On Your Knees is simply one of the best live albums in rock, bar none. It captures the New York band at the peak of their creativity, before they started exploring more commercial pastures with Agents of Fortune and all the albums that followed. A towering achievement of sheer musical power and lyrical subtlety, pervaded with the looming aura of malevolence that led the band to be dubbed the American Black Sabbath (though their musicianship was vastly superior to that of the Birmingham quartet), right from its sinister, Gothic cover art the album intrigues and holds the listener's attention in a firm grip.

Blue Oyster Cult have always been one of the best live acts around (I can vouch for that, having seen them in 1986), and to this day - when most of the members are in their early sixties - their performances are said to be worth every cent of the entrance fee. In the mid-Seventies, at the top of their game, they were an unstoppable force, as On Your Feet or On Your Knees shows quite clearly. Crushing yet memorable riffs (move over, Smoke on the Water), slinky keyboard lines, Eric Bloom's gruff, theatrical vocal tones, galloping rhythms, weird, sci-fi lyrical themes - and a light show that, at the time, was deemed positively dangerous - BOC had it all, an intoxicating mix of violence and sophistication, just like their hometown. I would hesitate, though, to call them heavy metal, as they have all too often been described. With all due respect to the genre, I find very little in common between BOC's music and that of some of their British contemporaries, such as Black Sabbath or Judas Priest. I would rather compare them to the likes of Uriah Heep, or even the mighty Deep Purple - hard-edged, yes, but capable of subtlety and elegance.

The album features the cream of BOC's first three albums (with two glaring omissions, Astronomy and Flaming Telepaths - both amongst the band's finest moments), plus a cracking cover of Steppenwolf's anthemic Born to Be Wild, which closes the album in style. Though I have heard a number of covers of this song, in my opinion BOC's is the best by far - possibly together with fellow New Yorkers Riot's (on their album Narita). Some of the songs also appear on the band's other three live albums, notably the energetic The Red and the Black, Cities on Flame with its memorable riff, and the steamrolling Hot Rails to Hell. Guitar fans could do worse than to check the irrepressible instrumental Buck's Boogie, a showcase for the criminally underrated six-stringer, Donald Buck Dharma Roeser (aided and abetted by Allen Lanier's keyboards), or the wistful The Last Days of May from their debut album. However, to these ears the real highpoints of the album are also the most progressive - opener The Subhuman, one of the band's most impenetrable, darker tracks; chilling, spacey Harvester of Eyes; and the masterpiece that is Seven Screamin' Dizbusters, unleashed in all its intricate, menacing glory.

Now, as in the case of most of my prog-related reviews, I will have to warn the newcomer that the 'prog quotient' on this album is somewhat lower than, for instance, on BOC's masterful third album, Secret Treaties. By omitting Astronomy and Flaming Telepaths, the band chose to turn to the rockier end of their output - though, as I have stated before, 'rockier' does not automatically mean simplistic (to be perfectly frank, BOC sound nothing like Kiss). However, the progressive touches are undeniably present, and at any rate this is an album that will appeal to most prog fans - except those who have an aversion to straight rock. Therefore, though not an 'essential masterpiece of progressive music', I will give this beauty the top rating. Join the Blue Oyster Cult!

Raff | 5/5 |


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