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Blue Öyster Cult - Blue Öyster Cult CD (album) cover


Blue Öyster Cult


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3.43 | 239 ratings

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5 stars In January of 1972, the band Blue Oyster Cult released their first album. The band was originally called "Soft White Underbelly" and played mostly psychedelic music. When they "repackaged" themselves as a hard rock band in order to increase their popularity, they came up with Blue Oyster Cult, a name that they originally didn't like and also which comes a poem about aliens that control the fate of the Earth written by Sandy Pearlman. Pearlman would end up co-producing many of the band's albums and he would also write the lyrics to many of their songs.

Their first album would show the transition to a harder rock sound, but for their first 4 albums, they would have that psychedelic feel that remained a part of their harder rock, and it gave them their original signature sound. That sound is quite apparent in their first album which would go on to influence what were then future bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Fates Warning, and Celtic Frost to name a few, but it would also inspire the more recent subgenre of hard rock called Stoner Rock and bands like Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Umprhey's McGee, Widespread Panic and The Cult among others.

Every member of the band, except for Allen Lanier, would sing vocals on this album, but Eric Bloom was the main lead singer and sings all of the songs on this album except for the ones I mention in this review. This would give an excellent variety to the music. The music in the first 3 albums is a bit harder than what would come during the band's most popular days, but even then, it is not as heavy as most heavy metal bands. But even so, BOC was one of the most influential bands that started that genre. It was even said, in a review for the band that they were hard rock music for people that hate hard rock music.

The album starts off establishing their signature sound right away with "Trasmaniacon MC" which is about the Altamont Speedway Free Festival that took place on Dec. 6, 1969. This was a very violent festival where people actually lost their lives in a series of unrelated occurrences, and even The Grateful Dead, who was scheduled to appear, refused to come because of the news of the concert being violent. Even though BOC was not part of this festival, it was quite a famous occurrence at the time. The "MC" part of the title stands for Motorcycle Club.

"I'm on the Lam but I Ain't No Sheep" is inspired from a Captain Beefheart song called "Frying Pan". It was released several times by the band before they were known as Blue Oyster Cult and was recorded in different versions and tempos. The rhythm was sped up for this album. It is about a fugitive being chased through the wilderness by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was recorded again later with heavier guitars and released as "The Red and the Black" on the band's 2nd album. The song speeds up with a new bass line during the last instrumental section.

"Then Came the Last Days of May" is a softer, beautiful track performed in a more balled-like tempo. It is based on a drug deal gone bad where two friends were killed. It was usually played in concert as a vehicle to show off Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser's guitar skills and also sung by him.

"Stairway to the Stars" is based off of the boogie style riff at the beginning of the track which drives the song forward in an up tempo. It is co-written by Richard Meltzer who is known as the first real rock analyst (or critic).

"Before the Kiss, a Redcap" has a definite progressive edge with the use of multi meters and tempos that switch from mid- tempo to a heavy boogie style bass line in the bridge. It also features a great instrumental section shared by guitar and organ. Lead vocals are by Buck Dharma. Redcap was the term for the barbiturate called Dalmane. Sandy Pearlman, one of BOC's lyricists witnessed the drug being passed between two lovers before they kissed in Conry's Bar according to Buck Dharma.

Next comes the slower, more psychedelic "Screams" which features processed vocals sung by bassist Joe Bouchard. Again this features changing tempos between the verses and choruses. The psychedelic feel continues with "She's As Beautiful as a Foot" which segues from the previous track marked by a short drum solo. This song also has that mysterious, almost evil sound that the band would become famous for.

Next is the ever popular fan favorite "Cities on Flame with Rock 'n' Roll". This one has Albert Bouchard, the band's drummer, on the lead vocals. It starts off using a version of the riff from Black Sabbath's "The Wizard" and is inspired by that song. It is one of the heavier songs on the album and has become a concert staple even in recent shows.

"Workshop of the Telescopes" is credited to all the members of the band and Sandy Pearlman. Again, we get the evil sounding vocals on this one and a more progressive sound. "Redeemed" is the last track on the original album. This was a song that was sold to the band from singer-songwriter Harry Farcas, who according to Wikipedia, now is an iridologist in Southern California.

In 2001, a CD reissue of the album was produced which added 4 bonus tracks that were demo versions that the band recorded as "Soft White Underbelly" in 1969. The tracks are "Donovan's Monkey", "What is Quicksand", "A Fact About Sneakers", and the rock and roll classic "Betty Lou's Got a New Pair of Shoes". For the most part, these are all decent tracks even though they are demos, and sound quite similar to the tracks on the original album. For BOC fans, it is a worthwhile find for these extra tracks.

While this album is not as polished as later albums would be (mostly after "Agents of Fotrune"), that is what gives the album its unique sound and is also a great attraction of the album. As a big fan of BOC, I consider this one of the band's definite staples. But it is also essential as a prog rock album that influenced many bands and still continues to do so. It is an excellent mix of prog, psychedelic and hard rock that keeps getting better everytime you listen to it.

TCat | 5/5 |


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