Although it is ridiculously unfashionable to admit to liking dinosaurs like the Blue Öyster Cult these days, back in 1977 things were different. Their fifth studio album 'Spectres' was given the almost unprecedented honour of a full page review in NME. This seemed remarkable then, but even more so now, given that punk was at its height. Blue Öyster Cult were at that time at their commercial peak and 'Spectres' revealed them embracing the world of MOR and 'safety' with both hands, a world they have been fully subsumed into since then. They still exist and have only recently released a new studio album, but they are a shadow of the force they once were. Bearing all this in mind, Columbia Legacy has reissued remastered editions of their first four studio albums with additional bonus tracks and these re-releases couldn't be more timely. Blue Öyster Cult have long been lumped in with other 'heavy metal' acts such as Kiss and Alice Cooper, and have also had to bear the albatross of being known for only one song, the ultra-commercial 'Don't Fear the Reaper'. However, a closer listen and a detailed inspection reveals a band that not only surprises but is anything but pompous and overblown. 'Blue Öyster Cult' is their first release, although they did record an album and a whole set of demos as the Stalk-Forrest Group prior to 1972. This album set the tone for what would follow, up to the pseudo-classic 'Agents of Fortune' in 1976. The production is relatively low-key, which adds to the strength of the songs and the atypical Cult performances. What you hear on these songs is a lot of space, something sadly missing on much 'modern' music. They rock and they're heavy, but they aren't 'heavy metal'. The band members all contribute songs and vocals and while they cohere superbly, they aren't the glossily slick band they became after 'Agents of Fortune'. There is plenty of guitar, but there is also plenty of superb understated keyboard playing from Allen Lanier, Patti Smith's then boyfriend. And above all else there is atmosphere. There isn't a duff track here, but the standouts are 'I'm on the Lamb but I ain't no Sheep', 'Screams', 'Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll' (derived from both the MC5 and Black Sabbath!) and 'Before the Kiss (a Redcap)'. Of the bonus tracks, two are demos by the Stalk-Forrest Group. None of them make you sit up and think 'Wow, why wasn't this on the album?', but listening to what was left off the album enhances the enjoyment of what was left on, and also helps to understand the band's mindset at the time. This is a great album, possibly not their best, but certainly a great example of a young, energetic and fun-loving rock and roll band. It's certainly worth a listen!
Sony deserves a lot of credit for doing more than just re-releasing the first four Blue Öyster Cult albums. These releases have something for the die-hard fans and for those that are new to the group. They include lyrics, photos, and liner notes by Lenny Kaye. They also contain additional tracks, the majority of which are previously unreleased. In addition the albums have been digitally remastered and sound great. They did leave out lyrics for the extra tracks, but that is a minor negative in what are overall great releases. Their self-titled first album, "Blue Öyster Cult", was originally recorded in October of 1971 and released in January of 1972. It was produced by Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman. This remastered version was released on June 26th of 2001.
The album's best known track is undoubtedly "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll", which according to Albert Bouchard was originally called "Siren Singalong", and was inspired by Black Sabbath's "The Wizard", MC5's "Motor City is Burning" and King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man". The album also contains several cuts which long time fans of the group are well acquainted with, such as "Transmaniacon MC", "Then Came the Last Days of May", "Stairway to the Stars", "Before the Kiss, a Redcap", and "I'm On the Lamb, But I Ain't No Sheep", which was rearranged and appeared on their second album and two of their live albums as "The Red & The Black". This is undoubtedly the most diverse album that BÖC ever released, and the group still plays many of these pieces in concert.
The four bonus tracks on this CD are demos that they recorded under the name Soft White Underbelly which is one of the names they used prior to getting a record contract. Tracks 11 and 13 were recorded on September 11th, 1969, and tracks 12 and 14 were recorded on July 21st, 1969. None of these tracks have ever been officially released before, although the band would again record "Donovan's Monkey", "What is Quicksand?", and "A Fact About Sneakers" in early 1970 under the name Stalk-Forrest Group and those recordings have since become available on the CD titled "St. Cecilia: The Elektra Recordings". I was very impressed with the sound quality of the bonus tracks. "Donovan's Monkey" would have fit in with their other material, while "Betty Lou's got a New Pair of Shoes" is a Bobby Freeman cover and is unlike other BÖC songs, but is still worth hearing.
The group consists of Eric Bloom (lead vocals, stun guitar, keyboards), Albert Bouchard (drums, vocals), Joe Bouchard (bass, vocals), Allen Lanier (rhythm guitar, keyboards), and Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (lead guitar, vocals). This lineup would remain unchanged for the first 12 years of the group's existence. Along with the band members, it is necessary to acknowledge Sandy Pearlman, Richard Meltzer, and Murray Krugman. All three contributed to the songwriting, and Pearlman was as indispensable to the success of the group as any of the band members.
Sony obviously put a great deal of thought into putting together a reissue that would be attractive to all types of listeners. This reissue deserves five stars for the effort; although the album is closer to four stars. It is a must have for the die-hard fans and a great place to start for those who are just getting into the group.
After two abortive attempts at releasing an album and a name change,Blue Oyster Cult finally released this debut disc and its an absolute classic.Often pigeonholed as heavy metal,nothing could be further from the truth,certainly live and the occasional studio track they would rival any rock band but there is so much more to the 'Cult.
The original album was 10 classic slices of Cultism,SciFi themes,Psychedlic overtones,impenetrable lyrics(horn swoop bungo ponies & silverfish impertrix indeed!)all wrapped up with some of the best musicianship around.
Opening with 'Transmaniacon MC' an ode to the bikers with their Satan Hogs,its obvious instantly that this band is different,imperious musicianship with stunning guitar playing,glorious harmonys all held together with a production that high ends the treble and muffles everything else with the occasional keyboard fill slipping through,yet it works,the remaster thankfully not drastically changing anything.
And so it continues,insistent riffing on the likes of 'Stairway To The Stars' and 'Cities On Flame With Rock n Roll',the laid back 'Redeemed'(who is Sir Rastus Bear?),the glorious double header of 'Screams/She's as Beautiful As A foot' and the albums highlight 'Then Came The Last Days Of May',a stunning piece of music,alledgedly a true story,containing simple but delightful lead guitar from Buck Dharma.This simply is one of the best debut albums ever.
Bonus tracks : 4 tracks ,all from the unreleased Stalk Forrest sessions,the ist 3,'Donovans Monkey,What Is Quicksand and A Fact About Sneakers' are all more psychedelic in nature than the main album,a bit early Grateful Dead,but you only need one Grateful Dead,so it was obvious they should move on,the last track is a rock n roll cover 'Betty Lou Got A new Pair Of Sneakers',thankfully they refrained from this as a career choice,the bonus tracks are interesting but ultimately unrequired,i cannot give the disc less than 5 stars however as it is a genuine classic,the first in a trio of discs which would ensure the 'Cult would never be forgotten.
BOC's first album is a curious blend of psych flavoured heavy rock with a penchant for the macabre, a twist of evil and a predilection for sci-fi weirdness that makes it a thrilling debut and the first in their (un)Holy triumvirate completed by the awesome `Tyranny & Mutation' and the genius of `Secret Treaties'. One look at the bizarre song titles like `She's as Beautiful as a Foot' and `I'm on the Lamb but I Ain't no Sheep' will have the uninitiated scratching their heads and wondering what to make of this offering from the band that gave the world the Byrdsian classic `Don't Fear The Reaper', but step inside and the singular presence of the Cult's unique brand of heavy rock will make for a fantastic journey. From hard riffing tales of Hells Angels (Transmaniacon MC) to ghostly astronomical invocations of doom (Workshop of the Telescopes) fantastical surrealist voyages (Redeemed) BOC deliver some of the most inscrutable songs to ever have sat alongside killer rock riffage in history. It's the legacy of their late 60's flirtation with all things psychedelic, leaning heavily of the otherworldly poetry of The Doors, that by the time of this 1972 debut had coalesced into a truly compelling blend of curious time signatures, blues based rock, blissed out West Coast psychedelia (the duo of `Screams' and `She's As Beautiful as a Foot' is simply outstanding) and off-kilter melodies that were to mark BOC as one of the most intriguing and original rock bands of the 70's - and it has to be said a stonehead biker's favourite...(ahem...I plead Eric Bloom your Honour).
That said all is not weird and lysergic with the heads down crunch of `Cities on Flame' and `Stairway to the Stars' providing straight ahead rock riffing and the totally gorgeous atmospherics of the ballad `Last Days of May' a delicious tale of a drug deal gone fatally wrong, is one of the finest songs in BOC's illustrious canon.
This reissue is to be commended for it's superb sound and the bonus tracks culled from the band's earlier incarnation as the Stalk Forrest Group that display their early psych leanings which are a truly welcome addition to understanding the evolution of this exceptional band. If you already bought this on vinyl and the earlier analogue CD release you'll be wondering just how many times you need to buy the bleedin' thing but it's worth every penny to finally hear a definitive edition.
If you're unfamiliar with BOC then begin with Tyranny & Mutation, Secret Treaties or Cultosaurus Erectus for more straight forward heavy rock then check out this fabulous debut for the more esoteric psych drenched joys of the one true Cult.
People like to make lists, and I'm no different, so, if I was to compile a 'Greatest Debut Albums Of All Time' one, this, the self-titled BOC debut, would be one of them. This is a great album, dazzling in musical execution, and boasting some killer songs. There's no real 'playing to the gallery' type overblown guitar breaks, no AOR filler - just the sound of a band who have arrived, big time. The opening track, 'Transmaniacon MC', which apparently, is about a biker gang who transgress the bounds of sanity, is a ferocious, hell-bound riff monster with a fevered Eric Bloom vocal and a savage lead guitar solo from Buck Dharma. 'Then Came The Last Days Of May' - about a drug deal that goes wrong, is a moody and atmospheric piece that I've listened to for over forty years, and have only recently realised doesn't have a chorus - it's supebly creepy, however. Then there's things like 'Screams' and 'She's As Beautiful As A Foot' - subtle, insidious, and produced brilliantly. It's also programmed smartly, with surprising and shocking changes of mood, tone and tempo from one track to another. The last track on the original album, 'Redeemed', even has country licks in its musical make up. They'd turn heavier with 'Tyranny & Mutation', but not better.
I don't know how long BOC had been playing together before their debut, but this sounds pretty mature fare. Even at the start of their recording career they seemed to have several strings to their bow and a knack of evoking the macabre. Titles such as "She's As beautiful As A Foot" make you sit up and the music is just as striking. The flagship track seems to be "Cities On Flame" which is perhaps a shame as, though it's no let-down, is the one item that suggests they're just another metal band. That BOC had so many ideas is probably due to the fact that all five members could write good songs. "Redeemed", which closes the album, challenges you to try to pigeonhole them. No chance. The only thing you might crib about is the slightly muffled production, but I doubt it'll spoil your enjoyment. Of the present round of reissues, this also has the best bonuses, particularly "Donovan's Monkey", though the others are obviously not up to the standard of the original album.
An absolutely steller debut album! Arguably my favourite BoC album, every song is a gem which just resonates with utter beauty within it's own realm of rock! From the softer side of Last Days of May. To the rip roaring Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll. This album just has everything, and the lyrics accompanied to each piece of sublime music! It's wonderful.
BOC have been an underrated band for many years, their reputation resting on a good pop song 'Fear the Reaper' rather than their more exciting material. The album gets off to a rip roaring start with a the first of several powerful rockers, Transmaniacon MC, with its soaring riff worthy of Led Zeppelin. Other highlights include the haunting melody of Then came the last days of May, and the uplifting finish of Redeemed. Listen out also for some bizarre humour in the titles and lyrics. BOC is still a fresh and original album after all these years. Good to see it reissued.