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Original Album Classics: Blue Öyster Cult

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Album Review

Two years before Kiss roared out of Long Island with its self-titled debut, Blue Öyster Cult, the latest incarnation of a band assembled by guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and drummer Albert Bouchard in 1967, issued its dark, eponymously-titled heavy rock monolith. Managed and produced by the astronomically minded and conspiratorially haunted Sandy Pearlman, BÖC rode the hot, hellbound rails of blistering hard rock as pioneered by Steppenwolf, fierce mutated biker blues, and a kind of dark psychedelia that could have only come out New York. The band's debut relied heavily on the lyrics of Pearlman and rock critic Richard Meltzer, as well as Pearlman's pioneering production that layered guitars in staggered sheets of sound over a muddy mix that kept Eric Bloom's delivery in the middle of the mix and made it tough to decipher. This was on purpose — to draw the listener into the songs cryptically and ambiguously. From the opener, "Transmaniacon MC," the listener knew something very different was afoot. This is dark, amphetamine-fueled occult music that relied on not one, but three guitars — Bloom and keyboardist Allen Lanier added their own parts to Roeser's incessant riffing: a barely audible upright piano keeping the changes rooted in early rock and the blues, and a rhythm attack by Bouchard and his brother Joe on bass that was barely contained inside the tune's time signature. From the next track on "I'm on the Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep," elliptical lyrics talked about "the red and the black," while darkening themselves with stunning riffs and crescendos that were as theatrical as they were musical, and insured the Cult notice among the other acts bursting out of the seams of post-'60's rock. Other standouts include the cosmic "Stairway to the Stars," the boogie rave-up "Before the Kiss, a Redcap," that sounded like a mutant Savoy Brown meeting Canned Heat at Altamont. But it is on "Cities on Flame With Rock & Roll," that the Cult's sinister plan for world domination is best displayed. From its knotty, overdriven riff to its rhythm guitar vamp, Vox organ shimmer, its crash cymbal ride and plodding bass and drum slog through the changes — not to mention its title — it is the ultimate in early metal anthems. Add to this the swirling quizzicality of "Workshop of the Telescopes" that lent the band some of its image cred. [The 2001 remastered edition by Legacy gives punters four bonus tracks in the form of demos recorded by the band's first incarnation as Soft White Underbelly. These are not merely throwaways: it is readily apparent that by 1969, BÖC was well on their way to creating something new and menacingly different. The only questionable item is the last track: a cover version of Bobby Freeman's "Betty Lou's Got a New Pair of Shoes," that is utterly devoid of interest.]


Formed: 1967 in Long Island, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Blue Öyster Cult was the thinking man's heavy metal group. Put together on a college campus by a couple of rock critics, it maintained a close relationship with a series of literary figures (often in the fields of science fiction and horror), including Eric Von Lustbader, Patti Smith, Michael Moorcock, and Stephen King, while turning out some of the more listenable metal music of the early and mid-'70s. The band that became Blue Öyster Cult was organized in 1967 at Stony Brook College on Long Island...
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Original Album Classics: Blue Öyster Cult, Blue Öyster Cult
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  • Partial Album
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Pop, Pop/Rock, Arena Rock, Metal, Hard Rock
  • Released: Jan 1972

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