BLUE ÖYSTER CULT — Club Ninja (review)

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT — Club Ninja album cover Album · 1985 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
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Blue Oyster Cult were on the top of their game in the early eighties. They’d scored a huge hit with “Burnin’ for You”, they had contributed to the soundtrack of the animated film, “Heavy Metal”, and they’d been touring with Black Sabbath. Unfortunately, things would start sliding for the band. Drummer Albert Bouchard was fired, seeing the first change in the classic and long-running line-up. Then came the disappointing sales of 1983’s “The Revolution by Night”, which failed to reach gold. By the time the band was ready to record their tenth studio album, keyboard player Allen Lanier also parted ways with the band. Former manager, Sandy Pearlman was called in, perhaps in hopes of restoring something from the band’s classic days.

As the band had done in the past, outside songwriters were contacted to write some of the lyrics, and one song, “White Flags” was a cover song from the Canadian Leggatt Brothers 1981 album. Pearlman was very meticulous about the sound he wanted from the band and some of the eighties pop sounding percussion and synthesizers were at his insistence.

“Club Ninja” was for many a big disappointment, even though the song “Dancing in the Ruins” became a minor charting hit. The road of fortune from here on would lead to the band losing bassist Joe Bouchard, the confusing “Imaginos” album that was not meant to be a BOC album, the band being released from CBS, and ultimately, Blue Oyster Cult spending most of the nineties without releasing any new material.

“Club Ninja” was my second BOC purchase after “The Revolution by Night”, so you could say that my introduction to the band was through two of their lowest rated and ranked albums. At the time of the release of “Club Ninja”, I was getting into more extreme heavy metal all the while balancing my musical taste with more melodic glam metal and hard rock. “Club Ninja” surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. There were the hard rocking and heavy guitars but there were also bright, eighties pop synth sounds which I still cringe at to this day. There was dramatic music with really catchy vocal melodies but there were also electronic drums which I have never cared for much. Did I like the album?

I found certain songs intriguing as they offered something new or at least rare in my cassette collection. That jangly eighties guitar sound I didn’t like actually sounded pretty good on “Perfect Water”, and in spite of the keyboard sounds, I felt the song drawing me back for repeated listens, eventually becoming one of my favourite tracks on the album. It had a mysterious and also beautifully serene atmosphere to it. Not one band in my music collection had a song like this.

Then there was “White Flags”. A song packed with tension and spots of release sometimes simply through a keyboard effect but more so with the break into the chorus. One of my favourite parts was the organ bit that follows the, “Take me away! Yeeeaaahhh!” part. When I finally heard the original version recorded by the Leggatt Brothers, I was disappointed that there was no organ part.

“Shadow Warrior” was a wonderfully ominous and dark track with lyrical imagery typical of the band’s works – a kind of future, science fiction / fantasy tale. And “Madness to the Method” had this dynamiic piano solo in the song’s dramatic conclusion. “Spy in the House of Night” also was not my usual cup of tea but somehow strangely attracted my ears. In fact, the only songs that I thought were a little silly were “Make Rock Not War” and “Beat ‘Em Up”, mostly for their atrocious meathead rock band-sounding titles. Musically, they were actually not so bad except for the keyboard sounds.

I finally bought this album on CD and listened to it for the first time in about 30 years. I was surprised how much I remembered of the songs. I must have listened to this album more than I thought because I felt like I was listening to an old classic or an old favourite. True, I still flinch at some keyboards parts and “Beat ‘Em Up” is still a goofy title. But I found that I actually really like this album! In fact, I think one of the things I appreciate about it now more than before is the prog element. In the mid-eighites, prog was carefully concealed beneath the pop flash of former prog kings or in the more complex music of some metal bands. “Club Ninja” on the other hand grasps hard and heavy rock, pop sounds and melodies, classic rock, and progressive flare (heavy organ and dramatic piano solos plus seven-minute songs with sci-fi and fantasy concepts) and sets them all out on the table. The album was costly to produce and took nearly a year to put together under the strict guidance of visionary Sandy Pearlman. In the end, the results were probably more baffling to most people who couldn’t make sense of what the band was trying to do. My opinion is that Blue Oyster Cult created an album of intelligent lyrical content, music of atmosphere, drama, energy, and dark and light, and many modern sounds that captured both the light, popular side and the harder-edged rock side.

Having this album back again, I appreciate it even more now after decades of exploring heavy and progressive music much, much further. For fans of heavy music, this album cannot be said to be an excellent addition to any heavy metal collection. It’s really a matter of preference in this case. I give it four and a half stars out of my own taste, but for this site, I’ll give it three.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
44 days ago
Why did you give it 3 stars here and 4 on PA?
44 days ago
I watched three BOC albums ranked videos. This was at the bottom. But at least one person said it actually is a good album, just all the others are better. So if you listen, be warned!
siLLy puPPy wrote:
44 days ago
Don't think i've ever heard this one but do like that song "Dancing In The Ruins"

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