BLUE ÖYSTER CULT — Blue Öyster Cult (review)

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT — Blue Öyster Cult album cover Album · 1972 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
BLUE OYSTER CULT has its roots originating all the way back to 1967 when founder and guitarist Donald Roeser who would become better known as Buck Dharma started the first version of what would become BOC in the form of the psych-tinged jam band Soft White Underbelly which was centered around Dharma’s guitar playing and would provide a BLUEprint for the mystical CULT to come. The band went through a few changes before finding its own voice. It would take singer Eric Bloom to replace the original frontman before the band started to cohesively gel around the more boogie rock blues based hard rock sounds they have become known for. At this stage the band took the moniker Stalk-Forrest Group and was discovered by rock theorist Sandy Pearlman who was always on the look out for sharp new talent for Elektra Records. After a brief stint in California and a short trip down a dead end street, the band that would become the BLUE OYSTER CULT came to fruition when keyboardist and rhythm guitarist Allen Lanier joined the team. It was he who contributed the band’s more famous moniker that simulated the mystical occult demeanor that they were striving for.

After the failed California adventure, the BOC headed back to its native New York City where they spent 1971 fine-tuning a more heavy handed rock approach that kept a tad of the 60s psychedelia but according to Dharma the band was trying to become America’s answer to Black Sabbath and while BOC could never even remotely be accused of ripping off the classic English band’s style or sound in any possible way, BOC did however evoke a sense of awe with an interesting mix of occult philosophies, surrealism and heaviness that was rooted in a twin guitar dominated bluesy hard rock with some progressive touches along with an occasional slice of avant-garde. The band’s self-titled debut album appeared early in January 1972 after being discovered by Columbia Records and while not exactly lighting the world on fire quite yet found enough support that many tours arose albeit with the unlikely parings of The Byrds and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Only the tour with Alice Cooper actually seemed like a legit fit but nevertheless with a strong batch of catchy tunes amplified and soaked in acid baths, BLUE OYSTER CULT hit hard from the getgo and continued to expand its new stylistic approach.

Having latched onto a unique sound fairly early, BLUE OYSTER CULT found the perfect balance between a more demented form of bluesy boogie rock as if a parallel universe version of a more psych-tinged Allman Brothers had seeped into our reality during the Montauk Project. Equally laced with a trippy guitar twang and the Godzilla power stomps that would define the BOC’s rhythmic delivery, this eponymous debut cemented the band’s later success in its nascent BLUEprints for future hits. “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll” provided the first glimpse of the monster stomp guitar and drum rhythmic prowess that would later spawn such hits as “Godzilla” whereas “Screams” provided that haunting occult feel that took the twangy guitar sounds, a bit of psychedelic keyboard charm and super catchy vocal melodies that would pave the way for tracks like “Burning For You” and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” Likewise Dharma showcased a rather eccentric psych-fueled blues guitar soloing style that is as distinctive as anything Jimmy Page, Brian May or Tony Iommi were cranking out on the other side of the pond.

BLUE OYSTER CULT’s debut is a masterful mix of diverse sounds that the band made all their own. The heavy hitters of the bunch such as the two openers “Transmaniacon MC” and “I’m On The Lambe But I Ain’t No Sheep” displayed the knack for capturing a traditional style of hard rock but adding heavy doses of surreality to the lyrics as well as the changes that took place within the individual tracks. Perhaps the most diverse is the rowdy heavy rock “Before The Kiss, A Redcap” which starts out somewhat like something the Edgar Winter Band were famous for in the early 70s but the track shifts into a series of melodic deliveries including a ska-fueled toe-tapping section with early rapped vocals which adds some serious skank and alternates with heavy guitar heft outbursts. The so-called thinking man’s heavy metal band also graced the album with a few drug fueled slower trippy tracks. “Then Came The Last Days Of May,” “Screams” and the most oddly titled song of all time “She’s As Beautiful As A Foot” all showed a slowed down version of the band that focused as much on atmospheric as guitar based magic.

While “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll” remains the album’s most famous track for its Zeppelin meets Sabbath guitar stomps that gave the band its signature sound, there are several heavy unsung classics on this album including “Stairway To The Stars” and “Workshop Of The Telescopes” along with the two openers. Really the only track that doesn’t sound like it fits in is the closing “Redeemed” which exhibits a rather odd sounding Grateful Dead style of country rock which as far as i’m concerned should’ve been nixed from the final mix as it sounds woefully out of place and could easily be inserted on Dead album’s like “American Beauty” and nobody would even notice. All in all, BOC cranked out a smokin’ hot slice of early hard rock of the early 70s. All the musicians perfectly played their parts and crafted their idiosyncrasies perfectly. The unique drumming style of Albert Bouchard perfectly suited the twin guitar wilderness provided by Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom while Bloom’s vocals suited this hybrid of psychedelic rock and hard blues based rock perfectly. Not even their best album but this debut is without a doubt one of the essential classic BOC albums to acquire and savor. While the album didn’t make BOC a household name at this point the album sold fairly well and allowed the band to delve further into the heavier side of their sound and would slowly jettison the more psychedelic touches or to be more precise diminish them.
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