Thursday, April 19, 2012

CD Review: “The Essential Blue Öyster Cult” 2CD Set

Blue Oyster Cult 2cd

The Essential Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Öyster Cult was originally formed as a band called Soft White Underbelly in 1967, consisting of guitarist Buck Dharma, drummer Albert Bouchard, keyboardist Allen Lanier, singer Les Braunstein and bassist Andrew Winters. The band was managed by critic/manager Sandy Pearlman, who prompted the name change to Blue Öyster Cult, as America’s answer to Black Sabbath, before their first album came out in ‘72. Pearlman and writer Richard Meltzer contributed poetry and lyrics for a large volume of the bands songs, then and now.

Their self-titled debut was released in January 1972, with a black and white cover designed by artist Bill Gawlik. The album featured the songs, many of which would become classics, "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll", "Stairway to the Stars," and "Then Came the Last Days of May". The album sold well, and Blue Öyster Cult toured with artists such as The Byrds, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Alice Cooper. Tyranny And Mutation followed the very next year and contained most notably collaborations with Patti Smith, who would have a long history with the band. By the time the band's third album, Secret Treaties,  was released and because of constant touring, they were finally able to headline arena shows.

“Don’t Fear The Reaper’

When they cut the album Agents Of Fortune with the number 12 hit song “Don’t Fear The Reaper” their place in history was set. The album also contained other minor hits and concert favorites,  "(This Ain't) The Summer of Love," "E.T.I. (Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence)," and "The Revenge of Vera Gemini." For the tour, the band added lasers to their light show, for which they became known. Other hits followed on future albums, the FM radio hit "Godzilla" (‘77), 1980s "Black Blade," 1981 brought the Top 40 hit "Burnin' for You", but more importantly for the band it brought MTV. The band's music videos, especially "Burnin' for You", received heavy if not daily rotation on MTV when the music television network premiered in 1981 cementing the band's contribution to the development and success of the music video in modern pop culture.

From then through 1983, the band spent a lot of time on the charts, and selling out concerts, and cutting classic hits, most of which can be heard on this 2 CD set. When "Shooting Shark," co-written by Patti Smith from the album, The Revölution by Night reached only 83 on the charts, the band took the next couple of years off from cutting records. When ‘85s Club Ninja was poorly received by the fans, the critics and MTV, the band virtually broke up with only two original members playing as what the fans called “Two Oyster Cult”.

“Burnin’ For You”

They toured for the next eleven years without cutting an album. But as a prototype heavy metal band, Blue Öyster Cult has a lasting influence that can be seen in groups like Metallica and Iced Earth have covered their songs on studio recordings and during live performances. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" has also been covered by many diverse artists, notably Evanescence, HIM, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Beautiful South, Wilco, Big Country, and deceased singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. They also influenced many early punk bands, and harder-edged, psychedelic bands in the modern jam band scene because of their intimate live shows and extended improvisations.

This must have collection of their greatest and most popular radio hits, MTV favorites and fan favorites was put together by Columbia/Legacy and contains 31 songs on 2 CDs. Among the most intelligent and accomplished musicians ever to storm the fortress that is Hard Rock, Blue Öyster Cult has continued to forge its own path over the course of four decades.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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