For those reading this who feel that they need an introduction to this pioneering American outfit then look no further than ‘Cult Classics’. Originally released way back in 1994 this updated version features new recordings of the bands greatest and most admired tracks.
The line -up for the album is …
ERIC BLOOM / LEAD VOCALS, GUITAR, KEYBOARDS, PRODUCER
DONALD BUCK DHARMA ROESER / LEAD GUITAR, KEYBOARDS,VOCALS, PRODUCER
ALLEN LANIER / BASS, BACKING VOCALS, KEYBOARDS
JON ROGERS / BASS
CHUCK BURGI / DRUMS.
Spanning more than three decades and with over 24 million albums sold worldwide to have the task of narrowing this album down to a dozen songs is no mean feat.
Firing up the album is opener ‘DON’T FEAR THE REAPER’ a song which no doubt even tribesmen in the Amazon rain forest have heard on numerous occasions. On hearing this song for the first time in a while it’s easy to be reminded why it’s never aged, a triumphant opening six minutes.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClQcUyhoxTg&w=560&h=315]
‘E.T.I (Extra-terrestrial Intelligence )’ has that distinct beefy dirty riff from Donald Buck with the clever arrangement of the guitars and vocals alternating and never clashing a unique piece of song writing. This track is all about guitars, guitars and more guitars with crazy runs and licks left right and centre. A very heavy song with a speeded-up end section that for sheer enjoyment value, is better than their epic anthem that opened this album.
‘M.E.262’ is a basic rock n roll number with 12 bar blues piano and a short sharp blast through for a simple good time, foot tapping track.
‘THIS AINT THE SUMMER OF LOVE’ talk about writing a catchy chorus this shows another side to the band with the sci-fi /occult imagery shown the door whilst the group rip the guitars out again and produce a fun, good time, cheerful song.
‘BURNING FOR LOVE’ needs little or no introduction and for a change the spotlight falls on the beefy bass and keyboard touches, which results in a great slab of A.O.R radio friendly rock music. Eric Bloom’s vocals on the song are sublime and carry the song in an almost REO SPEEDWAGON sort of way (but with more guitar ).
FLAMING TELEPATHS should be filed away under the title of epic. I have no idea what the song is about or what it refers to, but it just oozes quality with staggered piano, gentle guitars and rounded off with hazy sounding keyboards. With lyrics containing lines such as….”poisons in my heart and mind” I am so baffled. Then with the added bonus of a change of tempo towards the end as it rushes along, the listener gets to hear insane laughter in the back ground. This sort of song has to embraced with the need to come to your own conclusion as to what it’s all about. Brilliant stuff indeed.
GODZILLA if you like big chunky riffs then this live favourite should hit the spot. Imagine being hit over the head by a sledgehammer then you may have a rough idea of the power this group can generate. Very few songs contain so many guitar licks, it’s insane that so many can be squeezed in. Not forgetting that distinct bass intro to the break down where you get chanting through a megaphone while all the dots are joined up again and that monster staggered riff kicks back into your skull.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvQWBXJOgAI&w=560&h=315]
CITIES ON FLAME WITH ROCK N ROLL with its reference to 3000 guitars is a staple in the live set even to this day, and one of the groups most important songs. It seems that all I am doing with this review is mention the guitars but it’s almost impossible to listen to each of the tracks and marvel at the musicianship that is on display especially from Donald Buck whose guitar work over the years has influenced many artists none more so than Metallica and the mighty Iron Maiden. Which leads nicely onto BUCKS BOOGIE a head down instrumental that stretches for seven minutes duration and is jaw dropping with its delivery. Most groups who release an instrumental will never feel comfortable releasing such a long song but BLUE OYSTER CULT have never conformed with what is acceptable and BUCKS BOOGIE proves this point with all band members tearing the listeners ears open.
Closing the album we get 2 songs DON’T FEAR THE REAPER and GODZILLA listed as ( TV MIX) which basically is the same songs as the original but as instrumentals with only the special effects and backing vocals in the mix. You can look at this as either a waste of 12 minutes with the time being better used for a couple of other popular tracks or you can do what I did and enjoy the instrumentals as it gives the listener a chance to hear the instruments that are usually drowned out by the familiar vocals.
All in all, this is a cracking release also updated with fresh artwork it’s the perfect opportunity to get a feel for a band that you have heard about but not heard enough of. ( Oh did I mention the guitars ? )
Review by Steve Bruty for MPM