Blue Öyster Cult - "Blue Öyster Cult" (CBS 1972)

Blue Öyster Cult was undoubtedly the best and most sophisticated hard rock band to come from America in the '70s. Instead of playing the generic, bluesy and tiresome boogie rock that characterized too many other American hard rock bands, Blue Öyster Cult developed an intelligent style of their own. They combined a sense for great melodies and heavy riffs with ease, and their lyrics dealt with everything from mysticism, occultism and sci-fi to macabre love stories of the morbid kind. Despite a weak and muffled production, their self-titled debut did a pretty good job of presenting all these ingredients. The band's melodic sense and sophistication can best be heard on ""Before the Kiss, a Redcap", the two sinister songs "She's Beautiful as a Foot" and "Screams" and the ballad "Then Came the Last Days of May". But the heaviest and best known song on the album is "Cities on Flame With Rock & Roll" that borrows the riff from Black Sabbath's "The Wizard". "Stairway to the Stars" speeds along with a fast riff and a catchy chorus that has made it a favourite on stage ever since, while "Redeemed" was an example of the lighter and more pop-oriented songs that they always would have one or two of on each album. The two guitarists Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and Eric Bloom were often seen as the main musicians in the group, but the Bouchard brothers and Allen Lanier also made very important contributions to the band. With this album, Blue Öyster Cult gave themselves a promising and solid start.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Tyranny and Mutation" (CBS 1973)

The second album was a heavier and better-produced effort than the debut. The first side of it was called "The Black" and the second one "The Red" (Queen would use the same idea for their second album a year later). The opening song "The Red and the Black" was a rewritten and STRONGLY improved version of "I'm on the Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep" from the debut. Here the excellent riff finally comes to its full right, and the song stands as one of Blue Öyster Cult's definitive classics. The same goes for "Hot Rails to Hell" and the epic "7 Screaming Diz-Busters" that borders on heavy prog. "O.D.'d on Life Itself" has a surprisingly basic blues riff combined with a poppy chorus. The "red side" is a bit slower and less frenetic, but without loosing any of the energy and power. The doomy and atmospheric "Wings Wetted Down" reveals their melodic qualities very well. "Baby Ice Dog" has weirdly muted solos among loud heavy bouncing riffs and a main melody quite typical of Blue Öyster Cult. The more upbeat and quirky "Teen Archer" is also of prime quality, while the closer "Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Qucklime Girl)" shows Blue Öyster Cult's typical thing of combining heavy riffs with a melodic chorus. "Tyranny and Mutation" is probably their hardest rocking record, and just like most of their other '70s albums one of their best.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Secret Treaties" (CBS 1974)

The band continued to churn out high quality material with their third album "Secret Treaties". The record featured one of their best moments ever in the two last tracks that floated into each other: "Flaming Telepaths" and "Astronomy". This is melodic and classic '70s rock at its very best, loaded with grandiose and beautiful melodies with excellent use of Mellotron, piano and synths incorporated into the arrangements. Why "Astronomy" hasn't got the same status as "Stairway to Heaven" is beyond me. The rest of the album is of the heavier kind, and has one of Blue Öyster Cult's best riffs in "Dominance and Submission". "Subhuman" tries to be laidback and hard rocking at the same time, and succeeds very well in doing that. "ME 262" combines a driving boogie groove with an interesting riff that is the real hook of the track. "Cagey Cretins" is fast and aggressive, and probably the track on the album that reminds most of the previous album. "Harvester of Eyes" combines an almost 60's-like pop melody in the chorus with a typical and irresistible '70s hard rock riff before going into a dark and sinister finale. And it's impossible to not mention the opener "Career of Evil" that very well showcases the band's ability to make catchy hard rock. "Secret Treaties" is for me probably the best of Blue Öyster Cult's three first albums.

Blue Öyster Cult - "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" (CBS 1975)

Blue Öyster Cult had already three strong studio albums behind them by 1975, but it was still the double live album "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" that made them a household name in American hard rock. The record had all the intensity and rawness that you could want from a classic live album. The band races through songs from their three first albums like it should be the last thing they ever did in their lives. The guitar battles in "7 Screaming Diz-Busters", "Me 262" and the instrumental "Buck's Boogie" (not to be found on any of their studio albums) are among the wildest and heaviest ever caught on vinyl during the '70s. The addition of spacey synths to "Subhuman", "Harvester of Eyes" and "Then Came the Last Days of May" adds a new dimension and depth to the songs, and doesn't make them slick as you may could fear. "Hot Rails to Hell" and "The Red and the Black" speeds away with energy that few other American bands could match. There were also a couple of covers here. First you had "Maserati GT" that basically was Calvin Carter's "I Ain't Got You" (probably best known in The Yardbirds' version) turned into a blistering heavy rock jam. The version of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" is on the other hand more traditional and straightforward. And lets not forget about the excellent versions of their own "Cities on Flames With Rock & Roll" and "Before the Kiss, a Redcap". "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" is simply one of the best live albums ever released.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Agents of Fortune" (CBS 1976)

The most popular album of the band's career came with "Agents of Fortune" in 1976. It was a polished album where their tendencies toward incorporating elements of pop into their sophisticated heavy rock were a little bit clearer than before, but without losing any of the compositional qualities and energy. This rewarded them with a classic hit song in "(Don't Fear) The Reaper". The tune had a gentle, mild, almost summer-like atmosphere that was broken up in the middle by a dramatic instrumental break (of course lousily edited away in the single version) that fitted well with the mortal love story of the lyrics. "Sinful Love" and the lovely "Debbie Denise" took their abilities of making light and catchy songs to new heights. But they had of course not forgot how to rock hard either, and did just so in "This Ain't the Summer of Love", "E.T.I. (Extraterrestrial Intelligence)" and not at least "Tattoo Vampire". "Morning Final" blends gorgeous melodies with a progressive arrangement and an unexpected heavy break in the middle. "Tenderloin" is the weirdest song on the album, jazzy at times with lots of synths. And you shouldn't get scared by Patti Smith's participation in "The Revenge of Vera Gemini" as the song stands as yet another good example of Blue Öyster Cult's talent for writing strongly melodic songs that remains in your head after you've heard them. However, the pop-tendencies go wrong on the forgettable "True Confessions", but that's the only flaw on a classic '70s album.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Spectres" (CBS 1977)

The important follow-up to "Agents of Fortune" was an overall darker album. It opened with one of their most beloved concert favourites in form of "Godzilla". But the album had far more to offer than just that classic. "The Golden Age of Leather" has a very interesting structure, starting with something that sounds like a shanty and then going into a riff-based heavy rocker before becoming gradually more melodic. And if there had been any justice in the world, then "Celestial the Queen" and "Goin' Through the Motions" would have been two of the biggest hit songs of 1977. "I Love the Night" was probably their most straightforward ballad since "Then Came the Last Days of May". The overlooked "Fireworks" has one of the strongest melodies on the album, while "Death Valley Night" and "Searcin' for Celine" are both melodic and catchy rockers. "R.U. Ready 2 Rock" is an attempt at melodic rock'n'roll and got the honour of opening the shows on the tour for the album. But the grandiose closer "Nosferatu" is probably my personal favourite on the album, featuring an arrangement similar to "Astronomy". "Spectres" was overall a worthy follow-up to their biggest commercial success.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Some Enchanted Evening" (CBS 1978)

The second Blue Öyster Cult live album appeared only three years after the first one, and was just a single one this time. Perhaps not all that essential, but it gives you at least a chance to hear the masterpiece "Astronomy" performed live, and in a very good version too. "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" stands on the other hand no chance to match the superior studio version, and sounds a bit thin and flat here. The album also features two covers: MC 5's "Kick Out the Jams" and The Animal's "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" which both are rather overrated "classics" in my opinion. Good versions of "R.U. Ready 2 Rock" and "E.T.I. (Extraterrestrial Intelligence)" pulls the overall impression of the album up a bit. "Godzilla" is not bad either, but I still prefer the studio version. The biggest problem with the album is probably that it's impossible to not compare it to "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" and then it simply can't stand up. It sounds almost restricted and a bit tame compared to their classic first live album. If you want live versions of songs from "Agents of Fortune" and "Spectres", get "Extraterrestrial Live" from 1982 instead. That one is not perfect either, but it gives you more music for your money and many of the same songs performed better.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Mirrors" (CBS 1979)

Blue Öyster Cult parted ways with producer Sandy Pearlman in 1979, and got instead Tom Werman to produce their last album of the '70s. This was not exactly a wise decision, as Werman had obviously no clue of what the band was all about. Instead he tried to make them sound like a slick and average arena rock group on "Mirrors". It's no coincidence that the opener "Dr. Music" was the only track from the album that would find a permanent place in their live repertoire. But "The Great Sun Jester" is worth mentioning for being the first Blue Öyster Cult song influenced by sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock (who also had been working with Hawkwind). The epic "The Vigil" is also decent, and "I Am the Storm" recalls the spirit of "Agents of Fortune". But the rest? Well, crap like "Moon Crazy" and "You're Not the One (I Was Looking For)" have nothing to do on a Blue Öyster Cult record. The same goes of course for the semi-disco of "Lonely Teardrops", while the title-track sounds like a poor man's Styx. The single "In Thee" is a wimpy pop tune with few of the qualities that defined their previous attempts at some commercial songs. The album also sold poorly, and it's no surprise that this became their only record produced by Werman.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Cultosaurus Erectus" (CBS 1980)

The band had got the seasoned producer Martin Birch (who earlier had worked with the likes of Deep Purple, Rainbow, Wishbone Ash and soon would produce Iron Maiden) to produce their first album of the 80's. "Cultosaurus Erectus" became their heaviest album in quite a long time, and was a step in the right direction after the too slick and tame "Mirrors". Starting with the best-known track of the album, "Black Blade" was yet another song with lyrics by Michael Moorcock, and featured lots of spacey effects among the heavy riffs and strong melodies to create just the right sci-fi atmosphere. "Monsters" is one of the best and most overlooked examples of their adventurous and sophisticated heavy rock, featuring swinging jazz-passages between complex multi-part riffs. The slow and almost bluesy "Divine Wind" is a lot more traditional, but just as enjoyable. The synth-drenched "Deadline" stands probably as the most melodic moment on the album. The second side starts with the very theatrical rocker "The Marshall Plan" that in a way reminds me of Styx, but unlike the title-track of the previous album avoids being a clone. "Fallen Angel" and "Unknown Tongue" are both of the more melodic kind, while "Hungry Boys" and "Lips in the Hills" are straightforward and gritty heavy rockers. The album marked a promising start for Blue Öyster Cult's 80's career, and this gradual return to form would result in one of their best works the year after.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Fire of Unknown Origin" (CBS 1981)

Despite the 80's sounding production and arrangements, "Fire of Unknown Origin" is one of the strongest and most consistent set of songs that Blue Öyster Cult ever had. The album shows the band at their melodically best and most inspired, and there's not a single bad track to be found here. The title-track opens the record, and takes the style of "Deadline" from the previous album into something even better. "Burnin' for You" and "Joan Crawford (Has Risen from the Grave)" remain two of the band's most immediate and catchy songs, and would make it into Blue Öyster Cult's concert repertoire and remained there more or less ever since. "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" is in my opinion the best of their songs to feature lyrics by Michael Moorcock, and has a complex melody that never fail to impress me. "Sole Survivor" uses the same female backing vocals that could be found on "Mirrors", but here it works so much better and more integrated in the band's style. And their melodic harmonies rarely sounded better than on "Vengeance (The Pact)" and that says quite a lot. "Heavy Metal: the Black and Silver" is on the other hand more straightforward heavy rock that had more in common with the previous album. "After Dark" is a fast and catchy pop/rock tune, while the closer "Don't Turn Your Back" is the only song on the album that may takes some time to fully enjoy. With "Fire of Unknown Origin", Blue Öyster Cult became one of the very few '70s hard rock bands to release one of their best albums in the 80's.

Blue Öyster Cult - "Extraterrestial Live" (CBS 1982)

Blue Öyster Cult celebrated their 10th anniversary with the release of their third live album (and the second double one). It featured songs from all their albums, and the material is of course top notch from start to finish. Still, the album has its share of problems. "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" showed a young, enthusiastic and hyper energetic band that had nothing to loose and everything to win on the verge of their breakthrough. "Extraterrestial Live" shows on the other hand an older band that had got all the success they could have hoped for and had nothing left to prove, and this shines through in the uneven performance on the album. On the good side you have an absolutely stunning version of "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" that for me is the highlight of the album. "Dominance and Submission" is just as raw and heavy as it should be, and the intro to "Godzilla" is great entertainment. "Joan Crawford (Has Risen from the Grave)" also works fine, and "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" is a lot better here than what it was on "Some Enchanted Evening". But "Dr. Music" suffers from an overkill of synth that takes away the heaviness of the riff, and "Burnin' for You" simply don't catch fire here. And the two tracks from "Tyranny and Mutation" sound downright tired and uninspired. The album showed that Blue Öyster Cult had delivered an impressive bunch of classic hard rock tunes in the first ten and best years of their career, but the songs were in many cases better in their studio versions or on "On Your Feet or on Your Knees" than they were on this album.

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