Friday, July 22, 2011

On Your Feet Or On Your Knees - Blue Oyster Cult

On Your Feet Or On Your Knees
Blue Oyster Cult
Columbia PG 33371

When I was in the 8th grade in Alameda, my friend and I came across a curious bit of graffiti at school.  It was a cross made out of an upside down question mark and underneath it was written "Blue Oyster Cult."  This was before BOC's ascension into AOR stardom with the release of "Agents of Fortune," I'd never heard of them.  My friend and I looked at each other in bewilderment and even a little bit of alarm.  We thought it was a real cult.  What kind of lunatics worship oysters?  It was not as far-fetched as you might think, the Bay Area was a hot bed of cult activity in the 1970s, I regularly passed Hare Krishnas on my way home from school.  So the Oysters became a running joke for us for the rest of the school year.  A year or so later I bought the Woffinden/Logan "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock" and started reading it cover to cover and in the Bs I came across a picture of this album and learned all about the Blue Oyster Cult.  I was never much of a fan, but I bought this in the used bin out of curiousity.  As a rule, double live albums suck, they are one of the 1970s worst contributions to rock culture.  This is better than most, there isn't too much arena grandstanding and wanking off.  Side one kicks off with a pair of songs from "Secret Treaties": "The Subhuman" and "Harvester of Eyes."  To me "The Subhuman" sounds like the Allman Brothers playing prog rock.  The lyrics are about as weird as any you will ever hear in mainstream pop music and I'm not even going to try to interpret them.  I enjoy "Harvester of Eyes" which is surprisingly light and rollicking considering its dark subject matter.  The side ends with "Hot Rails To Hell" from "Tyranny and Mutation" which is full throttle, kick-ass rock and roll.  The same album yields a smoking version of "The Red & The Black", BOC's ode to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and "Seven Screaming Dizbusters" to kick off side two.  "The Red & The Black" is one of the best songs on the album with some dazzling guitar work.  "Dizbusters" has some nice riffing but its instrumental break bores me with its heavy metal cliches and self-indulgent soloing, although it is pretty funny when Eric Bloom says he knows Lucifer so well that he calls him by his first name, "Hey Lou."  Satanic references are practically de rigueur in heavy metal, but at least these guys have fun with it.  Side two concludes with Buck Dharma's guitar showcase "Buck's Boogie."   It is twice as long as Jeff Beck's boogie and about half as exciting.  Air guitarists should get a kick out of it, but I find it only sporadically compelling although it is fun to listen for the various references to other songs scattered throughout Dharma's playing.  Side three revisits BOC's debut album with "Last Days of May" and "Cities on Flame."  The former, a cautionary tale of a drug deal gone bad is mildly interesting and not at all metallic, it reminds me of Bad Company.  "Cities on Flame" on the other hand is pure metal with its monster heavy riffing.  The side finishes with "ME 262" from "Secret Treaties" which is told from the point of view of a Nazi pilot flying a jet against the British.  For a heavy metal band these guys do find interesting things to write about.   The guitar break in the middle of the song is lifted from the Yardbirds" "Lost Women."  It goes on a bit too long but the song really rocks.  The Yardbirds pop up again on side four with a raucous workout on their version of "I Ain't Got You."   Again it goes on too long but it has some powerful moments.  Side four also features a hard driving performance of the riff-happy "Before The Kiss, A Redcap" from their debut album.  The album finishes with a thunderous cover of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" that follows the original pretty closely at first and then jumps into some noisy metal cacophony.  It is a thrilling performance and ends the album with a bang.  Sounds like it was a really exciting show.  In the canon of hard rock live double albums I'd rank this a bit below "Kiss Alive" but well above Aerosmith's "Live Bootleg" or Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same."  At least there are no drum solos.  As an introduction to Blue Oyster Cult you could do worse.  I'd say it is worth buying just for side four alone.   Recommended for Led Zeppelin fans who wish their heroes had a better sense of humor. 

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