[Review] Blue Öyster Cult (1972)

The band’s debut should have been a few shades darker.

Kronomyth 1.0: The Soft White Underbelly of the Beast.

This is what happens when rock critics step beyond the printed page and into the studio. Blue Öyster Cult was the brainchild of Sandy Pearlman, who wrote much of the band’s original material along with Murray Krugman, Richard Meltzer and the band. Despite the band’s later association with heavy metal outfits like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, the band’s first album is only mildly threatening. Alice Cooper rocked harder than this.

The best track on here, Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll, clearly borrows the riff from Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard.” Sabbath should have made them give it back. Workshop of the Telescopes and Transmaniacon MC are also pretty heavy numbers. And, really, that’s it. The rest of the record is a mix of blues and psychedelic rock that sometimes hits the mark it’s aiming for (e.g., Then Came the Last Days of May) and sometimes misses it by a few feet (She’s As Beautiful As a Foot).

I’ve listened to this album dozens of times, and every time I come away wishing the band played it heavier. I wish Eric Bloom’s was louder and more menacing, that Donald Roeser’s guitar was turned up and tuned down, that Pearlman and Krugman opted for a sulfuric haze rather than sonic precision. Maybe these songs came to life on the stage. In the studio, they feel freeze dried.

All that said, I confess to a real blind spot where BOC is concerned. I never put them on the same pedestal as Purple and Sabbath. They’ve released some great songs, but a great album? Maybe Secret Treaties, and Fire of Unknown Origin is pretty hot, but their albums usually have as many hits as misses for me. Fortunately, no one gives a flying squirrel what I think, and that’s fine. If you enjoy this album, please feel free to educate me on its merits in the comments section below, since I really would like to have a deeper appreciation for their music. The ingredients for greatness are certainly there, so maybe I just don’t have the refined palate to appreciate it.

Original elpee version

A1. Transmaniacon MC (Sandy Pearlman/Albert Bouchard/Donald Roeser/Eric Bloom) (3:20)
A2. I’m on the Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep (Sandy Pearlman/Albert Bouchard/Eric Bloom) (3:09)
A3. Then Came the Last Days of May (Donald Roeser) (3:29)
A4. Stairway to the Stars (Richard Meltzer/Albert Bouchard/Donald Roeser) (3:42)
A5. Before the Kiss, A Redcap (Sandy Pearlman/Murray Krugman/Allen Lanier/Donald Roeser) (4:57)
B1. Screams (Joe Borchard) (3:09)
B2. She’s As Beautiful As a Foot (Richard Meltzer/Albert Bouchard/Allen Lanier) (2:56)
B3. Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll (Sandy Pearlman/Donald Roeser/Albert Bouchard) (4:04)
B4. Workshop of the Telescopes (Sandy Pearlman/BOC) (3:50)
B5. Redeemed (Sandy Pearlman/Harry Farcas/Albert Bouchard/Allen Lanier) (4:01)

CD reissue bonus tracks
11. Donovan’s Monkey
12. What Is Quicksand?
13. A Fact About Sneakers
14. Betty Lou’s Got a New Pair of Shoes

The Players

Eric Bloom (lead vocals, stun guitar, keyboards), Albert Bouchard (drums, vocals), Joe Borchard (bass, vocals), Allen Lanier (rhythm guitar, keyboards), Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser (lead guitar, vocals). Produced by Murray Krugman & Sandy Pearlman; associate producer: David Lucas; engineered by David Lucas and Bill Robertson.

The Pictures

Cover by Gawlik.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in January 1972 in the US and Canada (Columbia, C/CT 31063), the UK and the Netherlands (CBS, 32025) and Japan (CBS Sony, SOPO-72). Reached #172 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Columbia, PC/PCT 31063).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Columbia, CK 31063).
  3. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 1996 in the Netherlands (Disky, CD 864802) with 4 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-packaged with Tyranny and Mutation on 2-for-1 remastered compact disc in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD-738).
  5. Re-packaged with Tyranny and Mutation and Secret Treaties on 3CD in the US (Columbia, C3K-64806) and Brazil (Sony, 2 064806).
  6. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc on July 3, 2001 in the US (Columbia/Legacy, CK 85482) with 4 bonus tracks.
  7. Re-issued on expanded, remastered Millennium edition compact disc on July 29, 2002 in the Netherlands (Columbia, 505483) with 4 bonus tracks.

2 thoughts on “[Review] Blue Öyster Cult (1972)

  1. I’m not huge on this band, but an awesome Grateful Dead-oriented mixtape blog I follow has an interesting curated mix of early live BÖC, and you should probably check it out and then click through to the rest of the site and see what else piques your interest. It’ll probably turn you into more of a Deadhead, and there’s great mixes for a bunch of other artists, notably including Miles Davis and The Rolling Stones. All the mixes on the site are Apple Music-compatible MP3s hosted on Dropbox. Anyway, here it is: https://saveyourface.posthaven.com/blue-oyster-cult-chatter-on-the-tide-live-1972-1973. Enjoy!

    Thanks for the great site, by the way. I always enjoy reading through your review archives.

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