CD review of Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘The Essential Blue Öyster Cult’

Blue Öyster Cult
“The Essential Blue Öyster Cult”

By Susan Sliwicki

If everything you know about Blue Öyster Cult is based on the now-famous (and hilarious) “More Cowbell” sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” it’s time to expand your horizons a bit. Fortunately, the new two-CD offering “The Essential Blue Öyster Cult” gives a solid introduction to and overview of the band also known as “the thinking man’s heavy metal group.”

Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Oyster Cult's core lineup consisted of Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, Joe Bouchard, Allen Lanier and Albert Bouchard. Please note: Gene Frenkle exists only in the "More Cowbell" skit on Saturday Night Live. Photo courtesy Rhino/Columbia Records.

Armed with gifted musicians, thoughtful lyrics and a trend-setting umlaut, BÖC brought a lot to the rock and roll table. That depth and versatility is showcased here in the blend of hits (“Don’t Fear The Reaper,” “Burnin’ For You,” “Godzilla”) semi-cult classics and fan favorites (“Joan Crawford,” “Shooting Shark”), sensitive ballads (“I Love The Night,” “In Thee”) and one white-hot cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”.

Warning: Don’t come to the party expecting to queue up the music and empty out your head. It’s almost impossible to NOT start having deep thoughts while you listen to the lyrics for many of the songs (save of course, for “Godzilla,” which is just plain fun). Makes sense, given the group’s genesis on a college campus, at the hands of music critics, and its ongoing ties to literary figures. When I reached ‘”The Marshall Plan,” for instance, my brain involuntarily started dissecting the title and lyrics like I was back in a college lit class. Was the title some kind of commentary or historical reference to the United States’ aid plan to post-World War II Europe? Or was Marshall used in title in relation to the male protagonist’s quest to become a rock and roll guitarist (perhaps using Marshall amps)? Fortunately, the intricately crafted, classically instructed piano introduction to “Joan Crawford” and the band’s rollicking cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” distracted my brain (in a good way).

The only downside of this more than 2-1/2-hour set? Sound quality issues on a few of the live tracks. “Roadhouse Blues” has a fleeting (but still unfortunate) bit of feedback that takes you out of the magic and makes you cringe.  The lyrics on “Born To Be Wild” are way too low in the mix, and there’s a lot of background noise on “Buck’s Boogie.”






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