Tag Archives: Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Öyster Cult to tour the UK in the Summer

After the success of the sold-out show at The Forum last July, Blue Öyster Cult return to Britain with five dates this summer.

  • Tuesday June 25 at Manchester Academy
  • Wednesday June 26 Newcastle Northumbria University SU
  • Friday June 28, 2017 Nottingham Roc
  • Saturday June 29, 2017 at Glasgow ABC
  • Saturday July 17 at the Stone Free Festival, Indigo at the O2, London

At Stone Free they will be headlining the afternoon show at Indigo, and will be playing a full length set. The evening headliner in the main O2 Arena is Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.

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Desert Island Disks

The long-running BBC radio series “Desert Island Disks” asks the guest celebrity of the week to choose eight of their favourite records. The premise is that if you were marooned on a desert island, and you had just eight records to listen to, what would they be?

I’m treating “records” as albums, and for this exercise, I’ve imposed a rule of no compilations, and no live albums. So with no further ado…

pink-floyd-meddlePink Floyd – Meddle

The first album I ever bought was Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. But although that album means a lot to me, there’s only room in this list for one dark angst-ridden concept album, and that’s coming up further down. And though “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here” are undisputed classics. they’re so overexposed that they’ve just been worn smooth. If I’m in the mood for some Pink Floyd nowadays it’s most often either “Meddle” or “Animals” that gets played. If forced to choose, we’ll go for Meddle. It’s worth it for the extended dreamy atmospherics of “Echoes” alone, but there’s more to the album that that.

blue-oyster-cult-secret-treatiesBlue Öyster Cult – Secret Treaties

Blue Öyster Cult have been one of my top bands ever since a college friend played me the live version of “Astronomy” from Some Enchanted Evening when that live disk was still almost a current album. But since live albums are against my self-imposed rules, so we’ll go for their classic third album. Fan consensus is their Secret Treaties is their best, and fan consensus isn’t wrong. It’s the final album of the so-called “Black and White trilogy” combining richly layered music with a raw garage-like sound, with high weirdness lyrics hinting at the magical origins of World War Two. Blue Öyster Cult were always far more that just a metal band, and this album is proof of that.

Rainbow RisingRainbow – Rising

Hearing “Eyes of the World” on Nicky Horne’s show on Capital Radio radio changed my life. Ever since then Ritchie Blackmore’s music has been part of the soundtrack of my life, either with Deep Purple or with Rainbow. He was at the peak of his powers when he made this record along with the greatest hard rock singer of all time in the shape of the late Ronnie James Dio, and a sheer force of nature in Cozy Powell on drums. With just six tracks and a running time of less that forty minutes it’s all-killer-no-filler, with the monumental “Stargazer” as the centrepiece of the record.

220px-MarillionBraveMarillion – Brave

The three previous bands had been long-established by the time their music first appeared on my radar, but with Marillion I was there from the start. Not quite to the extent that I was seeing them play to thirty people in pubs before they were signed, but I did see them at the 1982 Reading Festival and bought their first album of the day of release. Since then they have released many great albums both with Fish and later with Steve Hogarth, but the favourite has to be their dark and intense 1994 concept album. As the sleeve notes say, play it loud with the lights out.

mostly-autumn-the-last-bright-lightMostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light

Anyone who knows me knows that Mostly Autumn are one of my favourite bands. I’ve seen them something like a hundred times live now. Which doesn’t make it easy to choose just one album, especially when their music has evolved of the years along with changes in the make-up of the band. But if forced to choose just one, it will be their third, the high point of their celtic-folk-prog era on Cyclops records. It’s now sadly out of print, though many of the best songs appear on the retrospective compilation “Pass the Clock”.

porcupine-tree-in-absentiaPorcupine Tree – In Absentia

It’s not easy to choose one Porcupine Tree record. Sometimes it seems as if their best album is whichever one I’ve just listened to. But if forced to keep just one, it would be have to be this album, because it’s sheer variety covers many of the bases of their sound. In just the first three numbers it goes from the Zepellinesque riffery of “Blackest Eyes”, the song-focused pop-rock of “Trains” and the psychedelic atmospherics of “Lips of Ashes”.

opeth-waershedOpeth – Watershed

Perhaps more than any other band, Opeth have redefined what a metal or progressive rock band can be, with deep roots in the classic rock of the 1970s on one hand and a contemporary attitude and desire to avoid repeating their own past on the other. Few other bands can match their sense of dynamics and compositional skills. All their albums are good, but Watershed is the best, seamlessly combining intense heaviness with mellow atmospherics, often in the same song, and would be the last time Mikael Åkerfeldt would use his death-metal growling vocals on record.

Panic Room - SKINPanic Room – S K I N

Along with Mostly Autumn, Panic Room are my other favourite club-level band, and I’ve seen them live almost as many times. Indeed, the two bands were joined at the hip at one point with Anne-Marie Helder and Gavin Griffiths doing double duty in both. All their albums have their fans; there are even people who think the first was the best, but for me the favourite has to be their third, which goes from hard rock to jazz-tinged adult pop to epic soaring ballads while still adding up to a coherent work. It may well be that their best is yet to come, but for now this album is their masterpiece.

Over to you. What eight records could you not live without?

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Blue Öyster Cult, The Forum

A little over a decade ago the once-mighty Blue Öyster Cult were playing a half-empty Astoria when they visited London. So it’s great to see them sell able to sell out the far larger Forum in Kentish Town. Maybe it was their barnstorming set at last year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone that reminded people they still existed. Maybe the one-off performance of Agents of Fortune with Albert Bouchard guesting was a draw. Or maybe it was the nostalgia factor, like so many classic rock acts on the final laps of their careers, this might be a last chance to see.

Classic album in full shows have become increasingly common in recent years as an alternative to the standard greatest hits package, and Agents of Fortune makes an interesting choice. While it’s highly-regarded and contains their biggest hit it’s not a record that the band have tended to feature much in their live shows. Aside from The Hit, “ETI” and “This Ain’t The Summer of Love” are the only songs to have appeared in setlists for years, and then only infrequently.

BÖC began the show with the album, played in the original running order, opening with “This Ain’t The Summer of Love” followed by one of the band’s strangest songs, “True Confessions”, with Buck Dharma singing lead in place of the late Allen Lanier. Then came the big hit, Don’t Fear the Reaper, a song normally saved until the end of the set, greeted with huge cheers from the crowd. Even bigger cheers greeted the entrance of Albert Bouchard to sing “The Revenge of Vera Gemini”.

If anything, it was the second side of the original LP that proved the highlight. Albert sang lead on two further songs but remained on stage adding rhythm guitar and backing vocals to the rest, the multilayered songs benefiting from a sixth musician on stage. Two standouts were “Morning Final” with Richie Castellano singing lead and both he and Eric Bloom doubling up on keys, and the strange and sinister “Tenderloin”, perhaps Allen Lanier’s finest contribution to the songbook. After the strains of “Debbie Denise” died away, Eric Bloom announced a ten minute interval, after which they’d be back for more.

When they came back, “Dominance and Submission” was the start of a greatest hits set that at times made the first half look like a warm-up, full of songs about flying saucer cults, motorcycles and B-movie monsters. “The Golden Age of Leather” was a delight, and “Harvest Moon” from their 1998 comeback album “Heaven Forbid” was an unexpected surprise. One real highlight was a splendid “The Vigil” with some incredible fluid guitar work. “Last Days of May”, always a guitar showcase, featured extended solos from both Richie Castellano and Buck Dharma. Richie Castellano sang lead again on “Hot Rails to Hell”, and “Godzilla” was as monstrous as it’s ever been, for once not broken up with solos.

A storming “Me262″ led into Kasim Sulton’s bass solo (Oh no! The drumming has stopped!) which in turn led into something that BÖC haven’t done for years, when Albert Bouchard rejoined them on stage for the Five Guitars instrumental. Then a second drumkit was wheeled on stage from the grand finale, the band’s version of the Steppenwolf standard “Born to be Wild” with Albert on drums and Eric and Buck doing that famous crossed guitars thing from the early days.

When they returned for the encore. Eric said they were dedicating the show to Allen Lanier and Sandy Pearlman. First encore was another of Allen’s songs, the ballad “In Thee”. With Albert present, there were no prizes for guessing the final encore, his signature tune “Cities of Flame”, sung from behind the kit.

Apart from a disappointing lack of “Astronomy” it was a great set, though we could possibly have done without the hoary “Buck’s Boogie”. Taken as a whole it was a very long show, the second set alone was the length of a normal headline set. Albert Bouchard was on great form vocally, and on cowbell, and it’s good to see him back even it’s just a one-off guest appearance. But the real star was Buck Dharma, who’s effortless fluid guitar work has always been their secret weapon.

The combination of seldom-heard songs from a classic album and live favourites from right across their long career made for a gig that was memorable for all the right reasons.

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RIP Sandy Pearlman

Sandy Pearlman Former bassist Joe Bouchard posted the sad news on Twitter this afterron: “Sandy Pearlman manager and visionary for Blue Öyster Cult and others passed away last night. Very sad”.

Sandy Pearlman was the producter and main lyricist in their early years, making him the effective sixth member of the band. With enigmatic lines like “By silverfish imperetrix, whose incorrupted eye/Sees through the charms of doctors and their wives” or “Don’t forget my dog, fixed and consequent“, the high weirdness of his lyrics came to define their identity.

Hopefully there will some hind of tribute to him (and plenty of songs with his lyrics) at Blue Öyster Cult’s gig at he Forum on Friday.

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Blue Öyster Cult to play the UK in July

Blue Öyster Cult make a rare visit to the UK, with their first headline gig in several years at The Forum in London on Fruday July 29th.

To mark the 40th anniversary since its original 1976 release on Columbia Records, the Long Island rockers will be jetting in from NYC to play their ‘Agents of Fortune’ album in full, plus a full set of other powerful classics from a back catalogue spanning over four decades.

Agents of Fortune, Blue Öyster Cult’s platinum-selling fourth studio album, included the hit single “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, arguably still one of the most haunting and recognised tracks in rock history.

This special night in July at the London O2 Kentish Town Forum will feature the band’s original core members Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (guitar, vocals) and Eric Bloom (guitar, keyboards, vocals), with a very special guest appearance from co-founding member Albert Bouchard (percussion, guitar, vocals) who was instrumental in writing the early material. The legendary line-up is completed by Richie Castellano (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Kasim Sulton (bass, vocals) and Jules Radino (drums, percussion), bringing a relentless and unrivalled energy to the stage.

BÖC have been a major heavy metal influence on many other acts, such as Metallica, and were listed in VH1′s countdown of the greatest hard rock bands of all time.

With bands of this vintage you never know if you’ll get another chance to see them live; and the “Classic album in full” set is an interesting choice. When did they last play songs like “The Revenge of Vera Gemini” or “Sinful Love” live?

Tickets go on sale on mainstream ticket outlets on Friday, but there’s a pre-sale on the Planet Rock website.

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Blue Öyster Cult – The AOR Years

Music while I work today has been something of a Blue Öyster Cult-a-thon. I’ve been a fan of the band since I heard the live version of “Astronomy” at college many years ago, long before I discovered the likes of Mostly Autumn or Panic Room; indeed it was a chance encounter following a Blue Öyster Cult gig that made me a Mostly Autumn fan. But that’s another story.

Rather than their classic run of albums from the early to mid 70s, which might have been too engrossing and distracting, it’s been their later work; four consecutive albums from their AOR years beginning with 1979′s “Mirrors”. This is music that’s been part of my life for decades, and those familiar songs seeped into my consciousness as I did battle with gnomic XML interface errors and exchanged emails with colleagues over what was causing them.

These were the four.

MirrorsMirrors is one of those albums that still divides fans’ and critics’ opinions decades after it’s release. It was widely hated on its release; there had always been a lighter, poppier side to the bands’ music balancing out the heavy guitars and dark mysticism, but this was the one time they did an entire album in that vein. But taken as its own thing and approached on its own terms, it’s actually very good, and even the most commercial-sounding songs have a hint of darkness about them. The atmospheric epic “The Vigil” remains one of the band’s best songs. The only one that fails is “You’re Not The One I Was Looking For”, a strong candidate for the worst song they ever recorded, not just cheesy, but sounds like old cheese that’s been left out too long in the sun.

Cultaaurus ErectusThose who were underwhelmed by Mirrors hailed Cultosaurus Erectus, produced by Martin Birch of Deep Purple fame, as a return to form. It managed to keep a foot in both camps, with material in a similar vein as its predecessor balanced out with plenty of far heavier songs. One thing I’d never noticed before is the way a section of “Monsters” is a direct lift from “21st Century Schizoid Man”, many years before Kanye West sampled it. It’s probably the strongest of the band’s late-period albums, unless you include “Imaginos” which is best treated as a standalone thing in its own right.

Fire of Unknown OriginFire of Unknown Origin is something of a poor relation. Again produced by Martin Birch, but this time with a lighter, less guitar-heavy sound. With cheesy 80s synth often prominent in the mix, it’s one BÖC album whose production has dated badly. Not that there’s anything much wrong with the songs. The production works on the more pop-orientated material such the title track, and “Burnin’ for You” was a big hit. But you’re left with the feeling that the likes of “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” and “Vengeance (The Pact)” need a bit more oomph.

The Revolution By NightThe Revolution By Night is one of their more underrated disks. By this time original drummer Albert Bouchard had left the band As well as filling the drumstool he’s been one of their more prolific songwriters; and the band had to make greater use of outside writers to come up with enough material to fill an album. The album had a rawer, heavier production with a big guitar sound that brings the songs to life in a way its predecessor didn’t. It’s a little patchy, it has to be said; “Let Go” is down there with YNTOIWLF, but though it’s a “lesser” track I’ve always loved “Dragon Lady”. Buck Dharma’s funk-tinged “Shooting Shark” is an absolute classic, often performed live.

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RIP Allen Lanier

Allen Lanier, keyboard player and guitarist for Blue Öyster Cult has passed away at the age of 66. As reported on the Blue Oyster Cult Official Web Site.

We have extremely sad news to report. We’ve lost our friend and bandmate Allen Lanier.

Allen succumbed to complications from C.O.P.D. He is survived by his wife Dory, sister Mary Anne and mother Martha.

Although he retired from touring in 2006 Allen returned to the stage for what turned out to be his final appearance, reuniting with BÖC at the 40th Anniversary show in New York this past November.

DFTR sweet man. We love you and miss you.

Allen Lanier was one of those unsung heroes of rock; not the charismatic frontman or the flashy lead guitarist but the skilled multi-instrumentalist who made a significant contribution to the band’s sound, swapping back and forth between keyboards and guitar. His playing was understated but effective, adding a lot of colour to their sound. On keys he wasn’t a lead player in the style of Jon Lord or Ken Hensley, but he came up with some impressive playing when the need arose, with spooky organ sounds and some great jazz-inflected piano runs. That spectacular classically-flavoured into to “Joan Crawford” from Fire of Unknown Origin is something that stands out.

While never as prolific a songwriter as Buck Dharma or Albert Bouchard, he nevertheless contributed some interesting songs over the years, including the single “In Thee” from Mirrors, and the excellent “Tenderloin” from Agents of Fortune. The one time he sang lead for the band was aother of his own songs, “True Confession”, the song immediately preceding “Don’t Fear The Reaper” on Agents of Fortune.

Allen had been in poor health for some time. Indeed the last time I saw Blue Öyster Cult while he was an official touring member of the band they played the gig as a four-piece because he was too unwell to perform.

Even though I never got to see the original lineup of the band, I did get to see Allen on stage with them on a number of occasions, the first being at Hammersmith Odeon in 1989, the last being at the Live Café in Manchester in 2003, both superb gigs with Allen on good form.

Rest in peace. Allen

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Blue Coupe, The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury.

Albert Bouchard of Blue Coupe at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury

Blue Coupe comprise the brothers Joe and Albert Bouchard, the original rhythm section from the classic lineup of Blue Öyster Cult, and Dennis Dunaway, one time bassist for Alice Cooper. They’re a power trio, with Joe swapping the bass for his original instrument, the guitar.

I only got to hear about their “Hot Rails to Hull” UK tour at very short notice, and with a somewhat strange tour itinerary concentrating on the north and the midlands, with no shows in any major cities. Their appearance at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury was the closest they came to me.

The Mill is a great venue; as the name suggests it’s a former mill converted into a modern multi-purpose arts centre, a quite different sort of environment compared with the more typical grungy rock club. No sticky floors here, although the bar did stock some excellent local real ales. While not full, they pulled a fair-sized crowd for a Thursday night, on a tour that saw some gigs sold out, while others were cancelled due to lack of ticket sales.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; Blue Öyster Cult were known for their multi-layered sound and I did wonder how well a three piece band would do the material justice. The start was a tease, opening with distinctive byrds-like guitar figure of “Don’t Fear The Reaper” before launching into the Alice Cooper hit “Elected”. What followed was a mix of BÖC and Alice Cooper standards, with an early highlight being Albert’s signature tune “Cities of Flame”, which saw Joe go walkabout in the crowd during his extended solo.

Joe Bouchard of Blue Coupe at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury

Joe’s guitar playing made a very strong impression. His playing filled a lot of space, especially when you consider than many BÖC standards had two or sometimes three guitar parts, and he more than did Buck Dharma’s original lead guitar parts justice. Bassist Dennis Dunaway threw most of the rock shapes, while Albert seemed to be enjoying himself a lot on drums; with a far stronger stage presence than most rock drummers. The whole thing was very rock and roll, playing raw, stipped-down garage-style versions of some much loved songs.

All three shared vocals, with Joe Bouchard perhaps singing the lion’s share of lead vocals, while Dennis Dunaway did most of the song introductions. From where I was standing the vocals, especially Joe’s, got lost in the mix at times, which was one flaw in an otherwise great gig.

It wasn’t all oldies, as they threw in a few new songs for good measure. “Dark Boat” from one of Joe’s solo albums was particularly memorable, and they actually have a song called “More Cowbell”. The new material stands up well alongside the old, and marked them out as something far more than a mere nostalgia act, rather a band who still have something to say.

Dennis Dunaway of Blue Coupe at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury

They ended the set with the biggest hits. First Godzilla (“Oh No! There goes Tokyo!”) with first a bass solo, then Albert going walkabout, drumming on the floor, the PA stack, the curtains(!) and finally returning to his kit for an actual drum solo, which, as drum solos go, has to be one of the more entertaining ones. Then it was “School’s Out”, and finally, after that tease at the very beginning, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”. They came back for no fewer than three encores, including a superb take on The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”, a song frequently covered in BÖC days, and of course, “Hot Rails To Hell”, before ending with “Under My Wheels”.

It’s a feature of today’s classic rock scene that some of the people who once played stadiums are now playing small venues in the most un-rock’n'roll of towns. But bands like Blue Coupe have still got it, and can still put on a great show. They’ve promised they’ll be returning to the UK, and when they do, go and see them. You won’t be disappointed.

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New Blue Öyster Cult Boxed Set

BOC Boxed Set

Blue Öyster Cult have a new boxed set out. It contains remasters of all 14 albums released during their time at Columbia Records, ending with 1988′s Lovecraftian concept album “Imaginos”, plus a couple of disks of rarities.

If you didn’t pick up the remastered editions of their classic early albums released during the 00s, this is well worth picking up. But if you’re a fan you probably have those albums already, and I’m not convinced that this boxed set is worth the money for the remasters of the patchy later albums alone. Although it has been said that this box set is now the only way of obtaining the classic but now out-of-print “Imaginos”.

It’s a pity that Sony have chosen not to release those later remasters individually, and I can’t help feeling that forcing fans to shell out for things they already own as the only way to get the things they haven’t is a bit of a cynical move. This is the sort of record company that prefers to release endless “best of” compilations rather than keep the original albums in print.

Or maybe I’m just not the target audience for this thing. Enough of a fan to have picked up the first batch of remasters a few years back, but not hardcore enough to want to be a completist.

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Blue Öyster Cult, Manchester Academy 2, 15th June 2008

Blue Öyster Cult are my favourite American band. In recent years they’ve come over to the UK every couple of years. Last time they came over was 2006, so I figured they must be due over again this year. And lo! a tour was annouced! Last time I said to myself I’d try and get to multiple dates, but in the end Manchester turned out to be the only one I could make. The gig moved from the smaller Academy 3, where they’d played last time, to the larger Academy 2. I asked the doorman how many tickets they’d sold, and he told me they’d sold 600 in advance, half again the capacity of Academy 3, which explains why they moved it.  If it wasn’t completely sold out, it was a pretty good crowd; and enthusiastic too; who was the guy behind me shouting for “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle in Wessaria”? Beats “Grendel” at Marillion gigs, I suppose.

I was underwhelmed by support band Rolling Thunder.  Instrumentally they were pretty tight, and their guitarist, though a bit too much of a showoff, had good chops.  Unfortunately their frontman was a far better poseur than a singer, and they suffered from a critical lack of memorable songs.

With Allen Lanier absent due to ill-health, this tour saw Danny Miranda return on bass, with previous bassist Richie Castellano moving over to rhythm guitar and keys. As you’d expect from the last night of a tour, they were pretty tight, Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma on great form vocally, and Buck reeling off some wonderful solos, reminding me just why I rate him so highly as a guitarist.

BÖC always vary their setlists a lot from tour to tour, and even night to night, and you never know quite what they’re going to play, they always manage to throw in some surprises. This was a great setlist; opening with “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” and “Career of Evil”, we got personal favourites of mine, “Shooting Shark” and “The Golden Age of Leather”. And Astronomy.

Astronomy is my favourite BÖC song, in fact one of my favourite songs by any band. Although it’s always been regularly rotated in and out of the setlist, I’ve never heard them play it live on the five previous occasions I’ve seen the band. So I’ve waited for 28 years to hear this song live. So when I heard that opening guitar figure and a huge cheer went up.

Occasionally hearing a favourite song after a long wait can be an anticlimax. This wasn’t. The version they played was utterly spellbinding, with Buck Dharma playing what might well have been the best extended solo I’ve ever heard him play.

They closed the set with the usual standards, “Godzilla”, complete with bass solo, drum solo, and a brief Queen medley, and of course “Don’t Fear the Reaper”.

Sadly the strict curfew meant the band couldn’t come back for an encore, which left what had been a great evening ending a little flat. But that was soon forgotten; it was still a fantastic gig; they may be old, they may not have released a good record for ages, but they still rock live.

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