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Pop - Released July 1, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released April 17, 2012 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Hard Rock - Released June 16, 1981 | Cult Legends

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 1, 1996 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | SMCMG

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Rock - Released August 2, 1985 | Columbia

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Who would have thought that in 1981, after a pair of limp, unfocused studio offerings, and two mixed -- at best -- live outings, that the once mighty Blue Öyster Cult would come back with such a fierce, creative, and uncompromising effort as Fire of Unknown Origin. Here was their finest moment since Agents of Fortune five years earlier, and one of their finest ever. Bringing back into the fold the faithful team who helped articulate their earlier vision, producer Sandy Pearlman, Richard Meltzer, and Patti Smith all helped in the lyric department, as did science-fiction and dark-fantasy writer Michael Moorcock. The band's sound was augmented by a plethora of keyboards courtesy of Allen Lanier, but nonetheless retained a modicum of its heaviness, and the sheer songwriting craft that had helped separate the band form its peers early on was everywhere evident here -- especially the gloriously noir-ish Top 40 single "Burning for You," written by Meltzer and guitarist Buck Dharma. Other standouts on the set include the plodding, über-riff pyrotechnics of "Heavy Metal: The Black and the Silver," and the Mott the Hoople- and Queen-influenced glammed up roots rock of "Joan Crawford." The terrifying images of desecration and apocalyptic war in "Veteran of Psychic Wars," with words by Moorcock, feature huge synth lines, dual leads by Dharma and Eric Bloom -- as well as a tom-tom orgy from Albert Bouchard -- offered a new pathway through the eternal night of the Cult's best work. Fire of Unknown Origin has aged well, and deserves to be remastered in the 21st century. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released July 15, 2016 | SMCMG

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Rock - Released August 30, 1988 | Columbia

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Two years before Kiss roared out of Long Island with its self-titled debut, Blue Öyster Cult, the latest incarnation of a band assembled by guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and drummer Albert Bouchard in 1967, issued its dark, eponymously-titled heavy rock monolith. Managed and produced by the astronomically minded and conspiratorially haunted Sandy Pearlman, BÖC rode the hot, hellbound rails of blistering hard rock as pioneered by Steppenwolf, fierce mutated biker blues, and a kind of dark psychedelia that could have only come out New York. The band's debut relied heavily on the lyrics of Pearlman and rock critic Richard Meltzer, as well as Pearlman's pioneering production that layered guitars in staggered sheets of sound over a muddy mix that kept Eric Bloom's delivery in the middle of the mix and made it tough to decipher. This was on purpose -- to draw the listener into the songs cryptically and ambiguously. From the opener, "Transmaniacon MC," the listener knew something very different was afoot. This is dark, amphetamine-fueled occult music that relied on not one, but three guitars -- Bloom and keyboardist Allen Lanier added their own parts to Roeser's incessant riffing: a barely audible upright piano keeping the changes rooted in early rock and the blues, and a rhythm attack by Bouchard and his brother Joe on bass that was barely contained inside the tune's time signature. From the next track on "I'm on the Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep," elliptical lyrics talked about "the red and the black," while darkening themselves with stunning riffs and crescendos that were as theatrical as they were musical, and insured the Cult notice among the other acts bursting out of the seams of post-'60's rock. Other standouts include the cosmic "Stairway to the Stars," the boogie rave-up "Before the Kiss, a Redcap," that sounded like a mutant Savoy Brown meeting Canned Heat at Altamont. But it is on "Cities on Flame With Rock & Roll," that the Cult's sinister plan for world domination is best displayed. From its knotty, overdriven riff to its rhythm guitar vamp, Vox organ shimmer, its crash cymbal ride and plodding bass and drum slog through the changes -- not to mention its title -- it is the ultimate in early metal anthems. Add to this the swirling quizzicality of "Workshop of the Telescopes" that lent the band some of its image cred. [The 2001 remastered edition by Legacy gives punters four bonus tracks in the form of demos recorded by the band's first incarnation as Soft White Underbelly. These are not merely throwaways: it is readily apparent that by 1969, BÖC was well on their way to creating something new and menacingly different. The only questionable item is the last track: a cover version of Bobby Freeman's "Betty Lou's Got a New Pair of Shoes," that is utterly devoid of interest.] © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 1, 1986 | Columbia

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If ever there were a manifesto for 1970s rock, one that prefigured both the decadence of the decade's burgeoning heavy metal and prog rock excesses and the rage of punk rock, "This Ain't the Summer of Love," the opening track from Agents of Fortune, Blue Öyster Cult's fourth album, was it. The irony was that while the cut itself came down firmly on the hard rock side of the fence, most of the rest of the album didn't. Agents of Fortune was co-produced by longtime Cult record boss Sandy Pearlman, Murray Krugman, and newcomer David Lucas, and in addition, the band's lyric writing was being done internally with help from poet-cum-rocker Patti Smith (who also sings on "The Revenge of Vera Gemini"). Pearlman, a major contributor to the band's songwriting output, received a solitary credit while critic Richard Meltzer, whose words were prevalent on the Cult's previous outings, was absent. The album yielded the band's biggest single with "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," a multi-textured, deeply melodic soft rock song with psychedelic overtones, written by guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser. The rest of the album is ambitious in that it all but tosses aside the Cult's proto-metal stance and instead recontextualizes their entire stance. It's still dark, mysterious, and creepy, and perhaps even more so, it's still rooted in rock posturing and excess, but gone is the nihilistic biker boogie in favor of a more tempered -- indeed, nearly pop arena rock -- sound that gave Allen Lanier's keyboards parity with Dharma's guitar roar, as evidenced by "E.T.I.," "Debbie Denise," and "True Confessions." This is not to say that the Cult abandoned their adrenaline rock sound entirely. Cuts like "Tattoo Vampire" and "Sinful Love" have plenty of feral wail in them. Ultimately, Agents of Fortune is a solid record, albeit a startling one for fans of the band's earlier sound. It also sounds like one of restless inspiration, which is, in fact, what it turned out to be given the recordings that came after. It turned out to be the Cult's last consistent effort until they released Fire of Unknown Origin in 1981. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 11, 1990 | Columbia

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Of Blue Öyster Cult's three live albums, Extraterrestrial Live is the one to own. The two-record set, partially recorded on BÖC's home base of Long Island, contains the band's biggest hits, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" (making its second live appearance) and "Burnin' for You," as well as longtime concert favorites like "Cities on Flame," "The Red and the Black," and "Godzilla." But it isn't just the superior song selection that gives this album the nod over On Your Feet or on Your Knees and Some Enchanted Evening; BÖC had regained its momentum in 1981 with Fire of Unknown Origin, and this album demonstrated their renewed spirit in the forum in which they were most comfortable -- live work. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 16, 1986 | Columbia

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Blue Öyster Cult scored big with Agents of Fortune and its now-classic rock hit, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." It took the album into the stratosphere and the band's profile with it; it put them in the visible pop space they'd tried for years to get to. But upon arrival, they found that kind of success difficult to respond to. Not only did the Cult want to respond, they wanted to cement their place. Spectres is not the masterpiece that Agents of Fortune is, but it didn't need to be. However, upon hearing Spectres again, the album offers proof that the commercial and creative bent of Agents of Fortune was still in place at certain moments, and the band laid out a major single in the opening cut, "Godzilla," a tune -- however silly it may be -- that is every bit as memorable as "(Don't Fear) The Reaper." It's not the only big number here either: "Goin' Through the Motions" and the truly spooky "I Love the Night" by Buck Dharma also scored. The former track is a wonderful blend of Tommy James & the Shondells, Boston, and Mott the Hoople's roots rock glam attack. Written by Eric Bloom and Ian Hunter, it's a stunning single. It sounds less like the Cult than anything they'd recorded, but as a classic rock & roll single it succeeds in spades. And "I Love the Night" (with its guitar part resembling "Reaper" for a moment) is one of rock & roll's truly strange and seductive love songs. There is more spook and darkness here, of course, in the album's closer, "Nosferatu." As a closer, "I Love the Night" may have been a better choice, but this track has all those layered harmonies, a reverbed piano, Dharma's power chords, and lyric fills that never lose their sense of menace and once more, a story. BOC were the only band in their league, walking the line between AOR rock and metal, and offering such detailed narratives. Spectres also contains tunes that were ready-made for touring, which is what the Cult did immediately after, resulting in the wildly successful live album Some Enchanted Evening. In sum, the only reason Spectres is not regarded as a classic is because it followed Agents of Fortune. Other than the false funk of "Searchin' for Celine," it's flawless as a finely tuned tome that begins with sci-fi humor and ends with gothic horror -- all of which can be hummed to. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Rock - Released August 2, 1987 | Columbia

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Blue Öyster Cult tried a new producer on Mirrors, replacing longtime mentor Sandy Pearlman with Tom Werman, a CBS staffer who had worked with Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent. The result is an album that tries to straddle pop and hard rock just as those acts did, emphasizing choral vocals (plus female backup) and a sharp, trebly sound. But this approach appeared to displease longtime metal-oriented fans without attracting new ones: "In Thee" became a minor singles-chart entry, but the album broke BÖC's string of five gold or platinum albums in a row. The real reason simply may have been that the songs weren't distinctive enough. Much of this is generic hard rock that could have been made by any one of a dozen '70s arena bands. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 18, 1989 | Columbia

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On Your Feet or on Your Knees, Blue Öyster Cult's first live album (there would be two more), was also their first to peak inside the Top 40 best-sellers, which is more of an indication of the audience the group was building up through extensive touring than of its quality. Songs that had a tight, concentrated impact on studio albums got elongated here, and that impact was dissipated. And the song selection left a great deal to be desired if this was to be a fitting summation of the band's career so far. Perhaps by their 1974 tour, BÖC had dropped such classics from their first album as "Transmaniacon MC," and "Stairway to the Stars," but the less impressive material from the third album was no substitute. The album did mark the first commercial release of a version of "Buck's Boogie" as well as covers of the Yardbirds' "I Ain't Got You" and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild." © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 6, 2012 | Columbia - Legacy

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Rock - Released October 13, 1987 | Columbia

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Blue Öyster Cult seemed to regain their direction with Fire of Unknown Origin, but simultaneously, the band was starting to fragment, with founding member and notable songwriter Albert Bouchard departing. On The Revolution by Night, BÖC brought in various hired guns, such as Aldo Nova and former Alice Cooper bandmember Neal Smith, and turned to Loverboy's producer, Bruce Fairbairn, who gave them a similar radio-ready rock sound. But though the album brought BÖC their fourth (and final) singles chart entry in "Shooting Shark," it lacked a distinctive identity. You could close your eyes and not know whether you were listening to Loverboy or Foreigner or any one of several other arena rock bands. No wonder it became the band's lowest charting album in a decade. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

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Blue Öyster Cult in the magazine
  • Blue Öyster Cult - The Symbol Remains
    Blue Öyster Cult - The Symbol Remains There are plenty of examples where bands have attempted a comeback and it’s been an absolute flop. Bands which, for some unknown reason, try to come back from the dead and end up making an album th...