Friday, May 16, 2014

Blue Oyster Cult - On Your Feet Or On Your Knees

This live album came out before the band hit big with their fourth record and "Don't Fear the Reaper" and so it compiles some of the best tunes from the first three, along with a couple of bonuses. A number of songs are drawn out more than the studio versions, with extended jams (even the opening "The Subhuman" is significantly longer) and with much more synthesizer - which I don't think appeared on the "official" recordings - or, if so, it was sparingly.

These cats were all exceptional musicians - Buck Dharma is, of course, a guitar genius, but everyone here is amazing and are all firing on all cylinders. Allen Lanier plays keys, but is also a terrific guitarist and singer Eric Bloom gets in some licks, as well. Brothers Joe and Albert Bouchard (bass and drums, respectively) are a phenomenal rhythm section, who can take off with next to no notice and stop on a dime, as they do in the added rave-up in "Harvester of Eyes". "Hot Rails to Hell" is wildly fierce (I didn't realize that Joe sang this one) and Buck goes off on a blistering solo tangent while "The Red and the Black" is, incredibly, even faster than the speedy studio take. Starting out pretty much the way you would expect it, "Seven Screaming Dizbusters" turns into a crazed jam, with plenty of dynamics and energy and then devolves into a fairly silly rap by Eric about selling his soul to the devil.

Taking a cue from the 60's guitar gods - who stole the idea from the bluesmen - we get "Buck's Boogie", an instro jam with hints of Jeff Beck, the Beatles, Cream and others and then Buck takes lead vocals for his fabulous ballad about a drug deal gone bad, "Last Days of May", where it gets a bit more bite and he gets to add some more stinging leads. One of their best-known numbers at this point was Albert's heavy-metal-riff-masterpiece, "Cities On Flame With Rock'n'Roll" and here is it especially smokin'. "ME262" is particularly heavy - appropriately, as it is about dropping bombs ("heavy metal fruit") - and adds a new instrumental middle section.

They come back for an encore of "Before the Kiss (A Redcap)" (Buck again taking lead vocal) and then do their own heavy metal version of Jimmy Reed's "I Ain't Got You" that becomes a vehicle for Dharma to play on his own for a while and then briefly becomes "Cat's Squirrel" before closing out. The finale here is the anthem or all heavy metal anthems, "Born To Be Wild", which they do pretty straight, other than a synthisizer solo, until the noise-filled ending.

As usual with live albums, I say that novices should start with the studio records, but this is a mighty powerful romp, with some extraordinary playing. You will want this one!