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Spectres is such a master by Blue Oyster Cult...


IMMusicRulz
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Following 5 albums (including the live 2 record set On Your Feet Or On Your Knees), Agents Of Fortune finally struck gold--literally--with their 1976 album Agents Of Fortune, which contained their radio success, Don't Fear The Reaper, as well as the haunting Astronomy. With those albums all being certified gold, the BOC crew were hoping to make their equivalent of Sgt. Pepper with album six. Spectres has been appreciated by the members in the 45 years since its original release, complete with the album cover showcasing the pyrotechnical effects that BOC would develop in their elaborating stage shows.

 

Godzilla opens the album, and aside from their hit (you know which song I'm talking about), this gets lots of airplay on classic rock radio. Featuring the 3 multitracked guitar assaults of Buck Dharma, Eric Bloom and Allen Lanier, and some cool vocal effects (including lyrics partly sung in Japanese), this song is the firestorm that opens up a skilled album. Whilst Eric Bloom and drummer Albert Bouchard have admitted this album was even more grueling to make than Agents Of Fortune, I consider Spectres to be a must own. Lars Ulrich of Metallica has listed this record as an influence on that band's sound. Joe Bouchard also adds a psychedelic flavor to Godzilla's instrumental break with his Alembic bass solo. If I had lived to see them perform this in the studio, I probably wouldn't have been able to control myself. That's how fratboy friendly this song is.

 

Golden Age of Leather is the sophomore track on the album, and I was a little unimpressed with this song when I first picked up this album. According to Bruce Abbott, the song "Golden Age Of Leather" refers to a group in a motorcycle club reaching a practical endpoint to that lifestyle. Having achieved their "golden age", the bikers make a suicide pact rather than age gracefully, "in this day of flaccid plumage". Starting off with a rather sacrilegious a cappella vocal, the song then transforms into a boogie rocker, with Buck Dharma's guitar and vocal pinging like satellites off of a nu-metal landscape. By then, the time signature changes, and Eric Bloom contributes lead vocals on the song's climactic, almost Ride of the Valkyries-esque refrain, which finally concludes with a proggy synthesizer and a choir of children (performed, according to the album's liner notes, by the Newark Boys Choir). There certainly is no other frontman like Eric Bloom (unless, of course, you believed Buck Dharma was BOC's frontman).

 

Death Valley Nights, composed and sung by drummer Albert Bouchard, features a ghastly harmonica and Albert's lead vocal, which is similar to that of a more resentful Dennis Wilson. It reaches its peak in the chorus, which turns into a tender love ballad at that point. It sounds very much like The Revenge of Vera Gemini from Agents of Fortune, though without the female vocals. It also shows that Blue Oyster Cult had their progressive moments, culminating in their science fiction influenced lyrics and the fact that Blue Oyster Cult took their Beatles/Doors/Love/Hawkwind influences very, very seriously. 

 

Searchin For Celine, composed by Allen Lanier, is a good funk-rock tune with a repetitive back and forth piano riff that would have been fine on a Supertramp or Genesis record. Joe Bouchard's disco bass, Albert Bouchard's skins freakout and some wah pedal from BD only brings Eric Bloom's yearning, harsh vocals to a standstill. Aside from Godzilla, this is the best track on side 1. BOC should have done more instrumentals. In fact, Blue Oyster Cult should have been playing at Studio 54 instead of those god damned Village People!

 

Another Albert Bouchard composition, Fireworks, closes outside 1. It is the closest Blue Oyster Cult song that sounds like Queen, with Buck Dharma's guitar rig sounding like a Gibson SG and Marshall assisted by a Mu-Tron Bi-Phase. Not a good way to close out the first side, but that quickly changes with side 2...

 

RU Ready To Rock, written with Albert Bouchard, was another staple of the concerts that BOC were known for. The live version on Some Enchanted Evening is just as great as the original version, with Buck Dharma's fuzz siren guitar and gang vocals announcing that Blue Oyster Cult were, in fact, ready to rock. (Blue Oyster Cult would tour with Heart, Rush, UFO, Kansas and J. Geils in support of this album.)

 

Celestial The Queen, composed by Helen Wheels and Joe Bouchard, and sung by Joe Bouchard, is a Phil Spector-styled song about a transvestite (though it is thinly disguised in the lyrics, to get airplay). The track's controversial lyrics aroused some complaints, but certainly did not deprive the track of its airplay. Plus, Celestial the Queen is a pretty cool name for a song, so how could you not love it? There is also a pretty good synth line that leads through this track, with Albert Bouchard's drumming sounding as if it was paid by the flanger.

 

Going Through The Motions is another romper that found its way through side 2. Cowritten with former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter (who would write various songs for Blue Oyster Cult in the years to come), it was a minor hit in the UK (where Blue Oyster Cult remain very popular) but meant nothing on the American charts. It also has an early sixties sound to it, and a chirpy string synthesizer. The chorus is happy, with a catchy set of handclaps to enhance Eric Bloom's upbeat singing. And is that an acoustic guitar in the bridge? Sounds like Cheap Trick covering the Kinks!

 

I Love The Night is not as guitar driven, and like Going Through The Motions, it is a bit of a ballad. There are some cool effects and a Gilmour influenced guitar solo. Buck Dharma always had more of a nasally vocal than Eric Bloom, which sounds more melancholic and slower than on most other Blue Oyster Cult songs. Then again, Blue Oyster Cult is the type of band that should be played in a dark room with a scented candle burning. I can hear Godsmack, Creed and Evanescence as having heard this album.

 

Nosferatu is an unusual song about Nosferatu, the famous horror movie villain. Again composed by Joe Bouchard and Helen Wheels, with Joe Bouchard handling lead vocals and synthesizer, it doesn't have as cool a closing track as Astronomy from Secret Treaties. Now that is a good closing track! Buck Dharma and Joe Bouchard also played the jangly lead guitars on this track, which is unusual as Buck Dharma plays both lead and rhythm guitars on the track.

 

Following this album's release, Blue Oyster Cult would tour extensively for this album, recording a second live album, Some Enchanted Evening, throughout most of 1978 (a previewing cover of the Animals' We Gotta Get Out Of This Place having already been issued as a single, failing to chart). I also have the LP of Some Enchanted Evening, and I must say that if you need to own at least a few of BOC's live albums you should listen to Some Enchanted Evening and On Your Feet... in its entirety.

 

Spectres was also remastered with additional bonus tracks on CD in 2007, but since I don't own the CD, I can't confirm or deny if I like the bonus tracks or not.

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