Every Blue Oyster Cult Song, Ranked and Critiqued – Part II

LINK TO PART I

LINK TO THE SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

76 – Del Rio’s Song (Imaginos) – I really like the gang vocals on this one. Production, however makes it sound like they were aiming more for “Club Ninja” sounds rather than a better era. To add insult to injury, the compressed guitars are mixed way down, and the whole mix just sounds really… flat. Everything feels like it’s in the same place in the soundstage and all the same volume and EQ. The bridge/solo (2:23-3:07) is fantastic, but still has that weird lack of depth. I thought it was just a bad copy on Spotify, but every source I’ve found sounds the same. An outside mixer was brought in to finish the album and just get it released rather than spend the time (and money) to get the people that Perlman, Bouchard and Levitin wanted, so it makes sense.

77 – Deadline (Cultosaurus Erectus) – Driven by a cool bassline and keyboards, this great song might have been more at home on Mirrors or Spectres than Cultosaurus Erectus. The way the bass comes back in to the guitar solo part with that bent note at 2:44-2:45 is a great moment. As far as catchy songs with lyrics about the real-life gangland murder of a friend go, it’s a banger.

78 – Searchin’ For Celine (Spectres) – A solid song. The bass solo bit to open just gets cooler as the bass growls under the whole song. Nice gang Oooh Ahhh vocals in the background. The changeup of tempo for the bridge parts is great, as is the lyric “Love is like a gun / And in the hands of someone like you I think it’d kill”. Multiple solo sections let Buck show off a little. It’s only down here in the list because… well…. something had to be and there are better songs.

79 – Light Years of Love (The Revolution By Night) – BOC doesn’t have a lot of slow ballads in their catalog, but this is definitely worthy of being here. Co-written by Helen Wheels, it has a guitar part that is clearly Buck, nice schmaltzy lyrics, and reasonable vocals by Joe Bouchard. I love when the classical guitar solo ramps up into the electric guitar, and the nice build to the ending without the uncomfortable “So do we have to stop slow dancing?” of Stairway to Heaven. I love the almost bazouki-like strumming at 2:53 and 2:58.

80 – This Ain’t the Summer of Love (Agents of Fortune) – A great way to open their first album in 2 years after T&M and Secret Treaties and a crapload of touring. I think everything falls perfectly into place for this song, except the writing. Musically, vocally, instrumentally the song is great. I think the lyrics and melody, especially in the chorus, let the song down. It just misses the mark for a great BOC song.

81 – Lonely Teardrops (Mirrors) – Starting out with a Stevie Wonder-esque Clavinet sounding intro keyboard, the song quickly lets us know where we’re going, and it’s to a good place. The funky verse is a great sound that still manages to fit with the band. Then tragedy strikes…. 0:55. The bridge/chorus/whatever sounds like a post-disco porn soundtrack. Then the disco backup singers come in. Such promise. Such loss.

82 – You’re Not The One (I was Looking For) (Mirrors) – The heavily reverbed voice is pretty cool, actually, even though it’s Albert. One of his better vocal performances. During the chorus I can’t help feeling like I’m listening to a pre-release cut that has a few instrumental tracks missing. It feels empty, but in a “missing something” way, not a “nice and simple” way. Some really nice solo work from Buck from 1:37-1:51.

83 – Unknown Tongue (Cultosaurus Erectus) – The lyrics in this song never really quite clicked for me. I love the chorus, I love it a lot. The verses seem like they were trying for a deep storytelling type thing (which they have successfully pulled off many times) but just end up sounding sort of amateur. I adore the piano solo (1:41-2:03), a unique sounding solo for the whole catalog, I think. I think this song sums up the “So close, but not quite” vibe of the whole album.

84 – Moon Crazy (Mirrors) – If you like the “thing” they were going for on Mirrors, you’ll love this song. It’s well executed, well-written and has some unique and interesting parts. The bass in the chorus is wonderful. The changes of tone and instrumentation between parts are fun and sound great. The solo (2:06-2:36) is appropriate and dynamic. I think part of what makes it not quite “right” is the gang/harmony doubled vocals that quite significantly change the tone of the song.

85 – Power Underneath Despair (Heaven Forbid) – More heavy goodness from Heaven Forbid. Suffers from the tendency that shows up in later songs to really force lyric rhythms that don’t quite work (“asking every snake slitheringin the street”). It’s disappointing after the great lyric poetry of many of the earlier songs. I love the chorus in it’s 15/16 goodness that really adds to the unbalanced “despair” feeling. Buck really cuts loose on the solo (2:45-3:05).

86 – Hammer Back (Heaven Forbid) – Amazing chunky heavy guitar sound on the main riff. The chorus shows a bit of Bloom’s age in his voice. A great rock song, with some great moments, but it just seems pretty bland for a BOC song. Another crazy solo from Buck, it sounds like he’s having fun. I’ll always crank this one when it comes on in the car, but I’m not sure it’s really high-grade BOC.

87 – The Old Gods Return (Curse of the Forbidden Mirror) – One of the few okay songs on this album, but I can see why they were dropped from label after. It sounds to me like a bunch of guys who play in a completely different band trying to write a BOC song. It’s not totally unsuccessful, and I appreciate the attempt to grow, but it’s just not great music given who it’s coming from.

88 – Tenderloin (Agents of Fortune) – The nonstop walking bassline really moves this song along. My impression when I hear this song is that this is something they’ve been playing with for a long time and it finally made it on to an album, but long after it was appropriate. This would have been better (I think) on an earlier album. It sounds almost “late night jam”, which is a great sound, but not really appropriate for the album with Reaper and ETI on it.

89 – True Confessions (Agents of Fortune) – An Allen Lanier composition that suffers from his vocals, in my opinion. There are high points, but the “steel guitar and honky-tonk piano” countryish feel in places is just not my thing, and I don’t think it’s theirs either.

90 – Fireworks (Spectres) – I like the clean arpeggio over the verses, and the solo bits throughout. The rest of the song is kind of “okay” though. The background grunge guitar is pretty bog-standard generic and not well mixed to boot. It fits well with much of the rest of Spectres.

91 – The Marshall Plan (Cultosaurus Erectus) – First off, let’s commend the brilliant wordplay in the title. The rest of the song has brilliant moments tied together with meh. The use of guitar solo bits to describe the action (after talking about turning on the radio, the rock and roll show, the band sound Johnny wants), the crowd noise, Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, Smoke on the Water played as he learns to play guitar, Johnny’s concert. The actual story of the song is the part that kind of plods and we wait to get through to get to the good parts.

92 – Morning Final (Agents of Fortune) – 40 seconds of intro is a bit much, I ‘m ready to fast forward near the end. The organ stabs between lines of the verse are fun. Nothing really exciting in the main part of the song. They tried to mix it up with the bridge (2:37-2:50) but it’s also not really very interesting. At 3:37 it starts to have some potential, but then the nasal newspaper hawker comes in and it all goes away.

93 – Sinful Love (Agents of Fortune) – Falsetto background vocals should have been an idea that died on the cutting room floor. They make it hard to get to anything else interesting in the song, like a great solo (1:28-2:08). Alberts vocals do have a place, but this isn’t it. The rest of the song is just repeating a not-great idea over and over.

94 – Dance on Stilts (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – A capable release that sounds like a Buck Dharma solo project. I can’t quite get over the fact that the phrase “Dance on Stilts” doesn’t quite scan right into the rhythm to me. It always sounds like it’s being rushed to fit into the beat. The section from 4:01 to the end is an unremarkable solo and doesn’t justify 2 full minutes of the song.

95 – Celestial the Queen (Spectres) – A release from Spectres that points very clearly in a direction, straight towards Mirrors. I feel like the song is quite repetitive and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table after the first verse/chorus. The solo (1:24-1:40) is different, it’s just not very interesting. The keyboard solo (2:48-3:15) is the best part of the song.

96 – Roadhouse Blues (Extraterrestrial Live) – As a Doors fan, I love this cover. I think it’s true to the original but still unique enough to be worth listening to. Of course, the guitar throughout is amazing, and the keys are fantastic. Eric Bloom shows off his fantastic crowd skills live. I can just imagine the crowd in that stadium, knowing what lyric was coming, and just getting more and more fired up as Bloom delays and delays and strings it out only to finally get to “GOT MYSELF A BEER!”. Fantastic.

97 – Maserati GT (I Ain’t Got You) (On Your Feet Or On Your Knees) – Another live cover (of a blues classic that has been recorded by the Animals, the Yardbirds and many more before and since) that shows off Buck’s skills. The recording is pretty muddy which makes it less fun to listen to. Nearly 3 minutes of unaccompanied guitar solo (and dual guitar solo) are a treat for Buck fans. I have to be a barbarian and say I think the Blues Brothers do the song more justice.

98 – We Gotta Get Out of This Place (Some Enchanted Evening) – I really great song to end a concert on. A cover of the Animals song, we start to see where the band gets its live cover inspiration. I love the bass, and the escalation at 1:13 when the distorted guitar comes in. Blooms voice is perfect for the pre-chorus, and then the organ kicks in for the chorus and it gets even better. The short organ solo and then the guitar solo into the ending (3:40 onward) is a crowning glory. Wish I’d seen it.

99 – Sole Survivor (Fire of Unknown Origin) – I’m not even sure where to start on this one. It’s cheesy, synthy and tries too hard in the verses, which are followed by a distractingly choppy chorus. Cool bass and guitar doubling line (1:48-2:00) into an atmospheric solo that sounds like the intro into a real solo. At 2:20 the last note of the solo jumps outward in the mix halfway through and sounds weird. I’m not sure if it was dubbed in or just pops out of the mix at me, but it’s distracting either way. There’s no dynamics to the song, so the last verse sounds the same as the first, and the same with the choruses. It ends up beating its own dead horse and I get tired of it about halfway through.

100 – Les Invisibles (Imaginos) – This song is just there. It exists and I often just forget about it. It’s boring. The chord structure under the solo and bridge part is so bland and boring (2:06-2:38). I’m not sure what’s happening from 3:31 to 3:57. Did they leave out an instrumental track? Is that some sort of space keyboard solo? Then the whole notes on the guitar waste another 30 seconds before an actual awesome solo starts at 4:30 only to be ruined by the “SEVENSEVENSEVEN” chanting underneath.

101 – Shadow of California (The Revolution By Night) – I like the way it’s primarily bass and drums, with punctuations by the guitar for the verses. The prechorus descends into cheesy and then the single line of the chorus swings back. I love the drums in this song. The tom fills and driving beat over little other instrumentation is cool. I absolutely adore the way “into the darkness” chant starts over the drums at 2:07 (and again for the fadeout) and sounds like it’s far off beat, but it slowly resolves into the song and kicks off the solo. Unfortunately the solo (2:22-2:53) sounds mostly like Buck rolled over onto his whammy bar.

102 – Monsters (Cultosaurus Erectus) – “Hey guys! I’ve got an idea! It’s a song about these guys, they all have to fight over a girl, and in the end they kill her to keep the peace. And we do it with a choppy riff with guitar and saxophone doubling each other. Then then we break to a sax solo over lounge jazz!”. The bridge section starts with a fantastic take on the main riff that’s actually exciting (2:08-2:43) and segues into a calm piano-based transition into the “Monsters… Monsters… Monsters…” section which surprisingly is pretty awesome, with a great solo over it and some cool vocals. But, then suddenly, we’re back in the stupid verse section again for the shocking reveal ending to the plot. And right after the girl dies… jazz sax solo! So many bad decisions. Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a right-angle switch to a jazz break could actually be pretty darned cool. Just not in a song about a science fiction murder.

103 – Nosferatu (Spectres) – Joe Bouchard and Helen Wheels came up with this one, and good on them for trying something different, but I just don’t think it works that well. Trying too hard to get the “creepy sci-fi lyric” cliche, I think. Joe’s vocals just aren’t strong enough (or high enough in the mix) to carry the song or make it all interesting. Solos (1:49-2:12) get interesting, and the bridge starts out interesting vocally, then gets all mired down in the rest of the song again. There are a number of different sections to the song that are supposed to be musically different but the production and mixing just make them all sound the same: mushy and blurred out. The main solo starting at 4:10 is reasonable enough but it sounds like Buck is on a small amp at the back of the room with the entire band trying to drown him out. Also, if you listen really hard, the high harmony on all of the repetitions of “Only a woman can break his spell/Pure in heart who will offer herself” sounds like someone is killing a puberty-stricken teen with a dull spoon. Seriously. Once you hear it, you’ll never be able to listen to the song properly again. The one at 4:50 is especially egregious. Like… oh my God who recorded that and thought “Yeah, let’s just mix that sucker in there.”?

104 – Eyes on Fire (The Revolution By Night) – Not a terrible 80s pop-rock song. Just not a good BOC song. A highlight is the bass bits from 2:52-3:06.

105 – Dr Music (Mirrors) – To be honest 95% of my dislike of this song comes from the female background singers during the chorus. Verses are pretty cool, prechorus is pretty cool… chorus is icepick in the ears. Not a fan of the digital toms (Pew! Pew pew!). I would have preferred the keyboard solo wasn’t using a harmonica sound, because it’s not bad otherwise. Even the unexpected latin percussion on the solo section is a kinda neat counterpoint to the heavy guitar, but I just can’t forgive the singers.

106 – When the War Comes Home (Club Ninja) – The groany grunty guy doing the intro is a little odd, but the rest of the song might be okay. I can’t really tell because I can’t listen past the start of the inane “OOGA-CHAKA OOGA-CHAKA” background singer. Have whoever thought that sounded good taken out back and shot.

107 – Feel the Thunder (The Revolution By Night) – Wooo! Spooky motorcycle ghosts! I don’t think I could tell you exactly why this is so crazily cheesy but the lyrics from Golden Age of Leather aren’t, but it’s true. The lyrics and spooky woowoo noises and wind sounds just reek of desperation to be that cool band again.

108 – Beat ‘Em Up (Club Ninja) – I have a general dislike towards songs that are pre-written to be arena anthems, especially when the studio version has things like “I wanna hear everybody screamin’!”. The bridge (1:39-1:53) has the bubbly sparkly keyboard behind it, and lyrics like “We’ll stop sockin’ when you stop rockin’!” and I just start to feel embarrassed for them having to sing it. Once it gets past the “jerk off on the whammy bar” section, the short solo (1:55-2:09) is actually pretty cool, as is the solo unter the outro (2:46-end).

109 – Shadow Warrior (Club Ninja) – I can’t shake the feeling that this is an Ozzy Osbourne song rather than BOC (check out 0:57-1:00). Solo (2:40-3:11) really hops along, despite the blurry mush behind it. The backing track is really not up to snuff. Much of it is half or whole note power chords, and the bass is hardly around. I can’t really tell what they did to Eric’s voice, but it’s so low in the mix and so heavily effected and doubled that for the first few listens when I got the album I was trying to figure out who they got to sing this one.

110 – Workshop of the Telescopes (Blue Oyster Cult) – I want to love it. I really do. All of the elements are there for this to be a good song. I just find it a little too discordant for my tastes. Bloom’s vocals are also pretty weak. Perhaps the line is a little too low for him? Or he’s trying to hard to stylize the melody? Whichever, it’s a weakness of the song for me.

111 – Debbie Denise (Agents of Fortune) – Oh Albert. Mixing your vocals with falsetto? Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse.

112 – Buck’s Boogie (On Your Feet or On Your Knees) – It’s a little sacreligious to put a Buck guitar solo this far down, but it’s really not a BOC song in style or execution, and it’s kind of like putting “Jazz Odyssey” on your Best Of disk. It works just fine live, but it doesn’t deserve to be in the top songs of the catalog. The guitar work is great, that goes without saying, but the organ playing really turns me on in this version. I find the main riff gets old pretty quickly, too.

113 – Born to Be Wild (On Your Feet of On Your Knees) – There could have been something interesting done with this song, but there wasn’t. The song actually ends at about 4:12, and the last 2 ½ minutes are just rock and roll stage posturing. Yawn.

114 – Tattoo Vampire (Agents of Fortune) – Great song. Great sound. Fantastic song to hear live. Gets the blood pumping and the toe tapping. But man, I just can’t handle the severe vibrato on the “VAMPiIiIiIiIiIiIiIiIiIRE” bits of the chorus. It completely turns me off the song. I can’t listen to it.

115 – Good to Feel Hungry (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – Pretty cool bass line using Danny Miranda’s detuned low D and the weird 5/4(?) rhythm, but the call and response type song needs a stronger voice than Bloom’s at this point. I don’t think the riff is strong enough to carry to solo part, and the solo isn’t strong enough to make up for that. The transition to the “Good to feel!” bridge at 3:05 is jarring and doesn’t fit the song at all.

116 – Stone of Love (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – Another “Buck Dharma Solo Album” song. Completely out of place on this album. May perhaps have been workable with an earlier instance of the band on an earlier album, but context puts this out of the running for me. Also, very “pop song” structured, and the main riff gets really tired by the end of an unnecessary 5:49 length. I think whoever is playing acoustic blew a chord at the beginning of the second time through the riff on the intro and they just left it or it’s a bizarre attempt at harmony (another bit you won’t be able to un-hear).

117 – Pocket (Curse of the Hidden mirror) – A cool chorus makes up for a rather bland verse, but even that is kind of spoiled by the background singers (“..in this particular second…”). Buck has written some great songs, but the ones that aren’t great end up kinda… this. Not bad per se, but not really that good either. He needs some help putting an edge and some special sauce on a song, and this one has neither. For a song called “Pocket” there is a surprising lack of groove, and the solo (3:10-3:24) is surprisingly shapeless.

118 – Live for Me (Heaven Forbid) – Another track from the album with the truly worst cover art ever. Another track that sounds so much like everything Buck has written in the last half of his career. Not a bad song, but unfortunately that most damning of descriptors applies here: “completely forgettable”.

119 – Real World (Heaven Forbid) – Is this song really on the same album as Hammer Back, See You in Black and Power Underneath Despair? Not having an album sound all the same is one thing, but really this is just getting schizophrenic. I can picture the negotiations about who gets to have a song on the album and Buck digs his heels in. Competent, but still a yawner.

120 – Make Rock Not War (Club Ninja) – Why, at any point during recording, did anyone in the band that wrote Astronomy not take a step back and think “Hmm, ‘MAKE ROCK NOT WAR! What are we fighting for? <whip crack<> ROCK NOT WAR! Nobody wins!” isn’t really up to our usual standard…”? The producer should have killed this one on the vine.

121 – One Step Ahead of the Devil (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – An interesting riff, nice integration of the organ into the chorus. The song alternates between the main riff and the chorus which is monotonic, and then back into the main riff which has kinda outstayed its welcome by the end of the song. If there had been some real attempt at their strength (changing structures for multiple parts of the song and making it all hang together) it could be a reasonable song, but as it is the song comes off like any other bland rock song by any other bland hard rock act.

122 – Out of the Darkness (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – Every time I hear the title of this song, I have think “Which one is that again?” and then I play it and go “Oh yeah! That one.” It just goes in one ear and out the other with nothing interesting to catch your brain. “Only one other” repeated multiple times over a slow beat is just too much. It’s not often you get a song that makes you bored in the space of 3 bars like that. I know I’ve praised Buck’s use of simplicity in a guitar riff in the right place, but 1:05-1:08 and 1:58-2:02 are just… sad. Like “Oh, you poor dear, is something wrong?” kind of pathetic sad. The main solo (2:48- 3:27) totally makes up for it and is emotionally, painfully beautiful and simple (one of my all time favorite solos), but it just can’t save this dragger of a song.

123 – Demon’s Kiss (Bad Channels) – I know it was a spoof movie, but I don’t think that means they can release a song that sounds like a spoof of their own music.

124 – The Horsemen Arrive (Bad Channels) – What can I really say? If you are a BOC fan and you listen to this song and wonder why it’s this far down on the list, I have nothing more to say. Exactly 6:12 worth of nothing more to say.

125 – Showtime (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – John Trivers co-wrote, and he’s responsible for the fabulous Great Sun Jester, the great After Dark, the okay Black Blade, and the truly iffy Sole Survivor. The reggae bridge was a mostly pleasant surprise.

126 – Eye of the Hurricane (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – One of the worst examples of the tendency of the latest songs to shoehorn lyrics into the rhythm, instead of writing good lyrics that cleverly fit. Lots of lyrics (by Brian Neumeister) that have one syllable stretched unnaturally over two beats, multisyllable words that have to be rushed into one beat, and just generally sounding very amateur and inexperienced. “It’s easy too-oo talkabout change, ain’t easy folwin through”. Painful.

127 – Still Burnin’ (Heaven Forbid) – Supposed to be a followup to Burnin’ For You? It might be a good song, but the double kick drum makes it a total non-starter for me. Call it a foible, but 16th note kick drums on a song that isn’t sung by a screamer just don’t fit at all. I always hit NEXT almost immediately.

128 – I Just Like to Be Bad (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – I don’t have any recordings, or awards, or songwriting credits or anything, but even I would be embarrassed to have my name attached to this turkey. Lyrics written by Brian Neumeister, whose only other credit is the almost equally abysmal Eye of the Hurricane on the same album. Maybe he had some dirt on Buck and forced him to record a song? It starts with the juvenile lyrics, but Bloom’s accent or whatever causes him to rhyme “dahck” (dock) with “boe-uss” (boss) (0:38-0:46). I have no idea why he pronounces “Boss” like that, but it’s weird and ruins the rhyme structure of the song. The rest of the song is worse. It’s just crap. Utter crap.

129 – Let Go (The Revolution by Night) – So, you ask, what might be worse than a song described as “utter crap”? Answer: A song with the bridge of “B. O. C. / You can be whatever you wanna be / You’ve got the power / You’ve got the key”. The piano is pretty cool, it has that going for it.. The solo (1:51-2:16) (“Gimme a couple, Dharma…”) isn’t bad, but it leads directly into more faux arena rock chanting the band’s name. It’s like a 90’s middle-school anti-bullying PSA or something. Eesh.

I made it. It took a long time, and it required some hard decisions, but there it is.

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