I’m a huge Blue Oyster Cult fan. I have been for 35+ years, ever since I found Fire of Unknown Origin in my brother’s stack of vinyl.
A band with so many albums and so varied a career lends itself to arguments about best album, worst song and so on. There’s no right answer because everyone has their favorite period or favorite singer, but it’s loads of fun to discuss.
I listed every song on a studio album, and added songs off the live albums that weren’t recorded anywhere else (Maserati GT, Born to Be Wild, Kick Out the Jams, Buck’s Boogie and We Gotta Get Out of This Place) and the two songs from the Bad Channels soundtrack (Demon’s Kiss and The Horsemen Arrive) then tried to rank them in order.
My criteria are strictly personal (“How much do I like this song?” “How likely am I to skip it if it comes up in shuffle?”) with a few other factors like “Does this represent a typical BOC sound?”, and “Are there other factors (like radio play) that should be recognized?”.
Some information on how my tastes evolved: My first BOC album was my brother’s copy of Fire of Unknown Origin, and I played it hundreds of times before hearing any other BOC. I didn’t get BOC or Tyranny and Mutation until my 4th or 5th album. That will explain how I recognize the importance of the earlier stuff, but some of it might not rank as highly as some of you other fans would place it.
I started this project December of 2017 and have worked on it on and off in binges. I sorted the songs into roughtly the correct third of the list, and then bubble sorted. A year later… here we are.
Please, comment. Argue. Abuse me for my terrible taste.
1 – Astronomy (Secret Treaties) – What else can be said? Epic song. Cryptic lyrics. Sets up the Imaginos mythos. Great build through the guitar solo to an epic sing-along ending. Classic but never gets old. I’ll listen to this on repeat forever. The Metallica cover is soulless and empty and never happened.
2 – Dominance and Submission (Secret Treaties) – Great guitar riff, soloing that gets along really well with the rhythm guitar, cool lyrics, great flow and breaks. I love this song so much that I rated it #2 even though (WARNING: HERESY ALERT!) I can’t stand Albert Bouchard’s voice. At all. It drives me crazy how much I hate it, but Dominance and Submission is such a good song that it makes up for it. The 12-beat repeat of the call and response starting at 3:12 was passed up for a regular 8 beat repeat (to make it more singable, I’d guess) in the live recordings, which is a bummer. I like the live version on Extraterrestrial Live a lot, too, but that was outside the scope of this list.
3 – The Red and The Black (Tyranny and Mutation) – Canadian Mounted, baby. This is a classic from T&M that typifies the early BOC sound for me. Bass solo at 3:02! Wooo!
4 – Hot Rails to Hell (Tyranny and Mutation)– Another song that typifies early BOC, with quirky breaks and changes, and a driving pace. Another great example of the guitars working together, and the “turning off the amp and letting it die” ending is unique and perfect for the song.
5 – Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Agents of Fortune) – Really competing with Astronomy for best epic song. Catchy but not cheesy hook, fantastic use of gang vocals and background harmonies, awesome rhythm parts backing a great set of solos, and an intriguing lyric story make this one of my favorites. By far the best song on the mostly meh Agents of Fortune.
6 – Astronomy (Imaginos) – A phenomenal retelling of the Astronomy story. I love being able to see the maturing of the band as they revisit this song. I love how some of the parts are almost note-for-note the same, and yet some parts are quite different. That this complete rework is so good shows the strength of the song itself. A little less “BOC” sounding, in my opinion, because of the funkier bass, but I prefer the squealy guitar ending to the original. I think I prefer Eric’s vocals on the original, but Buck does the song justice too.
7 – Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll (Blue Oyster Cult) – It doesn’t get much more classic 70s rock than this. Built-in arena audience call and response hook without being pandery or cheesy, great guitar sound. Bucks solos over the prechoruses (“Let that girl…”) burn like those cities, and the pumped up bluesy section (3:15-end) leading to a great classic-rock ending ending is wonderful.
8 – Vengeance (The Pact) (Fire of Unknown Origin) – I feel like this is a great song that shows off what mature BOC is about. It tells an epic tale of battle and revenge, multiple tempos and sound changes, great harmonies, keyboards used to great effect, the voice overlay over the final tempo change (“the enemy shrivel and die”). Originally for the movie Heavy Metal, but it apparently gave away too much of the plot.
9 – After Dark (Fire of Unknown Origin) – Must follow Vengeance (The Pact). After listening to the album so many times, these two songs are welded together and inseparable. A really good use of keyboards without sounding cheesy or synth-poppy. The guitar solo in this song screams, starting at 2:25 (with a very cool bass/rhythm part under it).
10 – O.D.’d On Life Itself (Tyranny and Mutation) – More of the classic early BOC sound. Great mix of classic organ backing and early gritty guitar sounds. Buck essentially solos underneath the main riff of the song whenever it’s played. The main solo (2:00-2:31) is frantic and beautiful. The repeating build to the ending (3:45-end) is brilliant.
11 – Burnin’ For You (Fire of Unknown Origin) – It’s a bit cliche now, but it’s one of their Top 40 hits, so it can’t be denied. I was fascinated by those string squeaks in the chorus as a young teen.
12 – White Flags (Club Ninja) – A really well-layered, driving, dynamic song from the sort-of uneven Club Ninja. I love the cadence of the vocals in the verses. Later Bloom vocals often got a little sketchy, but this is fire. Production is top-notch, with incredible drums, guitar work and keyboards. I’ll even forgive the non-existence of bass in the mix.
13 – I’m on the Lamb but I aIn’t No Sheep (Blue Oyster Cult) – The original version of The Red and The Black. Another place it’s cool to see the development of a song over time. A great song that shows off the instrumental and songwriting chops of the band early-on. It ranks this high because it’s a great song, but I also think it’s one of the most perfect examples of prototypical BOC.
14 – Baby Ice Dog (Tyranny and Mutation) – Another classic “Early BOC” song, showing the songwriting and musicianship that made everyone take notice. A dark song about a cold murder which is pretty awesome in itself. The absolutely understated guitar breaks from 1:19 to 1:35 show Buck’s genius. It could have been much busier and flashier, but single fading bent notes filling those empty bars are perfect for the song. Bass, drums and keys each get their solo bits too, which makes any song better.
15 – Godzilla (Spectres) – Battling with Reaper for their “most played on classic rock radio” song, any list that didn’t rank this song near the top would be suspect. A good song, not my favorite, but I have to acknowledge its crowd appeal. Some great solo work over much of the song, a great bass solo 1:57-2:15), and a cool atmospheric section near the end makes for a very “BOC” song even if it’s pretty radio friendly.
16 – Harvester of Eyes (Secret Treaties) – The bobbing and swaying of the main lick, backed up by the bouncy bass make a song that you just can’t resist tapping your foot to. More fantastic layering of lead, rhythm and bass. The on-the-edge-of-unmusical backing to the main solo (1:23 to 1:39) that turns into a great solo jam (up to 2:09) that ends with a twin guitar harmony solo line (up to 2:23) really makes the song’s theme come alive. From wild and weird to a more structured evil, to something beautiful in the weirdness, it’s just a great piece of music, capped off with the hand-cranked music box that leads directly into Flaming Telepaths.
17 – Stairway to the Stars (Blue Oyster Cult) – It’s a great, rocking song, but what really makes me love this song is the lyrics. The way they capture the nonchalance of fame ( “You can drive my motorcar, It’s insured to thirty thou […] kill them all, if you wish”) makes me laugh every time. The song is carried by a fantastic bass line under a mostly monotone guitar line.
18 – Take Me Away (The Revolution By Night) – Probably the best song on the 80’s mishmash that was The Revolution By Night. Mostly benign, but rescued by a great atmospheric bridge with bass, drums and keys at 2:11, sliding into an absolutely blistering guitar solo at 2:42. The ending of the solo, with bass and solo guitar doubling each other from 3:16 to 3:35 is fantastic, and the guitar breaks in that feature some of my favorite BOC guitar sounds.
19 – The Great Sun Jester (Mirrors) – Another great epic tale from BOC. Lyrics hint at a huge story that makes the song seem larger than it is. The story that’s told, and the various parts (from the strings-and-acoustic opening, through the keyboard rock first verse, through the contemplative second verse and into the rock bridge/solo) make this seem like a 6 or 7 minute epic, despite only clocking in at 4:51. “The dancer’s stiff with pain, they’ve made him kneel too long, the madness they have driven out, they’ve left him cold and sane” is one of the saddest lyrics in the catalog.
20 – Veteran of the Psychic Wars (Fire of Unknown Origin) – The song that replaced Vengeance (The Pact) in the movie Heavy Metal. The drums-and-synth arrangement shouldn’t sound like BOC, but it strangely does. Buck playing along with himself using an echo pedal (2:35 through 3:10) is the perfect tone for the song, and is beautiful and eerie at the same time.
21 – Fire of Unknown Origin (Fire of Unknown Origin) – A more traditionally mainstream sounding song, with a more typical structure, and more prominent keyboards. I’m not sure exactly why, but this is one of my favorite Bloom vocals. Nothing really remarkable here, just a solid track.
22 – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Agents of Fortune) – It may seem like another heretical opinion to put this song this far down (and below Fire of Unknown Origin) but to be perfectly honest I don’t really like it that much. It feels massively overproduced to me, far too shiny and prepackaged. The guitar riff is unmistakably Buck, but to me the guitar sound isn’t unmistakably BOC. The redeeming grace is the incredible eastern-influenced guitar solo. The guiro (ridged latin percussion instrument) shows up in the verses, and again in Dr Music on Mirrors. The continuation of the feedback from the last note of the solo (3:22) throughout the first lines of the last verse (ends at 3:49) is a great unique touch that blows me away every time.
23 – 7 Screaming Diz-Busters (Tyranny and Mutation) – This song shows off the great BOC musicianship of the early years. Basically a 7 minute guitar, bass, and organ jam with some vocals for structure, it’s the boys at their finest. It would have been incredible to see this performed live if the version from On Your Feet or On Your Knees is anything to go by.
24 – ME 262 (Secret Treaties) – What starts off sounding like a basic 12 bar rock song moves into so much more. The lyrics tell a cool story, capturing a moment in time during a hectic period, and the driving guitars mimic the adrenaline and panic of a dogfight. “Junkers Jumo 004” is the engine that was mounted on the Me 262, an odd bit of trivia to make into the most prominent line of the song. 100% great production on this song with the sound bites of marching feet and air raid sirens over the bridge, even if the verses are a bit muddled and flat (hard to get that driving guitar to pop in the mix but not dominate everything). They are still playing this song live because it will get you on your feet every time.
25 – The Vigil (Mirrors) – Lots of people really dislike Mirrors, but I think this song is one of BOC’s best. A mixture of keyboard pop and rock guitar riffs, with thick harmony vocals layered over top, I think it walks the line between old and new quite well. The break into the remarkable repeating riff in the bridge (after the lyric “The earth has fallen…” at 3:51) moves into a great solo section, with the tubular bell chimes and the “Come To Us” chant to make it perfect. Another great song to see live.
26 – Perfect Water (Club Ninja) – I think this song is a great example of what BOC became in the later years. Buck’s influence is clearly evident in production and songwriting, but it’s still obviously a BOC song. Definitely not the proto-metal of the early years, but great songwriting and a great solo (especially the section from 4:58-5:13) make this one of the best songs on the album.
27 – Flaming Telepaths (Secret Treaties) – Incredible lyrics, backed by an instrumental track that’s not very lick-heavy and makes great use of the piano. The synth solo (2:20 – 2:30) always struck me as out of place (I’d rather the entire keyboard/piano solo was on the piano). A great emotional solo by Buck, showing the roots of the Reaper solo (especially 3:09 -3:30). Awesome solo through the ending, and the final abrupt “And the joke’s…” is brilliant.
28 – In Thee (Mirrors) – Sets the standard for “softer” BOC songs. Not quite a ballad, but the acoustic guitars, and the country twang of the electric makes for a change that certainly isn’t “Proto-metal” but is definitely Buck Dharma. I love the drum change from the first verse into the pre-chorus at exactly 1:00. A capella (but for strings) at the beginning of the last verse (2:32) is beautiful. They aren’t exactly the same but for some reason the very end always invokes the ending of Beth by Kiss.
29 – Cagey Cretins (Secret Treaties) – Great example of a super drum sound in the intro. I still can’t stand Albert’s voice. This song would be higher in my ratings if he wasn’t singing that section. I love the structure of this song; the various parts are so different yet fit together beautifully. The driving rhythm and guitars and keys just make this song really hop along. Love the subtly mixed organ underneath the whole thing that’s just screaming (see 2:51 to 2:59). Love it enough to forgive the falsetto…
30 – Golden Age Of Leather (Spectres) – The highest-rated non-Godzilla song off of Spectres. I love these big storytelling songs. So much worldbuilding and implied detail, and the changing layers and musical parts make for a massive song. “The wanted child, too dead to care…” always gets me. So many “sing loudly along with the radio” moments in this song. Some parts that I love: the bass arpeggios under 0:50-1:00, the lyric “No cloth but leather made supple by years of stinging cinders”, the call/response format of 2:32 – 3:10, the callout to The Red and The Black in describing the armbands, the Beach Boys section from 3:31 – 4:05 that feels like a slow motion “bullet time” movie shot of the brawl, the way the rhythm of “And the glint of a solitary shaft of chromium steel” feels, and the way the ending moves into a respectful almost churchlike reverence. So amazing.
31 – Before the Kiss, A Redcap (Blue Oyster Cult) – The guitar line following the melody is uncommon but works really well. Solos throughout are brilliant. Bass solo at 1:39 is kind of uninspired, but I’ll take any bass solo I can get. I love the change to jazz chords at 1:48 for the middle section. There’s also a weird clap/snap sound that’s used during the breaks in the middle section (2:17-2:30) that I wait for whenever the song comes on. “Thrills become as cheap as gas, and gas as cheap as thrills” is either the stupidest lyric ever or the smartest, and I haven’t been able to figure out which. The ending solo parts (while they are quite good), I find don’t fit the rest of the song, especially the very ending.
32 – Mistress of the Salmon Salt (Quicklime Girl) (Tyranny and Mutation) – It actually took me quite a while to warm up to this song. Wasn’t a fan for the first few years that I owned the album, but now it’s one that I find myself singing at weird moments. While not terribly flashy or hook-driven, it just screams 70s rock from start to finish. The odd chord progression and organ solo just cement that feeling. At 5:07 long it outstays its welcome by about a minute, I think.
33 – Teen Archer (Tyranny and Mutation) – As a whole, this song is quite good, but I think it rates this highly based on many great moments in the song rather than the greatness of the whole. The instant transition from the draggy chords of the opening to the snappy sounds of the first verse (0:18) , even though the tempo stays exactly the same, is one of my favorite musical moments in a BOC song. Screaming organ solo from 2:10 through 2:44 (changing organ sounds halfway through) and a short drum solo (2:53) rock the center portion. The slowly ascending variations on the main lick in the ending (3:46 onwards) never fail to make me grin.
34 – Harvest Moon (Heaven Forbid) – Very “Buck Dharma” sounding, but one of his better attempts in recent years. Nice vocal harmonies, a pleasant melody, and even though it’s mostly softer sounding, the bridge/solo section picks up the pace and just screams. There are moments all through the song that grab me as “Oh! That’s totally a BOC sound”. Lots of playing with rhythms and rhythm section/rhythm guitar interplay as well. There are other songs worth listening to on Heaven Forbid, but this one is head and shoulders above those.
35 – The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria. (Imaginos) – A massive, sprawling song, it’s the only one on this list sung by someone not usually associated with BOC, Joe Cerisano, though the usual suspects are recognizable in the background vocals. The “World Without End” vocals and huge production (large soundstage, reverb, many layers of instruments like organ, pipes and piano, a drumkit that sounds like it’s being played in a cathedral) make it sound so mighty and powerful and epic. Much of Imaginos comes across as kind-of contrived or try-hard, this song comes across to me as authentic. It feels like this is what producers Perlman, Bouchard and Levitin wanted for the whole album, though they managed it with only varying levels of success on the other songs.
36 – Wings Wetted Down (Tyranny and Mutation) – This is another song that grew on me after repeated hearings. The chord choices and main riff make the whole song sound very unsettling. An uncommon phaser/chorus on the guitar solo (2:17-3:04) adds even more this strange sounding progression that still manages to find moments that are unmistakably BOC. I love it when experiments let them push in different directions but still end up sounding so definitely like them. For some reason I just love how it all comes together at 1:03-1:15 with “The end….”. So many other great musical moments of bass, twin guitars and drums spread throughout this song.
37 – SubHuman (Tyranny and Mutation) – This is the song that was remade as “Blue Oyster Cult” on the Imaginos album. It shows how long the entire “Imaginos” concept was kicking around Pearlman and Bouchard’s heads. I prefer this version as it’s a bit more coherent. It would rank higher but I think the solo section is a bit bland. Definitely nothing really groundbreaking, but solid early BOC.
38 – R U Ready 2 Rock (Spectres) – Intro and main riff rescue this one and pull it up a bit in the rankings. The chorus always strikes me as a bit cutesy, which is typical of the Spectres sound. The repeating “I only live to be born again” bridge and the double time ending (3:05-end) are the high points for me, but the song itself it pretty repetitive (also typical of many songs on Spectres).
39 – I Am The Storm (Mirrors) – In a slight reversal of the usual, the strength of the the intro and power chords behind the first verse belie the slightly poppier keyboardy chorus. Love the piano at 2:38 and the bass part in the second half of the verses (0:43 – 57). The solo (2:49 onwards) is mixed so low that it becomes harder to tell where guitar ends and keyboard begins, especially on the lower strings. Personally I think that given the topic of the song, this would have been a great time to have a real barn-burner of a loud wild solo, but that’s just me. 🙂
40 – Divine Wind (Cultosaurus Erectus) – My highest ranked song from the post-Mirrors “Okay, let’s show them we can still rock!” Cultosaurus album, which ended up being mostly successful if a little forced. It’s funny, because other than perhaps Deadline, it’s the least “rockin’” song on the album. I couldn’t tell you why, but the droning, repetitive riff and shuffling beat just really speak to me. The solo doesn’t really stand out, in fact the outro solo (4:11 onward) is far better than the main solo in my opinion. At 5:10 long, with very little in terms of a bridge or changeup, there’s no way this song should be so darned good. But it is.
41 – In The Presence of Another World (Imaginos) – Another huge six and a half minute work from the Imaginos album, with some great late-BOC sounds and vocals from Bloom. The solo (2:16 – 2:48) is manic, cliche and largely forgettable. The last two and a half minutes (the “Your master…” part) goes on far too long, and the lyrics are pseudo-spiritual nonsense. All of that being said, I really like this song. As a whole, it is far better than the sum of its parts. The light arpeggio in the intro and bridge is spooky and haunting, the massive gang vocals lend a “otherworldly choir” type feel, and the huge reverb makes the scope of the song sound even larger. Not a swing and a miss for an epic song, more like maybe like a double that was stretched into a triple due to a fielding error: not exactly what you wanted, but you’ll take it.
42 – Joan Crawford (Fire of Unknown Origin) – The piano arpeggios that start the song lull you into a false sense of security and calm, and then POW the song hits you with the guitars. I love the piano, especially underneath the chorus. The sound FX recordings in the middle completely elevate this song to a new level, ending on the fire alarm: unexpected, fun and oddly fits the song perfectly. The flanged ghostly “Christina…” part is laid on a little thick, but Bloom’s “No, no, no” segues it back into the song well. Fun, creepy, and toe-tapping. Love the doubled guitar and bass at 4:21-4:25, and the transition into Don’t Turn Your Back is one of the reasons I wish Spotify had a “link two songs so they always play back-to-back” feature.
43 – Transmaniacon MC (Blue Oyster Cult) – The opening guitar riff, replete with organ keyboard slides, moves quickly into a song that shows off jazz and blues roots. Not Bloom’s best vocals, but not a strong melody for him to really grab on to. Riffs like 1:35-1:55 show off what we could expect from Buck at his peak. Overall, this seems to me more like a sketch of a good song than a completed production. Too many things hinted at and begun, and then left for something else. I wish they had taken some of the ideas in this song and either developed them into a longer song, or split them into two separate songs so we could see them developed more.
44 – Veins (The Revolution by Night) – More heavily keyboard influenced rock from the uneven Revolution album. The guitar parts are heavy and wonderful, but they way they blend with the 80s keys make the song unsure of what it really wants to be. The lyrics are much more direct than much of the often cryptic catalog, but that describes most of this album. I think the raunchy guitar moves this one up higher than the song itself deserves, but I loves me some 80s metal squeals.
45 – Don’t Turn Your Back (Fire of Unknown Origin) – Staccato guitars and long keyboard pads are carried by a funky bass line. Vocals on most of the song are doubled nicely, and harmonies are wonderful, especially on the last lines before the choruses (“your turn to go”, “and spoil the show”, “don’t say no”). A good solo by Buck (1:54-2:27, with a nice clean sound. I love the anticipation built by the keys, bass and drums 2:50-2:59.
46 – Redeemed (Blue Oyster Cult) – I always think of this one as a Grateful Dead song that accidentally got sent to the wrong brains. Written by a roadie named Harry Farcus, so the influences might be from that direction, who knows? The twangy guitars and high harmony are a little out-of-place in later BOC, but it points to where they came from with SFG. If I ever get another dog I want to name him Sir Rastus Bear.
47 – Shooting Shark (The Revolution By Night) – If you look at all the elements, this should be the least BOC song ever: slap bass by American Idol Judge Randy Jackson, strings and ooohh keyboard pads, saxophone solo. But for some reason it works. It’s a well written song, Bucks smooth vocals are a great fit, and the understated solo (4:06-4:25, continuing behind the next verse) is thematically perfect. Clocking in a a whopping 7:10, it’s the 3rd longest non-live song in the catalog, but it never wears out its welcome.
48 – Then Came the Last Days of May (Blue Oyster Cult) – Early warning that there were some incredible storytelling epic songs coming from BOC. A lot of narrative and a solo really packed into only 3:30. I’m afraid I never really got the crazy love a lot of people have for this song. Live it becomes a lot more of a solo jam vehicle, which is awesome, but this short version doesn’t have any of the hallmark musical signatures of the great BOC storytellers like Astronomy, Vengeance, Great Sun Jester, or Golden Age of Leather.
49 – I Love the Night (Spectres) – A mellow song with a great story and interesting arpeggio main riff that is played in all sorts of variations throughout the song. It never fails to get me signing along with the harmonies on the chorus “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii love the niiiiight.”
50 – She’s As Beautiful As A Foot (Blue Oyster Cult) – The cool middle-eastern sounding main riff, and the oddly atonal melody show the experimental side of the band. Seeing all of the songs on this album makes me long to have been a fly on the wall in some early jam and songwriting sessions. The drums sound like brown paper on cardboard boxes, but it actually kinda fits the song.
51 – Screams (Blue Oyster Cult) – From the lone snare hit that starts the song, to the incredible transition into the main riff at 0:29, to the chorus effect on the vocal, to the escalation of the guitar sound from clean to overdriven, to the final drum solo, it’s a solid song. Strangely, I think the guitar solo (1:11-1:31) is the weakest part of the song. It doesn’t capture the feeling or the musical sound of the song at all.
52 – Cold Grey Light of Dawn (Heaven Forbid) – I like the migration to more of a “hard rock” sound that happened with the later couple of albums, and this is a good example. The way Bloom’s vocals descend while the backing singers ascend over the same lyrics in the chorus is a great effect. Buck’s solo (2:03-2:45) is dynamic and fits the song perfectly. A great example that the guys can still make the magic happen.
53 – See You In Black (Heaven Forbid) – I really enjoy how BOC is playing with time signatures in their later music, something they rarely did in earlier albums. I wonder if it has to do with Chuck Burgi, who drummed on all the complex rhythmic songs on this album? The staccato chugging main riff and the 15/8 beat really drive this song, always making it feel rushed and faster than it actually is. This song always gets turned up loud! Rated lower than Cold Grey Light of Dawn simply because the lyrics aren’t as clever.
54 – Magna of Illusion (Imaginos) – It’s so hard to place some of these songs. Comparing a 6 minute chunk of the Imaginos mythos like this to a 3 minute rock song is nearly impossible. Suffice it to say that this is a great piece of the Imaginos puzzle, and any song that can make the repeated lyric “Stories on land, storms at sea, between 1892 and ’93” work so well, and also incorporate a spoken narrative storytelling section is worth listening to.
55 – Fallen Angel (Cultosaurus Erectus) – More great rock and roll from the trying-hard-to-be-more-mainstream-rock Cultosaurus album. Joe Bouchard’s vocals are a great fit, and though the song swerves out of its lane towards keyboard pop in a more than a few places, it’s a great addition to the catalog.
56 – Imaginos (Imaginos) – The gang background vocals and funky bass really elevate this song beyond the normal, and Jon Rogers vocals lend a new sound that keeps it fresh and interesting, though I think it could have ended at 4:40 and not lost anything. The last minute is a bit of a ramble.
57 – Spy In The House of The Night (Club Ninja) – I love all the details and pieces and parts that come together in this song. Every second there are a dozen different bits of vocal layers, guitar riffs, multiple keyboards and other sounds. Production is razor sharp and clean. I love Tommy Zvonchek’s organ soloing in the background (example at 1:37-1:38) as it peeks through in little gaps here and there.
58 – Career of Evil (Secret Treaties) – A classic BOC riff. The doubled vocals are really effective and make a great creepy sort of sound. It’s not even a problem that the lyrics are total nonsense when they’re executed this well. I love the syncopated drum and vocal breaks (1:52-1-55) that add so much dynamics to a song that could have ended up plodding given the main riff. I don’t like this song as much as some, I think, mostly because I think it could have been much more. I think it just seems too simplistic for the album that also includes Astronomy, Flaming Telepaths, Dominance and Submission and ME262. For better or for worse, I think this song is looking backwards to their earlier work rather than forwards like much of the rest of the album.
59 – Death Valley Nights (Spectres) – Another great song that is this far down simply because it was sung by Albert Bouchard. The rhythm of the chords in the chorus is fantastic counterpoint to the simple verses. Powerful lyrics, great build in intensity, great backup vocals, great use of the piano. The solo break (2:27-2:40) is a little out of place thematically which also drops it a bit. The vocal holding “Baaaaaaaaaabe” over the ending couple of minutes is fantastic. It reminds me of the guitar holding the feedback note over the last verse in Don’t Fear the Reaper.
60 – Blue Oyster Cult (Imaginos) – A remake/reimagining/proper envisioning of Subhuman from Secret Treaties. Second longest song in the catalog. It gets a ranking this high in recognition of the capable execution of the long-planned Imaginos concept. It captures a huge scope with massive background vocals, keys, piano, guitars, chorus effects and good production. Fading out at 5:50 might have been a good ending. The solo that starts afterwards is kind of uninspired, and the repetition of “We understand, The Blue Oyster Cult” and the long sparkly keyboard fadeout don’t really add much to the song except length.
61 – Dancin’ In The Ruins (Club Ninja) – Places this low because I think it feels like the main song on a Buck Dharma solo project more than a BOC song. I enjoy this song a lot, but it just doesn’t feel like BOC at all to me. It also loses a few points for the dated space laser keyboards in the bridge (2:06-2:19). Love the deep echo solo (2:19-2:34). The verse 2:35-3:00 is the bit that sounds the most BOC, but then it launches back into Buck’s more pop sound.
62 – Here Comes That Feeling (Curse of the Hidden Mirror) – One of the few tolerable songs on COTHM, but still kind of generic rock. The great riff underneath the chorus prevents it from being completely forgettable. Bass, drums and both guitars are doing great things that come together into a great piece of music for that chorus, but then the verses happen again and the whole song just kind of idles along waiting for the next chorus.
63 – I Am The One You Warned Me Of (Imaginos) – Another piece of attempted epicness from Imaginos that is only mostly successful. The main riff feels like it’s dragging and slow at times, but like the last song, the chorus is what saves it. Lots of interesting individual parts, but they never really coalesce into a whole song that works.
64 – Damaged (Heaven Forbid) – I have no idea why this song starts with a propeller plane flyby, but it’s awesome when it’s turned up. The intro vocal over a single guitar riff is fantastic, and the song then leaps into action and never stops. The organ riffs are a perfect cherry on the top to a great guitar blues/funk song. The guitar solo (2:19-2-38) starts off as nothing to write home about, but the second half is a barnburner. However, it is completely eclipsed by the short but incredible organ solo (2:58-3:05). I have a few problems with the production of this song. For example, in the part starting at 3:11, there is a timbale or some other tight drum doing double shots every couple of bars that is way too high in the mix, completely spoiling it to the point that that drum is all I can hear. The song is a departure for BOC (another reason it’s a bit lower than it might be) and I would have loved to have heard more from the BOC that kept going down this road.
65 – Dragon Lady (The Revolution By Night) – So much cool guitar. I love: the descending guitar riff (more so because of the great guitar sound it’s played with), the tiny solo riffs between lines, the great rip-your-face-off pre-solos (1:14-1:23, 1:45-1:52), the bass octaves at 2:30-2-35. The main solo (2:57-3:18) is actually not as good as the rest of the licks in the song, and it is over the most horribly boring backing section ever. That’s actually my main quibble with this song: the drums and (especially) bass are the most bog-standard boring lines. For such a wild lead guitar part, the song is really let down by the rest of the band. 3:36 until the end is my absolute favorite guitar sound/lick combination in the catalog, with the perfect mix of crunch power and arpeggiated Buckness.
66 – The Revenge of Vera Gemini (Agents of Fortune) – Another Albert lead vocal, and a very rare singular female backing vocal. A nice mix of guitar, keys and bass for an interesting sound. The solo (2:10-2:25) is mostly forgettable. I feel like that I’ve heard everything this song has to offer by 1 minute in, and the rest is just “repeat the same way without dynamics”. That first minute is quite good, but the song doesn’t go anywhere after that.
67 – Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver (Fire of Unknown Origin) – Very cool intro and outtro squealing feedback guitar parts. Bloom is really on his game with vocals here. I like the bridge (1:45-2:23) and the call-and-response format that changes up the main rhythm and brings in the background singers. It also includes another instance of lyrics involving “World Without End” from the Imaginos mythos (see The Siege and Investiture of Baron Von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria.). As cool as it is, and with all the great guitar sounds, I think it’s ironic that a song called “Heavy Metal” doesn’t have a solo.
68 – Black Blade (Cultosaurus Erectus) – Written with the assistance of Michael Moorcock himself about the sword wielded by Elric of Melnibone. So much fantasy geek goodness in one song. I love the escalation of mellow chorused voice over picked strings on the verses into the explosion of the chorus. The echoing “grow, grow!” part is more cheesiness that’s hard not to love. A solo (1:51-2:19) interspersed with odd ascend/descending breaks is followed by a spookily awesome bass solo (2:27-2:51) and then more guitar/keys over whistling winds and creepy sound effects. The last verse captures the power and helplessness that Elric feels, and swells to a conclusion…. except for the bouncy rocking ending coda where the sword gets a rebuttal. It could be laughably cheesy if Spinal Tap had done it, but it just kind of fits in with the Cultosaurus album.
69 – Goin’ Through the Motions (Spectres) – It starts strong. Bloom’s vocals are clear and strong, the keys on top of the descending bass work well. The slow bridge (“To thee I dedicate this phonograph”) is a nice changeup. It comes in at a microscopic 3:12 (of the 10 shortest songs in the catalog) even with a gratuitous key change at 2:36 to get a few more repetitions of the chorus in, and then a really long fadeout to pad the song. I just wish they had avoided the hand claps during the chorus. It completely cheapens the sound of the song to me.
70 – Madness to the Method (Club Ninja) – The longest non-live song in the catalog at 7:27. The solo (3:39-4:24) is quite low in the mix and and seems a little disjointed, like there were lots of things he wanted to say, and he decided to put them all in rather than developing one or two. It’s an interesting lyric, but the chorus is so long (and repetitive) that “verse-chorus x3” leaves little room for anything else in the song. There seems to be a natural ending at about 5:24, but the piano kicks in and we get another two minutes of filler.
71 – Mirrors (Mirrors) – I love the crunchy guitar with the solo doubling the whole thing all the way through the song. Some cool lyrics (“A negative space with a frame”), and a great solo (1:25-1:50) that fits the song perfectly, and adapts to the changing backing chords beautifully. The thing that breaks this song for me is vocals. The background singers (“Pretty girls can’t look away”) drive me crazy. I hate them so much. Buck sings well on the song, I think his voice fits perfectly, but the final note is strained and painful (3:08-3:13).
72 – Hungry Boys (Cultosaurus Erectus) – A departure in vocal sounds, Albert sings this one doubled by a number of other voices and effects. This is actually one of my favorite vocal part from Albert as it’s one of his least warbly-voiced. The first solo (1:42-2:16) is fantastic. The second (3:02-end) is a little less inspired. Another of the mid-catalog songs that just seem a little underdeveloped, or perhaps properly developed and just a little boring.
73 – Lips in the Hills (Cultosaurus Erectus) – An interesting riff and structure to the verse and chorus, but that’s all there is, over and over. To me, Eric sounds like he’s trying too hard make the lyrics seem deeper and more mystical than they really are. Solo (2:22-2:51) is quite good, but it doesn’t elevate the rest of the song beyond “capable rock song”, like much of the material on Cultosaurus.
74 – Kick Out The Jams (Some Enchanted Evening) – A cover of a song by their friends in MC5 (their friend and collaborator Patti Smith married MC5’s Fred Smith). This song would be waaaay higher up the list if it wasn’t a cover. It absolutely rocks, Blooms vocals are totally on point, keys, guitars, bass, drums all come together to a frenzy that is rarely matched.
75 – X-Ray Eyes (Heaven Forbid) – This song is a nice mixture of more classic BOC sounds and the rhythmically experimental Heaven Forbid Album. Much of this song could have been a track off of a late-70s BOC album. The bridge (1:54-2:20) is the part where it falls down and really loses the feel. The ending feels more like the updated sound from the rest of the album.