Blue Öyster Cult | Cult Classic & Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014 – CD Review

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The deal Frontiers Music Srl cut with Blue Öyster Cult, who, at press time, are recording their first studio album of new music since 2001, includes the rights to issue nine additional releases — four reissues and five live sets. Starting things off for 2020 are two titles: a remastered reissue of 1994’s Cult Classic and the live Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014.

Cult Classic comprises 14 songs, re-recorded by the 1994 lineup — founding members guitarist and vocalist Eric Bloom, guitarist and vocalist Donald’ Buck Dharma’ Roeser, keyboardist and guitarist Allen Lanier keyboardist, plus bassist Jon Rogers and drummer Chuck Burgi. These redo’s sound great, and one could argue that the sound quality is noticeably better — and not because of the remastering.

From a much more trebly “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” (even the cowbell sounds brighter) through “This Ain’t The Summer Of Lover,” with its 1950s-style chorus, and the chunky classic stomper “Godzilla” — what becomes apparent is how the harmonies are so sweetly rendered and layered. The production also has an upfront quality lacking from lots of earlier BÖC releases.

The 80s hit “Burning For You” is slowed down to the point where it loses its effectiveness, but for the most part, what one gets here are strikingly rich versions of the band’s greatest hits. We even get “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and “Godzilla” ‘TV Mixes’ instrumental and backing vocal versions to end the collection.

Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014 marks the first of five live recordings Frontiers is planning to roll out from BÖC. Recorded on October 17, 2014, at the Hard Rock Live in Northfield, Ohio, the two hours plus of music here — 17 songs across two disc — is a deep dip into the expansive repertoire of Blue Öyster Cult.

The band’s current lineup (to date) of Bloom, Roeser, guitarist and keyboardist  Richie Castellano, drummer Jules Radino, and bassist Kasim Sulton tackle the first two songs from 1973’s Tyranny and Mutation, turning in a blistering guitar assault of “O.D.’d On Life Itself” before rolling into “The Red And The Black.”

They get into “Burnin’ For You” with a pretty much dead-on read from the studio version and move on to songs from prolific past, including the spectacular guitar work-out “Buck’s Boogie,” which segues into the organ-wailing, nasty lyric of “Black Blade,” from Cultösaurus Erectus, where the band delivers a wild jam.

Other highlights follow, including “Then Came The Last Days Of May” and that unmistakable scream of Japan’s biggest import, “Godzilla.” Sulton offers a fun and funky bass solo here before Radino follows with a drum solo, making this the longest tune in this collection.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” not surprisingly, prompts the biggest crowd reactions of all. From there, it’s all about “Harvester Of Eyes,” the big ballad “I Love The Night,” the raucous “Hot Rails To Hell,” and the stop-and-go over-the-top ballsiness of “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll.”

With Cult Classic and Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014 serving as a taste of forthcoming new and live Blue Öyster Cult music, the new decade sees the band alive and well over 50 years after their formation. There’s nothing to fear but rock and roll.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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