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Blue Öyster Cult

Workshop of the Telescopes

Review by Gary Hill

This two disc compilation covers the majority of the band`s career, and hits upon many of their styles. From time to time, the music leans to metal, prog-metal, pop and hard rock. Personnel on the album (in the various incarnations of the band) are Buck Dharma, Joe Bouchard, Albert Bouchard, Alan Lanier, Eric Bloom, Rick Downey, Tommy Price and Tommy Zvonchek.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll
BOC`s first official single, this is a very solid riff-driven rocker.
Transmaniacon MC
Described by the liner notes as an "elegy to Altamont", Transmaniacon is a hard rocking song that has an unmistakable Blue Oyster Cult melodic edge to it at times.
Before the Redcap, A Kiss
A fairly stripped down rocker featuring a quite intriguing `60`s blues rock break, this song also includes an ending that has a Who influenced tone.
Stairway to the Stars
This is another basic rock and roll tune. Lyrically, it is a rock star story. "You can have my autograph, I think I`ll sign it 'love to you'."
Buck's Boogie (Live)
A bit quirky, this instrumental jam is a fast, high-energy piece that features tasty guitar work.
Workshop of the Telescopes (Live)
The mysterious sounding introduction leads to a riff-driven, but quite melodic, song. This interesting cut contains some intriguing changes.
The Red and the Black
The Red and Black is a crunchy piece with some quirky vocal arrangements. These factors make for a strong number.
7 Screaming Diz Busters
A metallic riff drops into a melodic verse. The tune alternates between crunchy and more melodic throughout the course of the cut. Including quite a few unique changes, a couple Rushish moments, and a downright weird segment, this is a very strong tune.
Career of Evil
Based in a melodic early progressive-metal texture, this track is actually quite quirky in places, and contains quite a few musical surprises.
Flaming Telepaths
Twisted music box sounds serve as the intro to this track. The piece explodes from there for a time. As the verse ensues, the cut settles into a very nicely moody texture-based mode. This is another strong cut and features sci-fi lyrical themes. A tasty keyboard solo is include; first on synth, then piano. The guitar solo is quite meaty as well. The ending segments take on a very dramatic building momentum before an abrupt ending.
Astronomy
A pretty piano line starts off this masterpiece. In fact, the early verses are primarily piano and voice alone. Eventually, a progish instrumental break heralds the entrance of the other instruments. The song begins building slowly from here, although the complexity and intensity drop back down after a time. Seemingly, this is mainly to allow the drama of giving the song the opportunity to build again. This piece contains very strong prog leanings, and the "astronomy" chorus has a very powerful mood to it. This is arguably BOC`s finest work.
Subhuman (Live)
A fairly straight-forward rocker with a nice riff-driven segment, this features nice instrumental work.
Harvester of Eyes (Live)
Another riff-oriented number, this one is actually a bit bouncy at times. There are segments that feature almost honky-tonkish piano work.
Me 262 (Live)
Written about the first jet airplane (Messerschmidt 262, Germany, World War II), this is a fast-paced rock and roll tune, and the vocal arrangement is quite interesting. This song can actually be seen to have influenced certain early punk bands` sounds. The number is certainly not punk, but some aspects of it show up in works from that genre.
Born to Be Wild
The Cult`s version of the Steppenwolf classic, this is an intriguing cover with a much less raw approach than the original. While still maintaining the core of the song, this version shows elements of being better conceived and executed than the earlier version. If anything is lost in this remake, perhaps the energy level is a bit lower. The guitar solo certainly makes up for that, though.
Disc 2
Don't Fear The Reaper
This is one of a handful of songs that virtually everyone in the world has heard. This strong rock track is both very accessible and contains definite prog elements. The central guitar line is hauntingly beautiful. The instrumental break has a nearly hypnotic texure while displaying strong neo-classical leanings.
This Ain't The Summer of Love
A guitar drone begins this track, which has an almost galloping rhytmic texture. This is thinking man`s metal, much better arranged and containing more varied modes than typical metal.
ETI-Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Working in the realm of UFO`s, in today`s mindset, it is hard to hear this cut without thinking of the X Files. The song has not been used in that song, but should be. This is another tune that is quite well arranged and features solid metal influences in a very intelligent presentation. The cut features some keyboard work that sounds like a flying saucer at one point, general `50`s scifi film oriented in another.
Godzilla
Based on everyone`s favorite giant Japanese lizard, this is a sturdy metal track that should be familiar to nearly everyone.
Goin' Through the Motions
A keyboard intro gives way to this track, which is considerably pop oriented. Although not a standout, it is quite catchy, while still maintaining some of the Blue Oyster Cult trademarks.
Golden Age of Leather
An accapella intro begins this solid rocker. The track is a bit mundane for a time, but it eventually changes directions and the cut takes on strong prog influences. This section gives way to a very captivating mood-oriented portion.
Kick Out the Jams (Live)
This is a competent cover of the MC5 early metal number.
We Gotta Get Outta This Place (Live)
Another cover (this time of an Animals` classic), this one is a solid showing.
In Thee
"Aeroplanes make strangers of us all, give us distance much too easily." This beautiful acoustic ballad is a love song with intriguing lyrics. "I wrap myself in cities I`ve travelled, I wrap myself in dreams, I wrap myself in solitude, but I wish I could wrap myself in thee."
The Marshall Plan
Lyrically, this is a tale of a young man who is driven to become a musician by losing his girlfriend to a rock star. Throughout the course of the number, he, in fact, becomes a rock star. This piece, essentially a metallic number, even includes sounds of our hero learning to play the guitar. The chords of "Smoke on the Water" emerge from Johnny`s guitar at one point. The final result is an entertaining, creative and theatric piece.
Veteran of the Psychic Wars
The lyrics to this tune, written by science fiction author Michael Moorcock, were also used by Hawkwind (while Moorcock was performing with that band) by a different title. Veteran is a mood piece, and conveys a very strong one at that.
Burnin' For You
Containing some interesting musical textures, Burnin` For You is a solid rock song that is quite accessible. The song was a respectable hit for the band.
Dominance and Submission (Live)
A fast-paced metal tune, this version includes a nice audience sing-along.
Take Me Away
A tale of a desire to be taken away by a UFO, this track is generally a nice hard rock/metal number, but contains a rather quirky and intricate instrumental break. This is definitely a BOC classic.
Shooting Shark
Another song which has come to be a Blue Oyster Cult standard, this one features a funky bass line and a rather pleasing (and somewhat minimalistic) arrangement. This one is truly quite lovely at times, most of that loveliness being achieved with nicely layered keyboards and backing vocals.
Dancin` In the Ruins
Based on a straight-forward (and nearly trademark BOC sounding) rock format, this song contains a somewhat poppy chorus and a brief, but intriguing (and rather haunting) instrumental break.
Perfect Water
Seeming to walk a couple fine lines (between ballad and rocker, bare-bones rocker and prog), Perfect Water is a strong song, and a good way to end this compilation. Certain sections are a bit reminiscent of Rabin-era Yes.
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