The Best of BLUE OYSTER CULT CD; PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS Greatest Hits CD; MC5: The Big Bang! CD
Why is it the Raiders set makes the most art/commerce sense of the three, hmm? Could it be that the Oyster’s claim to a “best” is a specious concept because they maybe had three actual hits? (Marketplace-wise, they were a classic ’70s hockey, if not football, arena seat filler. But, how many Thin Lizzy CD comps do you see on the racks? BOC’s Epic/Columbia bosses shit out I think three crappy compiled digital dumps. Bit excessive, perhaps? Sure, they were closer to the Kiss/Queen continuum in promoter’s hearts and Pollstar’s charts, but their, ahem, legacy ain’t to those mega-levels.) I’d assume many gnarled diehards can’t really forgive much past Spectres or maybe the second live release. I should know: I’m one of the few misguided yahoos who can sing you the wacky lyrics…and I’ll hum you the guitar solos, too! The Best Of Blue Oyster Cult is their first re-mastered collection, but wacha gonna do ’bout it when you hit “…Reaper” and it’s only track 6 of a chronological 16? That leaves many early stoned stones uncovered and a lot of later mossy dreck to get through. And I like “Godzilla” (changed in my household to “Sophzilla”) and “Burnin’ For You.” For my lil’ gold dollar I’d surely prefer a re-master (with extras) of each of the first four studio albums (Blue Oyster Cult, Tyranny and Mutation, Secret Treaties, Agents of Fortune). But, I know full LP re-creation ain’t gonna happen. Mott the Hoople’s been stiffed in the U.S. and Cheap Trick had to promise an oldies tour. Most of my friends don’t believe me, but those Stalk Forrest Underbelly boys sure were a cornucopia of corrupt and malignant flat fifth riffery wrappin’ around actual songcraft. Spiced with blistering, wicked and weird Buck Dharma solo stand-outs and Lanier’s Fun House Horror Hammond and synth parade—there never was a such a noise before or since. If you don’t know, imagine a ’lude and LSD laced Allman Brothers further despoiling the LIE on their death-bound bikes. Anyway, like I said, most of that flava ain’t representin’ on this CD.
However, wouldn’t any of us think the more universally revered Motor City Five are deserving of a snazzy re-mastering on each of their three proper releases? Not that I’d kick The Big Bang outta bed. The sound is stupendous and muddafadderin’ lowd. We’re treated to the over-familiar buncha tracks from the Sky Dog single (featuring that infamous “Lookin’ At You” that’s got the soaked in ’verb world’s end, ending chord which, while very cool, ain’t as all miraculous and serendipitous as most of you probably think), Babes In Arms stuff, etc. And there’s your pocketbook’s worth of tunes from each record that just rocks like so little rock ever rocked. Dude. But, I’m just left wondering why one of the cornerstones of punk rock, among other things is deemed worthy of only a single disc of discernible post-Academia glory? The VU, not surprisingly, are available in all manner of box sets, double disc outtake -fests and unearthed nugget revelation. Iggy’s gang were treated to two unlikely events: the entire Funhouse session all wrapped up with a bow and Raw Power intentionally re-mixed in order to destroy JBLs. (OK, the Dolls have been treated with less respect. But, from the get-go they were noticeably lacking in material, luck, and certain gumption.) Golly, the MC5 were all over the Midwestern working class carbon dioxide choked fever dream of rock ’n’ roll. As willful aesthetic and desire, they hitched their mixture of post-teen bushy tailed radicalism and deep offay fanaticism born of bar band r&b and free jazz cousin kissin’ to a goddamn Show Biz Work Ethic. Filtered through a third removed and self-conscious take on the anglophilic song and sonic-haul Hall crushin of that Who/Hendrix/Cream, not to mention Stones musicological round trip, their’s was a union of sound and mind that was destined to succeed artistically and possibly otherwise. Shit, Kick Out the Jams even charted. And who of the aforementioned beautiful losers could make such a claim? Perhaps Rhino could point to the still in print early ’90s releases of Back in the USA and High Time, as satisfactory to the more demanding consumer, but at the very least they’re not as loud as their tunes on this CD. However, Elektra’s continued clutch on the ball lackin’ digital slaughter version of the debut LP is without excuse, regardless of their contribution of four tracks to The Big Bang. I must ask the question: what market is being served here? An MC5 comp of album cuts ain’t gonna be on the same Christmas list as the Eagles Greatest Hits or those recent Zeppelin money printers. Who of us ever makes music a casual purchase?
And that explains (to me, anyway) why Paul Revere and The Raiders Greatest Hits makes the utmost sense as a new CD release. It’s a smooth do-over of a classic vinyl collection that I’m sure a good deal of you owned, and perhaps continue to own. The songs are silly, shallow, and sexy. Mostly written by ringers like Mann and Weill (Kicks, Hungry), they are perfect bass/drums/guitar/organ AM fodder—indelible and irresistible. The Raiders were the quintessential LA oxymoron of a glaringly professional garage rock band relocated from the Pacific Northwest, fostered by relatively high recording budgets and Hollywood baby faced boosterism. They were bound to succeed and then wilt in the face of bluegrass and acid inflected psychedelia. Less power to ’em. The extra cuts are worthy and this little collection stuffer remains a succinct and legitimate trip to the pleasure dome. [Columbia/Legacy, Rhino]
This review originally appeared in Your Flesh #44 (2000)
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