Blue Öyster Cult (yes that is spelled correctly), otherwise abbreviated to BÖC, are an American hard rock band. Secret Treaties is their third studio album and was released in 1974. Interestingly, Patti Smith of all people was involved in the lyricism of this album. She was dating Allen Lanier at the time and almost joined the band herself. I am glad she did not or we may never have had Horses and Waves, both stellar albums by Ms Smith. Secret Treaties is comprised of 8 stellar golden tracks which, as the Vinyl District describes: “puts Blue Öyster Cult’s strengths to the forefront–their surprising deft touch and penchant for melody, their decidedly off-kilter sense of humor, and the virtuoso skills of both Dharma and Lanier”.
[T]he roots of the group date back to 1967 to a psychedelic group called Soft White Underbelly, which featured Albert Bouchard (drums), Allen Lanier (keyboards, guitar), Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (guitar), Andy Winters (bass), and Les Braunstein (vocals, AKA Les Vegas) and operated under the guidance of manager/producer Sandy Pearlman. Braunstein departed in 1969 and was replaced by Eric Bloom. The band changed their name to The Stalk-Forrest group shortly after. Later, Winters was fired and replaced by Albert’s younger brother, Joe. The band released their debut album in 1972.
All the members contributed to the songwriting but lyrics were often provided by people outside of the group, including Sandy Pearlman, rock scribe Richard Meltzer, poets Patti Smith (Lanier’s longtime companion) and Jim Carroll, and science fiction author Michael Moorcock, amongst others. Eric Bloom served as the band’s primary lead vocalist, but Donald Roeser sang what are arguably the band’s most famous songs, including “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, “Godzilla”, and “Burnin’ For You”. The Bouchard brothers also contributed lead vocals. Discogs
Career of Evil is considered the weakest track on the album, which is just as well as it is the first we hear and get out of the way. I thought the central repetitive riff was very nice indeed and the solo was unexpected and hit me across the face. The piano and drums, which are a common thread throughout the album, combine and play off of one another beautifully. One of the greatest parts of this album is the production value and excellent seamless transitions between tracks. This also highlights the deftness of the overall sequencing within the album, which thoroughly impressed me.
Dominance and Submission transitions seamlessly from Subhuman and provides us with a superb riff. The bridge before the final solo is excellent rock and roll. The solo itself is staggering.
But the most hilarious fact about the lyrics is that Blue Öyster Cult HAD HELP. No, not NEED HELP, you got it right the first time. And if that don’t take all, it was the fair hands of Patti Smith, “Crawdaddy” scribe Richard Meltzer and BÖC producer Sandy “Give The Clash Enough Mott” Pearlman what took part in collaborating with the Öyster boys on ‘em. In fact, there’s not a single song absent from one of the above-mentioned outsider’s input, and I suspect not only because Patti and Cult keyboardist/guitarist Alan Lanier were romantically linked at the time, but it also secretly afforded all parties involved the freedom to take even bigger chances than normal, figgering if it all blew up in everybody’s faces and it all waxed foolish for some reason there’d always be somebody else to finger for its failure. Head Heritage (Mr Julian Cope’s fabulous blog)
Let’s talk about the lyricism of ME 262, to which Copey alludes above.
Goering’s on the phone to Freiburg
Say’s Willie’s done quite a job
Hitler’s on the phone from Berlin
Say’s I’m gonna make you a star
I found myself replaying these several times and muttering “what the…?”. The track title refers to the Messerschmitt Me 262 airplane, which can be seen on the cover of the album. The energy throughout this track is top shelf. Using the sounds of bomb dropping, goose stepping and war sirens is so wonderful. Thus endeth side 1.
Side 2 opens with Cagey Cretins. This track includes a wonderful segment of keyboard reminiscent of Dave Greenfield’s electrifying play style in the Stranglers. The lyricism, guitar mastery, flow and energy of this track is reflective of the symbiotic drive seen throughout the album as a whole.
Harvester of Eyes follows from the shocking transition of the former track, and provides eery vocals, guitar work and some stellar solos. The end of the track’s bridge and slowing pace followed by a music box (?!) – totally unexpected.
The final two tracks steal the show once again. The opening aggressive piano of Flaming Telepaths, above, marks the aggression of the overall track, which is carried on throughout.
I’m after rebellion // I’ll settle for lies // Is it any wonder // My mind is on fire?
Finally, Astronomy exemplifies the high level of BÖC’s musicianship. The track is in striking in how different the tone is from the other tracks in the album. It takes its time and languishes with us. In the end, the album culminates in a staggeringly energetic final floury and closes.
Overall, my three takeaways from this album are as follows:
- This is a triumph of sequencing, every track is where it should be and flows together seamlessly
- There is an amazing and consistent drive and energy throughout the album
- BÖC exhibit a high level of competency and confidence throughout. It is clear they cannot believe they have been given the opportunity to make such music and are going to have maximum fun with them.