BLUE CHEER: BLUE CHEER (1969)
1) Fool; 2) You're Gonna Need Someone; 3) Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham; 4) Saturday Freedom; 5) Ain't That The Way (Love's Supposed To Be); 6) Rock And Roll Queens; 7) Better When We Try; 8) Natural Man; 9) Lovin' You's Easy; 10) The Same Old Story.
With Paul Whaley out of the band, replaced by Norman Mayell, Peterson is now the sole original member — but nothing changes much, because Whaley's drumming on New! Improved! was already quite timid compared to Blue Cheer's original style, and this self-titled release largely continues in the vein of Side A of Improved!: ten more pieces of well-mannered blues-rock, with catchy pop choruses and guitars playing conventional melodies. At this point in time, they essentially sound like Steppenwolf, or any other such bands: the sound is «rock», but with emphasis on «light fun» rather than oddball psychedelia or scary heaviness. No questions about «uniqueness» or «unpredictability» — everything is played quite safe, even homely.
The only things that save the record from total oblivion is a limited amount of creativity and a pinch of humor. I could pretend if I wanted to, but there is no way I could really avoid the catchy impact of a song like ʽNatural Manʼ — a minor pop-rock gem in its own rights, with the bumbly grumbly bass line, the «slyly smiling» riff, and the ideally constructed vocal melody. This is as far removed from the original Blue Cheer as possible: the song belongs in jokerland territory, and the meticulousness of its execution would have aggravated the original band to no end. "You can't buy the love of a natural man" is as good a vocal hook as any, and it's a good thing that the song really doesn't try too hard to uncover the band's understanding of what a «natural man» is actually supposed to mean, in their own world. It's just a funny song.
The first and last song are fun tunes as well, both contributed by local friend Gary Lee Yoder, who would eventually join the band on a full-time basis for a while — here, he just donates them ʽFoolʼ, a ʽJumpin' Jack Flashʼ-type song with a pub rather than arena flavor (play the two tunes back to back, and no better demonstration suffices to show why the Stones ruled the world while Blue Cheer, particularly in their «timid» incarnation, were a third-rate act); and the acoustic-based ʽSame Old Storyʼ, which is likewise a variation on the classic ʽRockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Fluʼ, but with its own twist — a clownish enough ending for the album, but the band are now positioning themselves as clowns, and fortunately, they can be a bit funny.
Actually, they are better when they're adapting pinched ideas to funny matters than when they try to do it with a straight face on — the «artsy» pop song ʽBetter When We Tryʼ, unabashedly stealing part of its appeal from Blind Faith's freshly released ʽCan't Tell My Way Homeʼ, has too much hippie starry-eyedness about it and too little in the actual «beauty» department (and those baroque organ solos are fairly useless these days when you have all those Zombies records lying around, anyway). In another corner, ʽSaturday Freedomʼ tries to generate some fuzzy melodic psychedelia, with a lengthy «stoned» solo, but guitarist Bruce Stephens is neither a Randy Holden nor a Jerry Garcia, and the results are accordingly unimpressive.
Summarizing in a nutshell, Blue Cheer's major flaw is that the album has no personality — Vincebus Eruptum and even its trippier follow-up, flawed as they were, reflected a specifically «Blue Cheer» attitude towards life, but now that they actually release a record called Blue Cheer, it turns out that there's some cheer, and there's just a bit of blue, but they don't really mix. Peterson just isn't that interesting a singer when he is not playing the pitecanthropus erectus, Stephenson knows how to play the guitar but does not know how to put his own mark on it, and why listen to their cover of Delaney Bramlett and Mac Davis' ʽHello L. A., Bye-Bye Birminghamʼ when even Nancy Sinatra sings it with more intrigue?.. All that's really left is — become clowns and sing silly catchy songs about cheating women and natural men. God knows why, but that is one emploi that they are quite able to get away with on this record.
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