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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blue Cheer: The Original Human Being

BLUE CHEER: THE ORIGINAL HUMAN BEING (1970)

1) Good Times Are So Hard To Find; 2) Love Of A Woman; 3) Make Me Laugh; 4) Pilot; 5) Babaji (Twilight Raga); 6) Preacher; 7) Black Sun; 8) Tears In My Bed; 9) Man On The Run; 10) Sandwich; 11) Rest At Ease.

It seems reasonable to suggest that Gary Lee Yoder, officially replacing Bruce Stephens as Blue Cheer's resident guitar player, was a better proposition for this band altogether than his predeces­sor. Not only did he contribute Blue Cheer's funniest song, but somehow, his permanent pre­sence put the band back on track, so that their fifth album is an acceptable compromise between the chaotic wildness of old, the established hard rock standards of the day, and a little bit of chart-oriented pop sensibility in between (The Original Human Being even got the band back into the lower ranges of the album charts for a brief while).

There is nothing particularly great or awesome here, but the very attempt to stir up some creative juices is admirable. All of the members are involved in the songwriting process now, even the drummer, with Peterson and Yoder veering towards heavy blues, piano guy Burns Kellogg drif­ting towards roots-rock, and the drummer actually contributing the weirdest number of all — ʽBa­baji (Twilight Raga)ʼ, which is, so far, the only instrumental composition I know whose central point is a duet between sitar and Moog synthesizer: an unlikely combination in general, let alone on a Blue Cheer album! The most amazing thing about it is that it actually works, a pretty, cloudy piece of simplistic, but effective lite-psychedelia.

Genrist exercises are, in fact, the talk of the day. We have some shiny, uplifting, brass-loaded, and catchy jazz-pop (ʽLove Of A Womanʼ); a rough, partially out-of-tune, but sincere-sounding country waltz (ʽTears In My Bedʼ); a sleazy, snappy, and quite exciting white-funk jam that sug­gests somebody in the camp must have been wooed over by The James Gang (ʽSandwichʼ); and a sentimental, idealistic, bombastic, gospel-influenced coda (ʽRest At Easeʼ) that — dare I say it? — sounds suspiciously similar to Dylan's ʽKnockin' On Heaven's Doorʼ, which would only come three years later. Okay, coincidence. The important thing is: Blue Cheer, the local cavemen of San Francisco, are telling you to "rest at ease today" and "be redeemed today", because "all my love is on the way" and "my heart is open to you, slow down, we can make it". Actually, it seems that those lyrics are mostly improvised, consisting of «soul clichés» hastily scrapped together, but there is something haunting to that piano / organ / French horn mix. The beast done got soul, and it ain't always cringeworthy or laughable to look at.

On the other hand, The Original Human Being also succeeds in getting back some of the wild vibe — mainly on dark blues-rock numbers such as ʽGood Times Are Hard To Findʼ (indeed) and ʽPreacherʼ; more generic 12-bar stuff like ʽPilotʼ or ʽMan Of The Sunʼ also recovers some extra grit-and-gravel that was missing on the last two records, although these are probably the most expendable numbers of the lot. Everything is still quite polished when compared to the original chaos (short, jam-less, structured), but «nasty» guitar tones, «evil» vocalizing, distortion and fuzz are all present — the songs are fun to listen to, and warrant a thumbs up. Altogether, the album is more than the sum of its parts: diversity, and this curious struggle for survival in an increasing­ly competitive context, make it a small chapter worth reading in the musical history of 1970.

7 comments:

  1. Have you noticed the opening "Good Times" sounds sort of like the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm a Man"? At least, the organ blasts are similar.

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    1. Regardless of any superficial similarities, I'd say the "Good Times" are long departed by this point.

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  2. Merry Christmas, George!

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  3. hi George, first of all, let me thank you, for your blog and for your music reviews, because these reviews taught me to love and respect rock music. Though i was not always agree with you, it was great experience for me. it was like ` Настолная книга` for me, I red your opinion and then i was listening to music and it continued almost 4 years. now they are gone. i cant access the old site. Im new here, making my first post and maybe my question looks very strange, but anyway, please tell me how can I get to your older posts. This is very important to me.

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    1. Seems like it's down all right, who'd have thought? The Wayback Machine has it archived, though, so it'll never be truly gone. :)

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    2. You can't get to my older posts because the server has crashed. It should be up again in a couple of days.

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  4. thank you George, thank you very much

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