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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Blue Cheer: Live & Unreleased '68-'74

BLUE CHEER: LIVE & UNRELEASED '68-'74 (1968-1974; 1996)

1) Summertime Blues; 2) Out Of Focus; 3) Doctor Please; 4) Fighting Star; 5) Adventures; 6) Make It To The Party; 7) New Orleans; 8) Ace In The Hole; 9) Punk.

Naysayers may say their nays in their gayly ways, but Blue Cheer are still sort of a «legend», and every «legend» presumably deserves a set of archive releases, and any set of archive releases is worth at least a brief mention and a sample, and I assume that Live & Unreleased '68-'74 is as good a sample as any to try and convince the audience that nobody really needs to hear, own, or seriously discuss Blue Cheer archive releases. But sure, they deserve all the archive releases they can get, if somebody is willing to invest.

This package, released quite a while ago, is bluecheerfully messy in that it combines two abso­lutely different things — three live performances of Vincebus Eruptum material by the original Blue Cheer, and then a set of six studio tracks that were recorded, but left in the can by a short-lived version of the band in 1974, which included Ruben de Fuentes on guitar and Terry Rae on drums. Apparently they just happened to find themselves in a studio one day without a record contract, and twenty-two years later, we were informed.

The live tracks (first two taken from the Steve Allen TV show, third one God knows from where) are played very close to the studio arrangements, although ʽDoctor Pleaseʼ is further extended by two more minutes of noise, chaos, and feedback: dynamic and spirited, but adding nothing to the studio experience, while the sound quality is totally abysmal. Best thing about the whole deal is Steve Allen announcing, "the Blue Cheer... run for your life!" at the end of the first track — a com­mentary that says it all, whether you want to take it seriously or sarcastically.

Surprisingly, sound quality does not get any better on the studio material from 1974, suggesting that the tapes had spent those twenty-two years in somebody's damp basement, or maybe Dickie was using them as wrap-ups for his personal stash. The material does, however, fill in an im­portant know­ledge gap: as you remember, Oh! Pleasant Hope ended the band's early career on an unusual «roots-rock» note, while The Beast Is... Back reinvented them more than a decade later as a heavy metal outfit — this particular pit stop shows that already by 1974 Peterson had completely cleared his head from all that «folksy» nonsense, returning to a heavy, pub-rock ori­ented sound that recalls Slade or early Rocka Rolla-era Judas Priest. From here, it would only be a matter of adding an extra layer of distortion and glossy pop metal production to get to the even­tual sound of The Beast.

However, the songs themselves are uniformly dull — uninventive blues-rock with just enough competence to make it listenable, but nothing to make it stand out from all the competition. The cover of ʽNew Orleansʼ does not work at all, because combining the song's original party cheer­fulness with an aggressive hard rock sound makes as much sense as trying to put salt in your chocolate — and it is still more memorable than all the other tunes put together, although, gran­ted, the impression may be exacerbated simply because of the dreadful bootleg-quality murk of the sonic flow. At any rate, it is hardly the fault of Ruben de Fuentes, who seems to honestly try to get the best out of his typically mid-1970s hard rock guitar. But whatever be the situation, Live & Unreleased is clearly recommendable only for the staunchest fan of the band; for everybody else, it is as good a thumbs down as any.

1 comment:

  1. "[it] makes as much sense as trying to put salt in your chocolate"
    Actually, sea salt and dark chocolate go surprisingly well together.