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Monday, October 13, 2014

Blue Öyster Cult: Some Enchanted Evening


1) R. U. Ready 2 Rock; 2) E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence); 3) Astronomy; 4) Kick Out The Jams; 5) Godzilla; 6) (Don't Fear) The Reaper; 7) We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.

At the moment, I only own the original short version of this album: in 2007, it was doubled in length with the addition of a whole bunch of extra performances, which might have doubled its value, I don't know — fact is, it was the original 36-minute long platter that managed, for some odd reason, to become the band's best-selling album ever. Maybe it was just the fact that here was a chance to get ʽReaperʼ and ʽGodzillaʼ on the same record, so people just mistook it for a best-of compilation — or maybe everybody and their grandma just wanted to own a pretty picture of The Reaper sitting atop a black horse with a rather stoned expression on his face.

Anyway, even more so than On Your Feet, and even despite the short running length, Some Enchanted Evening presents the band as a fire-breathing rock monster sent from rock hell to kick everybody's ass, even though the band's tongue remains firmly in the band's cheek, as they more often send this image up rather than across. To honor their rock'n'roll legacy, they perform a couple of covers — the MC5's ʽKick Out The Jamsʼ is significantly tightened up, its primal chaos converted into a more crowd-friendly blast of focused «social anger», and ʽWe Gotta Get Out Of This Placeʼ shows that they... well, understand how to play around with the obsessed, paranoid soul of that song, even though not one singer in this band is an Eric Burdon when it comes to «winding yourself up» during the performance.

Other than the hip classics, the track list (again, culled from several different venues — don't be fooled by the reference to Atlanta, Georgia in the ad-libbed section of ʽReady To Rockʼ, because that's just one of the songs) concentrates on their recent albums, going only as far back as Secret Treaties, with an extended version of ʽAstronomyʼ that downplays the original's prettiness (re­placing pretty pianos with ugly synths), but has many more passionate distorted guitar solos in store, all in line with the «kick-ass» attitude. Even ʽThe Reaperʼ trades «clean» jangle and subtle­ty for a rougher, coarser approach, robbing the song of some of its otherworldly magic — but probably making it easier for the fans to headbang non-stop.

The funniest thing about the record, I'd say, is the intro. "ATLANTA, GEORGIA! ARE YOU READY TO ROCK'N'ROLL?" So many millions of times we've heard about this sermon, but fact is, you don't hear the "ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?" mantra on actual live albums all too often, unless you regularly listen to really stupid bands — which makes it all the more hilarious to hear it done by one of the smartest bands (at the time). The only problem is, this album rocks nowhere near as hard as On Your Feet: for all their bravado, Blue Öyster Cult have already moved well into their second, «smoother» phase, and most of the hard rock on this album is either cumbersome and lumpy (ʽGodzillaʼ — meant to be cumbersome like its protagonist, but that don't make it biting, snappy rock'n'roll, and the «Japanese» ad-libbing actually pushes it close to comedy), or closer to the power-pop idiom (ʽE.T.I.ʼ, which in this setting sounds almost exactly like something you'd hear from Cheap Trick in their Budokan era — come to think of it, this was Cheap Trick's Budokan era, and the two bands could easily learn a few expensive tricks from each other).

Which should not be taken as a criticism — it's a fun album, except that I do not particularly feel any desperate need for its existence, other than simply to document the then-current BÖC at the top of their arena-rock popularity, and that popularity has always seemed a little weird to me. In other words, it still does not convince me of the greatness of this band in its live incarnation, more like, of its ability to successfully manipulate the audience, following in the footsteps of the decade's early glam heroes like Bowie or Bolan, and in all these cases, I tend to view the live avatar of the artist as perishable, contrary to the studio avatar. Subsequently, the record does deserve a thumbs up if we're not being too serious about it, but if we are being serious about it, just stick to their studio albums. 

1 comment:

  1. This album is a sort of redeeming themselves from the accusations of "watering their wine" with the previous two albums. It has a rough sound, unlike the refined sound of 'On Your Feet...'. Anyway I like it more than the previous live offer. It marks the commercial apex of BOC career.

    The problem with Some Enchanted Evening is not being in contrast with Spectres with its rough sound, but how on earth did they wander afterwards with Mirrors. I just cannot correlate SEE with the next studio album.