The Columbia Albums Collection - Blue Oyster Cult (Sony)
If you're going to do a box set, do it properly. And so they have with this 17 album/one DVD set by the original sci-fi schlock cock rockers, Blue Oyster Cult.
If you're expecting a gushingly breathless review you'll be mostly rewarded. You see, BOC transcend the boundaries between hard rock, metal, pop rock and straight-up rock and roll, pushing into AOR territory while maintaining an air of mystery throughout. "Harvester of Eyes"? How good a song title is that? "You'll soon be married and you'll want to know where winds come from?" Can't match lyrics like that. If it was good enough for Radio Birdman to suck up early '70s BOC as an influence, it's alright for you to do the same - even retrospectively if you're coming to this party belatedly. Because, make no mistake, the Cult was most certainly as much an influence on the Radios as the Stooges or the MC5. Deniz didn't just cop an album title and a love of red and black colour schemes.
And BOC lives on. Their last new album was 12 years ago but they're a going concern in the live arena. There might be only two old-time members on board these days (that'd be Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma) but they sure as shit still deliver the goods live, if the sheen is a touch shiny. As you'll find out, Australia, if you turn out to the 2013 Dig It Up Invitational or BOC sideshows. But let's get back on track and jump inside that box set…
"The Columbia Albums Collection" is just that, compiled with re-mastered and/or expanded versions of the records in reproduction cardboard sleeves. There's a download code for four more live albums, plus two CDs full of rarities and broadcast gems. Are the made-over versions of the original albums worth the outlay if you have them on LP or CD? Well, probably. "Tyranny and Mutation" was the first course I tucked into from this feast and it comes with a big fat serving of extra presence with a load of aural nuances shining through. Upsize me, indeed.
Even the latter-day stuff (like the synth-heavy "Club Ninja") grows an extra leg when subjected to a bit of mastering magic. My personal take is that BOC got a little ponderous as had some hits and shed members, but you can cut them some slack after the first three studio records. They're so good they make up for the live cover of "Born To Be Wild" and "Kick Out The Jams" (sub-par because it's the sanitised version) on "Some Enchanted Evening". Which, by the way, is presented here in its expanded form, and doesn't feel so much like a hastily dashed-off market satisfier.
The four live shows via download card are a revelation. The purist in me would have preferred a lossless format rather than MP3s but if you can live with that, these broadcasts crackle with energy and include some rarely-heard songs. The DVD is the already-issued companion to the expanded version of "Some Enchanted Evening". It was supposedly not intended for commercial release and suffers frrom the '70s excesses of most concert films of that time (badly lit/framed shots, corny overlays) but it is what it is so live with it.
Real fans will want to know about the "Rarities" and live disc (cutely titled "Radios Appear".) The latter is a selkection from the four download shows so apart from being lossless, it's a touch redundant. The "Rarities" disc, on the other hand, is killer. There's a four-track live EP that eclipses most elkse, some discarded movie soundtrack cuits and two 1969 demos. Nineteen tracks in all.
Time flies. It's the last days of March and I've deliberately avoided mentioning the two albums that spawned BOC's two best-known cuts, "Agents of Fortune" ("Don't Fear The Reaper") and "Fire of Unknown Origin" ("Burning For You".) Why? Because I'm perverse. The former CD has extra tracks while the latter (and more mainstream) one has been re-mastered to sound much chunkier in the bottom end.
If there's a criticism, the 40-something booklet inside is a bit light-on for content. Apart from a hyperbole-laden Lenny Kaye essay and some photos, the bulk of it is album credits writ large (the ones on the back of the reproduction album covers are too tiny to read.) The box set cover also looks like it took five minutes to design. If these are the biggest bugbears I can whinge about, the compilers are doing well.