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Blue Öyster Cult – Imaginos

20 Dec 2007 · 1 Comment

Fair warning: Imaginos not only has a storyline, it has snippets of dialogue interwoven into some of the songs. Every track is at least 5 minutes long. “Overblown” doesn’t do justice to the arrangements; there are several guest lead vocalists, and for a band with such serious guitar chops, there’s a befuddling proliferation of stunt shredders, including Joe Satriani and Aldo Nova. The hired-gun rhythm section of Kenny Aaronson and Thommy Price have a mile of recording credits between them, but here they sound uninspired and more than a little stiff (to be fair, they had enormous shoals of guitar tracks, keyboard beds, and backing vocals to steer around; maybe less was more). The production is definitely dated, particularly the ghastly drum reverb. Finally, 2 (of 9) songs are reinventions of tracks from the band’s finest hour, Secret Treaties; neither improves on the original.

If you can get past its flaws, however, Imaginos represents a substantial recovery from the disastrous Club Ninja, and it’s arguably the strongest BÖC outing after the ouster of the original rhythm section. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Imaginos sessions allegedly began as a solo album for ex-drummer Albert Bouchard, and the song cycle (of which the released album is supposedly only a fraction) was cooked up with BÖC’s pleasantly-demented Svangali figure, Sandy Pearlman, starting in the early 70’s. (The wikipedia article on Imaginos has the bare bones of the album’s convoluted history, but currently omits to mention any of the epic mudslinging I’ve heard described.)

You can’t really follow the story by listening to the album, which is probably for the best. You can read a plot summary at the wikipedia entry referenced above, but I recommend against it. It’s all about secret mysterious forces, after all, and I think it benefits from being as murky and ill-defined as possible. Vaguely spooky mumbo-jumbo like, “seven years of labor for the instruments of time” is more evocative if you know less about what it specifically refers to.

Despite the strikes against it, Imaginos offers at least two bonafide classics of the BÖC canon, “In the Presence of Another World” and “Del Rio’s Song.” The former is almost reminiscent of occult goths Fields of the Nephilim, with its darkly swirling arpeggios and concluding, heavily-processed, horror movie vocals. The latter, by contrast, sounds of a piece with the band’s masterful first three records; the verse and chorus hooks are easily strong enough to stop the plot-advancing midsection from dragging it down. And if Imaginos offers only two real peaks, the lows aren’t so bad. Only the closing title track makes my skip finger itchy, partly because of the dumb chorus (”Ooh Imaginos, ooh Imaginos”) but mostly because of Jon Roger’s grating lead vocal. (It’s perhaps worth noting that neither Joey Cerisano’s stereotypical metal screech*, the overlong outro, nor the unwieldy title quite ruin “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Weisseria” for me.)

Star rating: 2.11

*Cerisano’s vocal credits include BÖC, Korn, and Michael Bolton. Ye gods preserve us.

Tags: 1988 · b · columbia · hard rock

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Flasshe // Dec 21, 2007 at 02:41

    The remake of “Astronomy” is not without it’s charms, but yeah, the original is still better. I don’t really consider “Blue Oyster Cult” to be a remake of “Subhuman”, since even though much of the words are the same, the music is pretty different. I like it.

    Yeah, they could’ve left the title song off the album and it wouldn’t have hurt it. Makes my skip finger itchy too. There’s the makings of a good song in there somewhere, but the vocals do destroy it. Actually, my least favorite song on the album is “I Am The One You Warned Me Of”. Curious choice for an album opener. It’s just so bland and hookless.

    “Del Rio’s Song” rules. Should’ve been a hit.

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