I was thinking about my earliest music influences as I sat down to write this. the first record I ever bought was Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog. Wow, did that open my eyes. I had never heard anything like Dan McCafferty’s voice, and the heavy guitars went straight to the center of my brain. I don’t know how many times I listened to the record, but it had to be over a hundred. Incidentally, the only reason I picked this particular album was because of the cover painting, which was very cool. This was the 1970s, and there was no internet, no digital music services. What we had then was record stores, and you went in, walked through the aisles, and looked at the covers.
What came next? I remember vividly, the next three albums I bought were Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Alice Cooper’s Killer, and Blue Öyster Cult’s Tyranny and Mutation. All classic, iconic releases, but at the time (mid-to-late 1970s), they were fairly recent releases and none were mainstream breakthroughs. I wasn’t reading music magazines then and I landed on these by accident mostly, but I couldn’t have had better primers for heavy music. I still listen to these four albums on the regular. I know all the songs by heart, all the guitar parts, every bit of them, and music never wears out. Whenever something new comes out by any of these bands I always buy it, even if it is a remaster or live recording that ends up sounding a lot like another live recording I already have. Which brings me to the 40th anniversary release of Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest selling album Agents of Fortune in a completely different format.
The cover reads “40th Anniversary Agents of Fortune Live 2016,” which makes you think it is a concert recording. Not quite. It was actually recorded live in a studio in Los Angeles for broadcast on a music network. So this is a video of the band playing Agents of Fortune in a studio. I was not expecting that. The other thing I was not expecting is that it isn’t quite the entire Agents of Fortune album, either – there is an audio-only live version of “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” which, for some reason, is not part of the video set. Odd, that. And who is playing? The core members of the band who remain with us are there, with Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom in on the entire set. Albert Bouchard steps in for several songs, and the rest of the band is made up of Richie Castellano, Kasim Sulton, and Jules Radino. Once I settled down into the idea of what I was seeing, it all came together for me and I enjoyed the show. The band does not sound exactly like it did forty years ago, of course, but the performance is good and it is great to see this set of songs played together in order.
This is a Blu Ray release (there is a version with a CD, too), and it is pretty short because it is limited to Agents of Fortune front to back (mostly). The only extra worth noting is a short interview (about 20 minutes) with the three principals. There is also that audio version of the missing song, and it does not stand up as well as the video version of the rest of the set. Still, in the interest of completeness, it is nice to have on the disc.
Blue Öyster Cult is touring, and notably they are one of the headliners at this year’s Psycho Las Vegas. The band has also announced they are working on new music, so look for an upcoming studio release. If you are a Blue Öyster Cult fan, you’ve got to get this new incarnation of Agents of Fortune. Don’t wait too long, though, because it is already getting a little bit hard to find.
Frontiers Records, http://www.frontiers.it/index.php
Psycho Las Vegas, https://www.vivapsycho.com/