Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Worth the Effort: The Revölution by Night - Blue Öyster Cult - 1983

A follow-up to the later career surprise hit of Fire of Unknown Origin, The Revölution by Night was Blue Öyster Cult's first record without founding drummer Albert Bouchard. The fractured result was the beginning of a decade of decline for the band, at least in terms of "new" material (the very satisfying Frankenstein's monster, Imaginos, excepted). A Bruce "Loverboy" Fairbarn production, The Revölution by Night is certainly missing much of the immediate sardonic menace associated with BÖC's heyday but, regardless, remains an effort worth adding to your library.

The Revölution by Night really is a record for headphones as its ready-for-radio production renders it easily avoided and relegated to the background. It doesn't demand you pay attention and, while I hate to work at enjoying a record, sometimes it's worth it. "Take Me Away" is an energetic and engaging opener but aside from that and the minor MTV hit (and another number authored by Patti Smith), "Shooting Shark," the rest of the album benefits from inspection layer-by-layer.

"Veins," for example, draws on another longstanding Blue Öyster Cult writing partner, Richard Meltzer and offers an incredible lyric:
I open my eyes
From a dreamless night
With a sense of dread
You could cut with a knife
So I'm thinking that
Maybe I killed somebody
You never know - you never know when
You might have killed somebody

Veins in my eyeballs
Damage that I've done
Veins on the stairway
Veins in my skull

Unfortunately, it's awash in some very 1983 synthesizer and electronic effects that prevent it from achieving classic status but nonetheless rewards a close and careful listen.

"Let Go" provides an anthemic rocker with plenty of great guitar, in this instance offset by a mindless lyric. It's as though The Revölution by Night frequently failed to merge most of what seemed for the Cult, until this album, effortless. "Light Years of Love," though, provides a majestic, soaring close courtesy of a Joe Bouchard number on which he also provides a superb vocal. A love song spanning time and space as only the Blue Öyster Cult can provide, it deserves a much wider audience.

The Revölution by Night is by no means the best Blue Öyster Cult album - far from it. From a band who really never turned out a throwaway, though, it's a respectable addition to your music library. At present only this and 1988's Imaginos are out of print (and more on that masterpiece to come at another time). While the latter easily demands $40 or more for used copies, The Revölution by Night's sole bare-bones edition from CBS (complete with its garish, shrunken-artwork "Collector's Choice" cover) can be found for well under $10 at many used shops and online resellers. It's worth the effort and not a record that should be skipped over simply because it's not "as good" as Blue Öyster Cult's established heavy hitters. Really, what else is?

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