Friday, August 5, 2011

Worth the Effort: Imaginos - Blue Öyster Cult - 1988

ImaginosThe most intriguing record by the mystical and mysterious Blue Öyster Cult, Imaginos is a patchwork twenty years in the making by the time of its release in 1988. A sprawling concept record conceived by the band's longtime manager and producer, Sandy Pearlman, Imaginos was in a way the reason the band existed to begin with, formed by Pearlman to interpret his material. It tells the tale of a time-traveling, shape-shifting Zelig of sorts named Imaginos/Desdinova (depending upon his current state of incarnation), popping up here and there in different forms throughout history to influence its events and eventually spawn World War I. The storyline is heavy stuff, to say the least, and a fascinating synopsis can be found on the BÖC FAQ. But how does it sound?

Fantastic. The record itself was recorded across six years, starting with ex-member Albert Bouchard and the label, CBS, insisted it be released as a Blue Öyster Cult album. And it is a reunion effort of sorts, pieced together across years and separate sessions - and enhanced with session players and guests ranging from Joe Satriani to Aldo Nova to Robby Krieger - but sounds as cohesive as anything out during the band's seminal black and white period. Whereas they often alternated between the occult, the ridiculous and straight up rock, Imaginos is 100% in the realm of the arcane and is also the darkest, heaviest record, start to finish, the band had released to date.

Imaginos is an utterly fascinating, compelling and rocking listen. Its story is convoluted and, without the aid of notes such as those on the aforementioned FAQ, virtually impossible to follow. Add to this the fact that it was conceived as a double- or even triple-album and it's a tantalizing sampler of what could be the capstone on Blue Öyster Cult's career and certainly an incredible anthology of Pearlman's vision which, in my estimation, rivals the work of H.P. Lovecraft.

Imaginos has been out of print almost continously since its release in '88. American Beat Records put out a bare bones domestic reissue in 2008 that has already disappeared and goes for over $50 online. The original Columbia pressing and 2001 Sony import both sound fine (the only difference I can spot is some marred cover artwork on the earlier CDs) and can be found for closer to $25-30. For a Blue Öyster Cult fan, it's essential. For anyone into the sinister, occult side of rock (i.e., anyone who thinks Ghost is great), it's well worth the effort and the cost to snag a copy.

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