Blue Oyster Cult: Secret Treaties (1974)
Sometimes certain albums deemed "classics" in the eyes of many don't really hit home with some listeners for whatever reason until eons after the recording first hit the scene. Blue Oyster Cult's third album Secret Treaties falls into that category for me.One of those "why did I never discover this gem earlier?" releases that somehow slipped by me in my earlier years when my turntable saw bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Rush, and a host of other hard rock and metal bands in regular rotation. It's not that I did not like BOC, in fact I owned the Agents of Fortune and Cultosaurus Erectus studio albums, and Extraterrestrial Live, and was quite happy to have them. But back to Secret Treaties, one of the bands' strongest releases and a milestone of dark yet intelligent early 70's hard rock, an album that has withstood the test of time and become one of the classics of the era. It has become one of my all-time favorite recordings, and in a rather short span of time.
The band showed their influences, namely the heavy boogie of Steppenwolf and the mystical force of the Doors, on the opening number "Career of Evil", a hard driving number with Allen Lanier's organ right up there in front alongside Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser's thick guitar work. The lyrics are on par with most of the BOC repertoire in that period, namely dark themes that at times deal with the occult. "Pay me I'll be your surgeon, I'd like to pick your brain, Capture you inject you, Leave you kneeling in the rain, Kneeling in the rain, I choose to steal what you choose to show, And you know I will not apologize, You're mine for the taking, I'm making a career of evil." Sound like anyone you know? The song then segues into the creepy "Subhuman", an ominous piece about monsters and containing some nasty riffs from Roeser and enchantingly cruel vocals from Eric Bloom. Perhaps the most recognized song from this album is "Dominance and Submission", a heavy piece with the full guitar onslaught (Roeser, Bloom, and Lanier) that again hints a bit at Steppenwolf. Roeser unleashes a furious solo here that really shows his deft and tasty touch, while the rhythm section of Albert and Joseph pound away with reckless abandon.
The band tackles World War II on the raging "ME 262", a song about the famed ME 262 bombers, that is part Chuck Berry, part Black Sabbath, but in the end just plain old fun. Featuring huge guitar riffs as well as air raid sirens, the song is made all the more effective thanks to the snarling vocals of Eric Bloom. "Cagey Cretins" is all about heavy and repetitive guitar riffs, not to mention the somewhat vague and silly lyrics, making this perhaps the albums lone weak track. Fortunately the band then grooves into the second half of the album, which turns out to be perhaps the strongest trio of songs they have ever recorded. "Harvester of Eyes" is driven by Lanier's organ and piano, and complemented by loads of tasty solo fills from Roeser and meaty rhythm guitar from Bloom. The main character in this little tale is a bizarre person who collects eyeballs-kind of twisted you might say, but then again BOC never really were a band that wrote about sex, drugs, and rock & roll. The ending doom and grind shuffle is a perfect ending to this otherwise ominous tune. Moog synthesizer, piano, and snarling guitar riffs permeate the intro to "Flaming Telepaths, a song with killer melodies and addictive arrangements that really show the talent of this band. Not only does Roeser lay down a virtuoso guitar solo, but Lanier bursts forth with a Rick Wakeman-styled Moog venture that is as surprising as it is effective. Bloom's "And the jokes on you!" is repeated over and over while Roeser and Lanier frantically finish out the furious finale, until things come to a halt for the intro to the classic "Astronomy." Lanier's gentle piano guides Bloom's melodic and mystical vocals through the tracks opening moments, "Clock strikes twelve and moondrops burst, out at you from their hiding place, like acid and oil on a madman's face, his reason tends to fly away, like lesser birds on the four winds, like silver scrapes in May." Simply awesome in it's lyrical formation, "Astronomy" is just as impressive from a musical perspective. Roeser's rollicking guitar rhythms give way to some jazzy lead work (live, the band used this song as a vehicle for an extended guitar solo from "Buck") before the full band comes crashing to a glorious and intense ending with Bloom beckoning "Astronomy, a star, Astronomy, a star."
If you are fortunate enough to pick up the remastered CD version of this album, you also get five bonus tracks, namely the previously unreleased "Boorman the Chauffer", "Mommy", "Mes Dames Sarat" as well as a studio B- side of "Born to Be Wild" and the single version of "Career of Evil." These are nice additions to an already fantastic collection of songs, making Secret Treaties even more of an obvious choice to add to your hard rock collection if you already don't have it inserted there.