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Agents Of Fortune
Blue Oyster Cult

Columbia 34164
Released: 1976
Chart Peak: #29
Weeks Charted: 35
Certified Platinum: 7/17/78

Joe BouchardAlbert BouchardEric BloomAllen LanierBuck DharmaAgents of Fortune is startingly excellent album -- startling because one does not expect Blue Oyster Cult to sound like this: loud but calm, manic but confident, melodic but rocking. Every song on the first side is commercially accessible without compromising the band's malevolent stance.

One area of clear improvement is in the matter of lyrics; for the first time there is less emphasis on absurd, crypto-intellectual rambling and more of a coherent attack on a variety of subjects. The former had simply become tiresome; the latter opens up whole new areas for Cult investigation. "This Ain't the Summer of Love," for example, is a fresh approach to a subject one would expect to have been exhausted long ago.

Blue Oyster Cult - Agents of Fortune
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The Cult is still loud ("Tattoo Vampire"), still mordant ("[Don't Fear] The Reaper"), still obsessed with their peculiar brand of beery mysticism ("E.T.I. [Extra Terrestrial Intelligence]"). But by dropping the S&M angle and by inserting slivers of genuine rock & roll like "True Confessions," their best song ever, the Cult is easing into maturity with integrity. Agents of Fortune's comparativeness slickness even serves to enhance their dark image: the ominous villiany conveyed by Buck Dharma's agile guitar lines on "Tenderloin" is far more effective than his heretofore standard thudding meanness.

Blue Oyster Cult has built its career on a series of brutal non sequitors. Initially, these took the form of a group image of fascist hoodiness and "ugly" music detailed by AWOL rock critics' wordplay. This time, it is Patti Smith's presence, as co-writer of "Debbie Denise" and "The Revenge of Vera Gemini," that provides the Cult with the aleatory motivation to seek success in the burgeoning commercial punk rock sweepstakes. Another central influence is Allen Lanier's increasing importance, here evidenced by his authorship of "True Confessions" and "Morning Final," and ambitious bomb.

In fact, former major-domos Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman seem to be barely keeping the boys in line, let alone under their aesthetic thumbs. Or maybe that's just what they want us to think, since, with David Lewis, they are credited with producing the record. In any event, it works: Agents of Fortune is a very pleasant surprise, its first side containing some of the best rock released thus far this year.

- Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, 7-15-76.

Bonus Reviews!

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
Blue Oyster Cult

Album Review: On Your
Feet or on Your Knees

Album Review: Spectres

Blue Oyster Cult Lyrics

Blue Oyster Cult Videos

Change of pace for the heavy metal kings, as they sound a bit like the early Byrds with strong harmonies and good, melodic guitars on at least part of the LP. Dual lead vocals, more finesse in the arrangements and straight rock in a quiet vein are highlights, though there is plenty of the old raucous sound for veteran fans. Patti Smith as a guest on one cut helps the band keep some of its old feel. By and large the new approach is a pleasing and successful one. Best cuts: "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "The Revenge Of Vera Gemini" (with Smith), "Morning Final," "Debbie Denise."

- Billboard, 1976.

Just when I figured they were doomed to repeat themselves until the breakup, they come up with the Fleetwood Mac of heavy metal, not as fast as Tyranny and Mutation but longer on momentum, with MOR tongue-in-cheek replacing the black-leather posturing and future games. I wonder how long it took them to do the la-la-las on "Debbie Denise" without cracking up. B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Nothing Blue Oyster Cult had produced previously prepared listenters for its infectious midtempo hit, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," which propelled it into a higher commercial orbit and caused (or reflected) a change in the balance of power in the group. The song was written by guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and was an indication that the band was now largely doing its own songwriting: coproducer Sandy Pearlman earned only one co-writing credit on the record, while drummer Albert Bouchard had five. Poetess Patti Smith, meanwhile, not only co-wrote two tracks, but also performed on one: "The Revenge of Vera Gemini." The result was a record much more in a pop-rock vein than the vaunted metal of the first three albums and BOC's biggest hit ever. * * * *

- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Agents of Fortune is perhaps the most sophisticated metal album ever. "Don't Fear the Reaper" and "E.T.I." are the favorites, but every cut is good. This is also where Patti Smith's (who once had a relationship with BOC guitarist Allen Lanier) presence is strongest. * * * * *

- Steve Holtje, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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