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On Your Feet or on Your Knees
Blue Oyster Cult

Columbia 33371
Released: March 1975
Chart Peak: #22
Weeks Charted: 13
Certified Gold: 7/15/77

Can a nice Jewish boy from Eatons Kneck, Long Island, find happiness as a Satanic pop star decked out in full leather regalia? Can your better-than-average American rock band pawn itself off as an outfit of outlandish perverts on the make for kinky sex and violence? Especially when four of the five band members are sedate (and married) introverts?

Make no mistake about it: This band wants to come on menacing. After all, they have an image to live up to. Ever since rock-critic-turned-producer Sandy Pearlman cast the band as America's answer to Black Sabbath, the Cult has tread a thin line between no-nonsense hard rock and an ambiguously campy brand of heavy metal, pegged around mysterioso graphics and incendiary lyrics.

Blue Oyster Cult - On Your Feet Or On Your Knees
Original album advertising art.
Click image for larger view.
Yet their albums have never included a cover photo of the group because the reality of this band belies the image. In the concerts I've seen, that discrepancy hasn't mattered much, because the Cult can outplay such prototypical heavy-metal bands as Deep Purple. Moreover, they're not afraid to show their roots in person, by resurrecting such hoary classics as "Born to Be Wild" and "I Ain't Got You."

Blue Oyster Cult descend directly from such great psychedelic bands of the Sixties as Moby Grape and the Yardbirds. They excel at bristling, guitar-heavy ensembles, spearheaded by Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser, a circumspect soloist who ranks with the hard-rock greats. After several years as Long Island's favorite local band, they attempted to land a national label, with no success. Finally they met Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman, who concocted the band's present personality, which on one memorable album, their first (Blue Oyster Cult), galvanized the music.

Subsequent efforts have not been so successful, however, as the producers have slowly run the Cultish conceit into the ground. While On Your Feet breaks the pattern by including such previously unrecorded Blue Oyster staples as "Born to Be Wild" and "Buck's Boogie," Roeser's instrumental showcase, the record also shrilly reasserts the band's public identity. "On your feet or on your knees," an emcee booms at several points during the two-record set; and, as if to remind you of their dark essence, the back cover and label depict an open book, presumably of occult secrets, held in leather gloves. On the older songs, lead singer Eric Bloom tries desperately to sound convincing as he hurries through the lyrics. He fails. (Singing has never been the group's strength in any case).

While rock & roll thrives on contrived personas, the best of it also partakes of a vital relationship between artist and audience. And that is precisely what's missing on these live sides. Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band is no more a streetwise hustler than Eric Bloom is a devil worshipper, but Wolf's pose resonates with his own fantasies and those of his audience.

The lack of such resonance helps to explain why Blue Oyster Cult has remained stillborn, a critic's band, not flamboyant enough to travel the Kiss route of prefab theatricality, not credible enough to match the impact of J. Geils. Still, they're damn good rockers, as On Your Feet proves repeatedly. But when you can rock & roll, who needs leather gloves?

- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 5/8/75.

Bonus Reviews!

A two-disk package recorded live, this effort could be billed as the "best" of B.O.C. as several cuts are on previously released LPs. Nevertheless, the overall effort races along well, sparked by the musical electricity readily identified with the group. Newer material also adds solid support. Production and arrangements are rich, especially with recording work having been done at several locations.

- Billboard, 1975.

This live double, proof that they've earned the right to issue cheapo product, is a fitting testament. The packaging makes their ominoso joke more explicit than it's ever been, and if the music is hum-drum more often than searing, maybe that means these closet intellectuals have finally achieved the transubstantiation of their most baroque fantasies. C+

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

Blue Oyster Cult's first live album was also its first to peak inside the Top 40, which is more of an indication of the audience the group was building up through extensive touring than of its quality. Songs that had a tight, concentrated impact on studio albums get elongated here, and that impact was dissipated. And the song selection left a great deal to be desired if this was to be a fitting summation of the band's career so far. By its 1974 tour, BOC had dropped some classics from its first album, and the less impressive material from the third album was no substitute. * *

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

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