Friday, January 4, 2013

Blue Cheer "7"

[GUEST REVIEW BY GENTLEMAN JOHN BATTLES] (ShroomANGEL Records) In 1972, our great friend, the late Dickie Peterson, walked out of the studio after announcing Blue Cheer was finished, probably feeling pangs of defeat, even after punching his drummer in the mouth for trying to make him drink carrot juice. What lay in defeat was the band that broke the sound barrier, going on to quieter sounds that, admittedly, pick up more fan all the time. Despite a glowing review of their sixth LP, "Oh! Pleasant Hope!" by Lester Bangs in Rolling Stone, the band's demise was swift, and about as loud as one hand clapping. Peterson, by his own admission, struggled for years with drug and alcohol abuse, but wasn’t ready to give up on his band. In 1974, an association with Kim Fowley could not get the revamped Blue Cheer lineup a recording contract, though the demos they made together were quite good. Five years later, Dickie had another go at it, briefly enlisting guitarist, singer and songwriter Tony Rainier (whose older brother had been a Cheer roadie before dying in Vietnam) and drummer Michael Fleck. It's uncertain how many gigs they did together. Most people, myself included, didn’t even know the band recorded an album's worth of material. I'd read that there was talk of a 7th LP, tentatively titled "7,” but that the band had split up (Dickie promising Rainier he would bring him back into the fold at a later date, guess when? In five years), and nothing happened in the studio...
I BEG TO DIFFER! "7,” produced by longtime band confidante, Eric Albronda, kicks up quite a storm from the word "Go" on, you guessed it, another version of their sole hit record, a complete overhaul of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues.”  It's actually a very good version, too. Fast and furious, and even Leigh Stephen's screaming guitar leads are not sorely missed. It doesn’t beat the original, but it doesn’t embarrass itself, either. Also, somewhat predictably, the "B" side to "Summertime Blues,” "Out Of Focus", gets a makeover (both songs, plus "Babylon" and "Parchment Farm" were re-recorded on the band's first serious comeback attempt to hit the shops, "The Beast is....Back," featuring Peterson, Rainier, and the previously MIA original drummer, Paul Whaley. Peterson maintained that the re-makes were the label's idea). It, too, is better than anyone has a right to expect. A breakneck tempo reading of "Route '66" stands right up there with The Count Bishops' version of a few years' earlier. The later staple in Blue Cheer's live set (and bonus track on the "Highlights and Lowlives" CD) "Blues Cadillac" is done raucous and raw, as is most of this album, even when briefly reaching mid-tempo on fine numbers like "Child of The Darkness" (featuring some of Dickie's less-shredded vocals for this affair). Tony Rainier's Power Pop sensibilities (he even LOOKS like he just stepped out of Badfinger!) add a lot, if truth be known, especially on uptempo numbers like "Now That I've Found You," "Starlight" (don't be put off by the title. It rocks) and "Lies,” a super gurl put-down that'd sound right at home on a local punk/New Wave Comp from 1979, whammy bar solo and all. On all three songs Rainier proves a fine singer (maybe that's why the "Beast" LP only credited him on vocals) as well as guitarist. He's not opting to revive the Heavy Psych thunder of Leigh Stephens or Randy Holden (2nd B.C. guitarist, and cult hero), but he's not stuck in "e", either --  you know, DUNT - DUNT - DUNT - DUNT - DUNT......Yes, the "Beast" album leans more on a modern Metal sound than this, though, it, too, has it's fans. His playing is tasteful. Did I use that word in conjunction with THIS band? If I did, you know it's because I'm right.
Peterson and Rainier straddle that line between melodicism and aggression. Dickie's singing, while gravelly as ever, shows remarkable strength and resonance. His bass playing still puts a lotta hopped up Punk Rock speedfreaks to shame (in much the same way Jack Casady did with S.V.T.), and Michael Fleck's drumming is appropriately violent. It's interesting to note that he was found auditioning at San Francisco punk palace, The Mabuhay Gardens. It's highly unlikely that the band played out with any of the local punk acts, though instant punk cred should have been Dickie's just for walking through the door. Even though Rainier is seen, reading Trouser Press, their connection to punk, at the time, seems to be subtle. The music is anything but! (Note: This LP was pressed in a Limited Edition of 500, with a gatefold sleeve and blue marble vinyl. The label plans to release a black vinyl, non-gatefold version for wider circulation.)


  1. Great review and thanks for the mention . BC7 is truly a must have for the metal collector and is every bit historical for any fan of Blue Cheer. Much credit must be given to Rich Patz , Schroom Angel records for risking this project and doing a class act job . the success is obvious.

  2. Hey , Eric. It's such a pleasure to hear from you, and to get your blessing on the review. ShroomAngel did a VERY class job, from the beautiful packaging to the cool blue marble vinyl and , of course, the songs. People appreciate , today , that after the original Power Trio imploded , future lineups experimented with different styles , and "7" is no exception. It's hard - hitting, but , catchy and melodic. Everyone I've talked to about it has said the same thing , basically. I know you know how you wanted it to sound , and , I thnk you have reason to be proud , here.

  3. Also : Don't fret , it seems ShroomAngel has opted to carry on with te original packaging ,and teh record should be easier to find "Second Time Around". John.

  4. I just bought this LP , it is a jewel ! Cheers from France !