Ever since the CD boom in the 90s, the market hasn’t been short of rock compilations. There have been literally thousands of collections of 70s rock classics flooding the market, often very similar in nature. You’d think they’d only be a finite amount of people willing to put their hands in their pockets for discs containing Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ and Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’, but still they come…and in huge numbers.
For a lot of rock fans, Glenn Hughes first came to prominence when he joined Deep Purple in 1974. In the few years leading up to that big breakthrough, he’d spent time working as bassist/vocalist with British rock band Trapeze. Although not big sellers, their first two albums were solid affairs, that showcased some talented musicians. 1970’s ‘Trapeze’ (produced by Moody Blues man John Lodge) presented a five piece band indulging in 60s freakouts and although enjoyable in its own way, almost felt dated by the time of its release in the May of that year. With Black Sabbath’s debut (released three months earlier) opening up new avenues for rock and the release of Deep Purple’s ‘In Rock’ literally a few weeks away, it was clear that Trapeze already sounded like yesterday’s men. By November, Trapeze had undergone an overhaul in both line up and sound and for their second album,‘Medusa’, the band’s core of Glenn Hughes (vox/bass), Mel Galley (guitar) and Dave Holland (drums) had reinvented themselves as a hard rocking power trio, cranking riffs in a style that often sounded like a tougher version of Free. With the previous hazy psychedelia having morphed into something harder and clearer, Hughes’s vocals were allowed to truly soar for the first time. A solid album, ‘Medusa’ showed a band who were truly on their way, but the best was yet to come…
The fashion for bands playing “complete album” live shows presents a double edged sword. On the negative side, this robs fans of the excitement and mystery of what the night’s setlist might bring. On the plus side, such a practice means that long neglected gems are given a live airing. In the case of Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘45th Anniversary: Live In London’ the latter definitely applies. Not only is their debut record is a stone cold classic, but it features several tunes that aren’t necessarily regular fixtures in their live sets, which lends this recording an instant vitality.
In 2012, Blue Öyster Cult released ‘The Columbia Albums Collection’, a seventeen disc set rounding up their output for the label between 1973 and 1988. It was a set that was worth picking up even for those that owned some of the albums previously, as it also included a couple of discs of rarities. For a limited time, owners could even access four previously unreleased live shows via the BÖC website, which was a definite sweetener for those who’d bought ‘Agents of Fortune’, ‘Spectres’ and ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ a couple of times over already.
To promote the box set, the band held a one-off concert in New York. Finally released as ‘Iheart Radio 2012’ in the summer of 2020, when heard retrospectively, it isn’t a perfect set by any means, though it has enough to recommend it. Capturing the band in front of a select audience of 200 fans, the recording could have had a similarly flat atmosphere to ‘Agents of Fortune – 2016’ (released via Frontiers Records in early 2020), but due to not being tied to such a rigid setlist, founders Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and Eric Bloom, along with bassist Kasim Sulton, guitarist Richie Castallano and drummer Jules Radino, sound much less like a band going through the motions (no pun intended).
A new deal with signed with Frontiers Records in the summer of 2019 quickly brought a bounty of archive treats for Blue Öyster Cult’s legion of followers. In January 2020, a welcome reissue of the very hard to find ‘Cult Classic’ disc of re-recordings made its way into the world, along with ‘Hard Rock Live – Cleveland 2016’, a double live gonzo that was well received by fans and press alike. Barely six weeks later, the equally elusive ‘Heaven Forbid’ album (originally released on the CMC label back in 1998) was given a timely reissue and the vaults were raided for yet another live set, this time focusing on their career defining ‘Agents of Fortune’ album.