Category: Blue Cheer

Blue Cheer – New! Improved!

ARTIST: Blue Cheer 220px-Blue_cheer_new_improved

TITLE: New! Improved!

YEAR RELEASED: 1969

CHART ACTION: #84

SINGLES: West Coast Child of Sunshine

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover a Dylan song

LINEUP: Dickie Peterson, Paul Whaley. Bruce Stephens and Ralph Burns Kellogg are on side one. Randy Holden is on side two.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A move away from proto-metal after lineup shifts does nothing for the band, and many fans jump ship after this.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Dropping the needle on side one, track one, and you get “When It All Gets Old”, a song written by now full-time member Ralph Burns Kellogg. It’s not heavy, not at all. The second track, the single, has some of the old feel, but the record shows the band to have devolved into a semi-folky hippie band, complete with a bad Dylan cover.

Then, there’s side two. The way the band was supposed to sound. Randy Holden (famous for being an unknown guitarist of the 60’s and 70’s – seriously) led the band through two out-of-this-world psychedelic rock tracks in “Peace of Mind” and “Fruit and Icebergs” (go-to songs for mixes for those in the know – especially the latter). Blue Cheer as a power trio with guitars at the fore – that’s the band we know and love.

But that’s all we got from Holden, and Peterson and Whaley had to scramble to finish the record after Holden left. So that’s why the first half is the way it is, and why Blue Cheer moved away from their best selves.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Holden joined after Leigh Stephens left due to deafness or in protest of Peterson’s drug use. Holden left suddenly when he found he had no money as the money went to Peterson’s habit. Oh, this isn’t streaming, but the good Holden tracks are on a Blue Cheer comp that’s still around.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A couple of extra tracks.

 GRADE C-: An A for Side Two, with Holden. You can tell what I think about the other side, and Blue Cheer going forward.

Blue Cheer – Outsideinside

ARTIST: Blue Cheer

TITLE: Outsideinside220px-Blue_cheer_outsideinside

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #90

SINGLES: Just a Little Bit (#92), Feathers From Your Tree, The Hunter

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Satisfaction

LINEUP: Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens, Paul Whaley. Ralph Kellogg added the keyboards.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Toning down the volume but not the drugs, the follow-up by Blue Cheer is surprisingly nuanced, especially in contrast to their bludgeon of a debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, there are a couple of songs that are loud just to be loud, but Blue Cheer’s second album is more than an excuse for deafness.

Starting out with the nuanced “Feathers From Your Tree” and the relatively mellow “Sun Cycle”, Blue Cheer is more in the psychedelic camp this time around. And even with some of the songs being loud, tracks like “Gypsy Ball” and “The Hunter” are more than just amp-cranking exercises.

They do stumble with a cover of “Satisfaction” which kind of sounds half-hearted, and “Come and Get It” is something that just thuds along with no remorse, but this is an overall better record that is more varied without alienating the fans of volume.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It’s called Outsideinside since they recorded some tracks at Muir Beach in California and Pier 57 in NYC, along with using four actual studios.. Also soundman Peter Wagner is credited for co-writing three songs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A remaster with one outtake, again. They didn’t waste much.

 GRADE B: There are a couple of stumbles here, but the good tracks are better. It’s also loud as heck at times, again.

Blue Cheer – Vincebus Eruptum

ARTIST: Blue Cheer 220px-BlueCheerVincebusEruptum

TITLE: Vincebus Erputum

YEAR RELEASED: 1968

CHART ACTION: #11

SINGLES: Summertime Blues (#14)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Parchment Farm

LINEUP: Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens, Paul Whaley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Loud, stoned band records loud album to listen to when stoned. Surprisingly it becomes a hit.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A loud, feral version of “Summertime Blues” (the Eddie Cochran song) somehow becomes a #14 hit. This was the next step up from garage band music and the electric blues and bands like Blue Cheer, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf were exploring (along with some elements of the Who, Cream and others in the UK). Volume was the key.

And volume they gave. The blues were the basis, but volume was the main driver to the band. Guitarist Leigh Stephens used his amplification and distortion like a cudgel, hitting the listener over the head with pure force. Backed by bassist Dickie Peterson and drummer Paul Whaley, Stephens cranked it up. The other two weren’t shy in the sound department either.

Peterson was the ringleader, the singer, and the main lover of the blues (and of LSD and other substances). His vocals (more of shouts kinda following a melody of sorts) added to the noise equation.

Songs? Well, covering BB King, Eddie Cochran, and Mose Allison (no matter the volume and lack of finesse) shows good taste, and the originals are also loud and lumpen (though I kinda dig “Out of Focus” as it’s somewhat concise). This is more an artifact of proto-metal than anything, and most of us aren’t stoned enough to make sense of anything but the loudness.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was already the third (!) lineup of blue cheer, as they started as a trio, changed drummers, then beefed up to a six-piece before shedding the three that just came on board within months (including Peterson’s brother Jerre).

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: A remaster with one outtake.

 GRADE B: It’s loud, and not horrible, and deserves a place in rock history for being the first to be so loud and popular (beating Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly by a few months…)