J. E FELL | Carterville, Illinois United States | 02/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Blue Cheer were a legendary 1960's California band renowned for being one of the loudest live bands ever. They even open for Jimi Hendrix a few times and were favorites of the Hell's Angles. However, this tag is not really representative as the band had so much turnover that their sound mellowed after the bombastic sludgefests of the first two albums. Bassist/vocalist Dickie Peterson was the only continuous member until the band called it quits the first time. The original band featured on the first two albums feature Leigh Stephens on guitar and Paul Whaley ex-Oxford Circle on drums. This incarnation of the band recorded their biggest hit, a bludgeoning cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues". Other notable cuts from this incarnation of the band include a cover of Mose Allison's "Parchment Farm", the great "Out Of Focus" and "Babylon". Stephens quit at this point and their next album featured two guitarists. The legendary Randy Holden ex-Other Half was featured on the great cuts included here "Piece of Mind" and "Fruit and Icebergs" which were more jam oriented and psychedelic. Holden quit halfway through the album sessions and was replaced by Bruce Stephens. With the next album drummer Whaley threw in the towel and was replaced by Norman Mayell and Ralph Burns Kellogg was added on keyboards. "Saturday Freedom" and a laid back cover of "Hello LA Bye Bye Birmingham" date from this period. Bruce Stephens then quit and was replaced by ex-drummer Whaley's friend from Oxford Circle Gary L. Yoder on guitar and harmonica. The music at this point had become more mellow and blues oriented. Two albums followed by this line up before they called it quits. The catchy "Good Times Are So Hard To Find" and "Pilot" are two of the better cuts by this version of the band. While this set is representative by featuring cuts from all the albums, a number of my favorites are not included. The disk is about 74 minutes so another song or two could have been added. Their second album "Outsideinside" is has come excellent cuts not included here like "Just A Little Bit", "Come And Get It", the interestingly titled instrumental "Magnolia Caboose Babyfinger" and a sledgehammer version of the Rolling Stones "Satisfaction". Some of these cuts were included on the old vinyl Blue Cheer compilation I used to have called "Louder Than God". This is the reason I am only rating this four stars instead of five. The sound is also thin in some places and a remastered anthology featuring my suggestions would be a welcome idea. However, since this is the only compact disk studio anthology of Blue Cheer available it is a worthwhile purchase. Fans of early hard rock and the California psychedelic scene will enjoy this release."
One of the best "greatest hits" compilations in all of rock.
Shelby Lambert | Bethany, Oklahoma USA | 10/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...From a band that only had one hit!! First of all, this album is aptly titled: "The History of Blue Cheer". For a band who was only around for 4 years the first time, I don't think there is another group in rock history who went through more changes in such a short period. Listening to this CD in chronological order, as all compilation CD's "should" be, from "Summertime Blues" back in early '68, all the way through to "I'm the Light" in '71, you would have thought this band had been around for 10 years, as much as their music had changed during that short amount of time. The most interesting thing about Blue Cheer is that every album they made was like a different era, with slight personnel changes each time contributing something, and making a difference in the sound of the band each time. From the grunge of "Vincebus Eruptum", to the psychedelic/metal and playful atmosphere on "Outside/Inside", the un-togetherness with some guitar-driven bright spots on "New Improved", the hippie-fun and re-invention on "Blue Cheer", right down to the relaxed feeling of the last two albums, "The Original Human Being" and "Oh, Pleasant Hope", this compilation takes the best and most well-represented 2 or 3 songs from all those albums--again, in chronolgical order, and brilliantly profiles those changes in their best light. This is exactly the way all greatest hits compilations should be put together. Of course, the "average" Blue Cheer fan is most familiar with, and usually prefers, the first two albums, when the band was a "heavy metal" power trio with Leigh Stephens on guitar, and the first six songs here represent that era. But little is known by many about the rest of their output, and this set does a nice job of presenting "the best of the rest". Being a mostly-guitar driven band, each new guitar player that stepped in to the group, brought not only his own guitar style, but also his own songwriting, and even singing, to the mix--pretty much reducing Bassist Dickie Petersen's role to back-up singer, if that--the last song he even takes a 'lead' on is "Hello L.A/Bye-Bye Birmingham" from the 4th album. If you were divide them up into eras, you might say, "The Leigh Stephens era"(1968), "The Randy Holden era"(1969), "The Bruce Stephens era"(1969), and "The Gary Yoder era"(1969-1971). To me, the best songs here are from the "Randy Holden era"--"Peace of Mind" and "Fruit&Icebergs". Even though he only lasted through one side of probably their worst and most fragmented album, "New Improved Blue Cheer", Holden probably brought to the group, not only their best guitar playing, but also their best songwriting and singing--from a man in Randy Holden who never had to sing lead in a group before, perhaps because Dickie Petersen ahd pretty much given up trying to sing. But "Peace of Mind" and "Fruit&Icebergs" were both very well-written, probably two of the best songs of 1969 that no one had ever heard of, from one of the greatest guitarists of the 1960s, Randy Holden, who no one had ever heard of. Holden was a guitarist who spent much of his musical career on a quest for the "ultimate" guitar sounds, and both "Peace of Mind" and "Fruit&Icebergs" not only feature excellent guitar solos from Mr. Holden, but also some of the "fattest" guitar tone of that era, outside of people like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Worlds removed from the aimless, whammy-bar wanderings of his predecessor Leigh Stephens, and the Garcia-like folkiness of the men who would replace him, Bruce Stephens and Gary Yoder, Randy Holden was a man poised to take Blue Cheer to the next level, and make the name of the album, "New Improved Blue Cheer" mean something. If only he had band members like Dickie Petersen agree to go in the same direction he was going. But because he couldn't, Holden had to quit, and Blue Cheer began to meander-off into quiet, drug-induced mediocrity for the rest of their career, and that's pretty much what the reaminder of this album is, after "Fruit&Icebergs". But "Peace of Mind" and "Fruit&Icebergs" are definitely the high points for me on this collection, from the Jimmy Page-like rock visionary, Randy Holden--who, unlike his English counterpart, could actually sing with great character in his voice, as he did on those two songs. That's not to say that after Holden left, Blue Cheer didn't have some great moments--the Bruce Stephens/Gary Yoder-led group had a great song, "Saturday Freedom"--a nice up-beat hippie anthem for the summer of '69 that should have been a hit, as well as the song, "Good Times, are So Hard to Find". But the rest of the stuff from the Yoder-era on is pretty much bland, generic--Pink Floyd/Doors/Eagles/Grateful Dead/Stones-type, countrified, folkified, tripped-out, mellow, out-of-it-ness. If the goal at that point was to make the band more "mainstream", and fit-in more with the times, rather than be ahead of their times, as they were with Leigh Stephens and Randy Holden, they fell flat on their face--and then they broke up. I suppose the best I could say is that this album has something for everyone, and probably captures the best examples of the latter music, that you probably wouldn't want to waste your time looking for, or your money buying, say, "The Original Human Being" or "Oh, Pleasant Hope", because their isn't much else redeemable about those two albums, anyway. And if you were to buy this disc strictly on an "objective" level, rather than a "subjective" level, it's a great buy--if nothing else, but for a history lesson about a group like a "hot rod", speeding down the highway, passing all the other cars, before finally running out of gas at the end. Again, I consider this a "model" compilation, in spite of the fact that it is not a "greatest hits"-set. (Many of the songs here are probably "would've been" hits, perhaps if the group had been marketed better at the time.) But this is the story of a band who had so many people come-and-go, each time trying to hold the group together and re-make it in their own style, before the group finally fell apart for good. And if a rock music collection could ever be called, "an audio history book", this is probably the best one I could think of."
Split down the middle
Tony | 05/06/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit the fast & loud stuff they do was the reason I bought this cd.I wasn't willing to sit through the "lighter" second half of the disc.But listening to it now (particularly "Saturday Freedom") I can hear that the second half may contain their better work.The last two cuts move dangerously close to Eagles territory.Interesting stuff for collectors of the famous-yet-obscure."
Blue Cheer rocks!!!
Shelby Lambert | 01/19/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't think that the above review was fair. This recording not only touches on their sonic early days, but thier eventually attempts at serious songwriting. Why "Hello L.A. Bye Bye Birmingham" wasn't a hit I'll never know. A great introduction to Blue Cheer for the curious, maybe not, but for hardcore fans like me, this is a great overview."
More than just heavy metal
Stephen F Mulcahy | United States | 01/29/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"most people think of blue cheer as a kind of proto- thrash metal, screwed up on speed ,insane, , mindless,etc. power trio. in reality the band evolved and changed greatly over its original 6 album lifespan. fans of the early heavy period will find some of their best tracks on this, like just a little bit and out of focus. the great guitar work of randy holden, from half of the third album, 1969's new! improved! is featured in fruit and icebergs and the incredible peace of mind, possibly my own favorite blue cheer cut. the later blue cheer's best tracks, to me, were the title track of this collection and the phenomenal i'm the light from their last record, oh! pleasant hope. lyrics were usually not blue cheer's strong point, but the addition of gary yoder from the fine obscure late 60's band kak helped them out in this regard. this eastern tinged ,late psychedelic tune has a beautiful melody and driving vocals. all in all this is a fine and rather representative collection of blue cheer material. there are some questionable selections but its a pretty good introduction for newcomers to this oft misunderstood group who i feel rank perhaps behind only love, moby grape, the doors and spirit in terms of california late 1960s/early 70's bands."