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Blue Öyster Cult’s Bouchard brothers release tandem albums

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Albert and Joe Bouchard, best known as co-founding members of the enduring classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult (“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla”), have each released a new solo album on a jointly-owned label.

Joe Bouchard’s “Strange Legends,” issued this past summer, is the former BÖC bassist’s sixth solo album, one that he calls “the best I’ve ever done.” The album quickly sold out of its original pressing and has just been reissued with alternative artwork.

Bouchard spent two years working on “Strange Legends” with producer and drummer Mickey Curry (Bryan Adams, Hall & Oates, Tina Turner), and says his mission from the start was to create a record that truly rocks.

“I’ve been blown away by the response to this album and it feels great to know that it’s out and that people are enjoying these songs,” Bouchard said, adding “I think I’ve finally gotten it right (laughs).”

Bouchard collaborated with science fiction author, screenwriter (“The Crow”) and longtime Blue Öyster Cult lyricist John Shirley for several songs on “Strange Legends,” but this is not a sci-fi record. The album blends styles and tempos on a lineup of songs not tied to a particular theme or era.

LP opener “The African Queen” sets the tone with its ominous chords and a rollicking musical backing that suggests a rough ride on the water.

“Forget About Love” sounds like a long-lost mid-60s garage-band classic, an era and genre close to the heart of both Bouchard brothers.

“We were in a number of bands before Blue Öyster Cult, playing dances and shows all over upstate New York in the ‘60s,” Bouchard remembers. “We worked tirelessly which prepared us for the intense schedules we had later in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Bouchard marked his fondness for that era on a new version of The Kinks’ 1965 classic “All Day and All of the Night” for “Strange Legends.”

“I’ve always loved those British invasion tunes and we did them all back in the day,” Bouchard says, adding that he later had the opportunity to meet some of his idols.

“Mick Jagger invited me to one of his New Year’s Eve parties a few years ago, and he told me that he saw Blue Öyster Cult in Paris in the early ‘80s. The Rolling Stones were about to play there and he was checking out the venue when we happened to be playing. Few rockers take your breath away when you meet them but Mick is one, and so is Pete Townshend of The Who.”

Bouchard recalls being introduced to The Who’s legendary guitarist and songwriter in a bar in the 1970s.

“I told him how much I love The Who and how they’d been a huge influence on me. He smiled and said ‘So what are you doing now?’ and in my mind, all I can think about is ‘Pete Townshend just asked me a question (laughs).’”

Bouchard says he doesn’t spend much time worrying about competing with the pop or top-40 acts populating the charts these days, adding that he occasionally listens, but inevitably turns it off with disappointment.

“Most of it doesn’t connect, it doesn’t rock,” he says. “Our mission with this album, and with Albert’s, is to create a catalog of albums that really rock out, and that’s our goal with Rockheart Records, our label imprint.”

The Bouchard brothers established RockHeart Records to release their own projects through Deko Entertainment and Warner Music Group. The label’s initial releases are Joe Bouchard’s “Strange Legends” and Albert Bouchard’s “Re Imaginos,” released on November 6.

“Re Imaginos” is Albert’s reimagining of Blue Öyster Cult’s 1988 album “Imaginos,” which itself was a reimagining of what had been intended as a solo project for the former BÖC drummer.

“The version that came out back then wasn’t telling the whole story,” Albert Bouchard said during an interview. “It was supposed to be a four-sided, double album, but Columbia Records went back on their word and insisted on a single album.”

“Imaginos” is a concept album with lyrics and ideas from Sandy Pearlman, the late BÖC producer and manager. Pearlman crafted the “Imaginos” concept as a student in the 1960s and later selected musicians to form a band that would perform his material. That band later evolved into Blue Öyster Cult.

Bouchard says it’s been a long strange trip but he’s relieved and thrilled that the music on “Re Imaginos” has finally been released as it was intended.

“Sandy and I started working on this project in 1973,” he recalls, “and by that time, he’d already written ‘Astronomy’ (from 1974’s “Secret Treaties”) which everybody acknowledges as a BÖC classic.”

When Bouchard later brought the “Imaginos” songs to Blue Öyster Cult, he says the band was looking for another hit single to follow “…Reaper,” “Burnin’ For You” and “Godzilla,” and demonstrated little interest in recording a sci-fi concept album about an alien invasion.

“When we recorded “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” we weren’t thinking that it might be a big hit single, we were just trying to make a great record,” he remembers.

But that’s rehashing old wounds and Bouchard insists that all is well among BÖC’s former rhythm section and the current lineup of the band, fronted by longtime vocalist Eric Bloom and guitarist Buck Dharma.

After Bouchard left Blue Öyster Cult in 1981, he performed with ‘60s hit-makers The Spencer Davis Group and the Mamas & the Papas. He also formed Blue Coupe, a power trio with brother Joe and Alice Cooper bassist and songwriter Dennis Dunaway that has released three albums of original material to date.

When I asked Albert and Joe Bouchard to each cite a personal career highlight, they both mentioned BÖC’s all-time classic hit, and its enduring presence in popular culture.

“We’re so fortunate to have been part of a song like ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,’” Joe Bouchard said. “It’s become an important iconic song for so many people, and has been heard in more than 75 movies and TV shows, from Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ to the HBO show ‘Six Feet Under.’ Four million people stream it every month. Our guitarist Buck Dharma wrote the song, but we were a big part of that record and it helps me pay for these solo albums (laughs).”

A Saturday Night Live sketch from 2000 brought an immeasurable amount of awareness to “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” during a spoof of VH-1’s “Behind The Music” series. Guest host Christopher Walken, portraying producer Bruce Dickinson, insists that fictional BÖC member Gene Frenkle (Will Ferrell) add more cowbell during a reimagined take on the original recording session.

Albert Bouchard actually played the cowbell on the original recording of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” but he says it was an honor to be portrayed, even in reimagined form, by Ferrell.

“Will Ferrell even dressed up a little bit like our singer Eric Bloom with the hair and the beard,” Albert Bouchard says with a chuckle. “It was surreal when it happened, but we embraced it because it was so funny and everybody loved it.”

The Bouchard brothers’ former band issued two albums this year, a live 45th anniversary record and a new studio LP titled “The Symbol Remains.”

“This is a good time to be a Blue Öyster Cult fan because we’ve got a lot of new music for you this year,” Albert said.

Both Bouchard brothers look forward to returning to the stage once it’s been declared safe to hold concerts again.

“We’re been ready for a long time,” Joe Bouchard said, “and when the time is right, it will feel so good to be back with our fans. I have so much energy and I feel so good, I can’t wait to play live shows again.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 November 2020 05:49

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